For years I’ve been meaning to make a list of my favorite desserts, mainly for documentation so that I don’t forget anything and I can one day come up with my own creations (“normal” ones… not necessarily along the lines of the KrispyBo). While stressing about the condition of our dog for a day, I finally put this together in an attempt to distract myself.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten things and that people out there know better versions of some of the things listed here (and different things entirely!). I would love to hear those, and I will try to continually update this. There are only a few things on this list that I will defend in a fight to the death. I’ll let you guess which ones those are. 😋
- Galaktoboureko – Evvia, Palo Alto
For the most part the list is unordered, but this one is in a category by itself. I used to have to travel to the area regularly for work, and the bartender knew to get two of them ready for me as soon as I walked in.
- Black forest cheesecake – Junior’s, New York
I was pretty obsessed with Junior’s for years before discovering the black forest cheesecake, only available at the Brooklyn location.
- Lemon chiffon cake – Konditor and Cook, London
I’m a sucker for most lemon-based desserts, but I this is definitely one of the best.
- Maple creme pie – pie lady at Temple Quay Market, Bristol, UK
This is one of the few times I experience wanting to have my cake and eat it too, or rather not wanting to eat it because then I won’t have it.
- White chocolate merveilleux – Un Je Ne Sais Quois, Washington DC
Just a block away from my old office back in DC, this frequently provided “refueling” after my morning commute runs.
- Panacotta – Pizza La Palud, Palud, Italy
I’m sure there’s better somewhere but it was post-race and my first panacotta in Italy.
- Lemon Smith Island Cake – Silver Diner, Rockville, MD
Again, with the lemon.
- Molasses spice cookie – Baked and Wired, Washington DC
My go-to option for refueling on days I biked to work in DC.
- Chocolate eclair – Laduree, Paris
Again I admit my experience here is limited, but this very much changed my opinion of eclairs.
- Hot Now original glazed doughnut – Krispy Kreme
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but also hard to argue with the classic.
- Sweet potato pie – Bojangles’
The Bojangles’ part of the KrispyBo doesn’t exactly fit on a dessert list, but the sweet potato pie by itself pretty well defines “comfort food.”
- Deep fried Milky Way – NC State Fair
Of all the ridiculous deep fried options this one was always top for me, even freshman year when one of my suitemates knew the people running the deep fried Twinkie booth… talk about an in!
- Peanut butter fudge – Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, Gatlinburg, TN
Almost all fudge is good fudge, as long as it doesn’t have nuts, but Gatlinburg really does it right.
- Fried banana cheesecake – Cafe O’Lei Kihei, Maui
This was one of those that was amplified by having just finished up a major goal race at Kona, but I still stand behind it. On that same note, Holy Donuts in Kona should also get a mention.
- Peach cobbler moonshine – Brushy Mountain Moonshine, Petros, TN
I mean, it’s basically dessert. A deliciously dangerous dessert. And I couldn’t not give a mention to the greater Wartburg area, the culinary capital of Morgan County.
- Treacle pudding – various, UK
I honestly haven’t found a single one that stands out… they’ve all been ridiculously good.
- Lemon meringue pie – Mom
Lemon strikes again, and the meringue on this is the work of magic.
- Pound cake – Jessi
In all their varieties, these have probably put more than just a pound on me over the years.
- Key lime pie – Jessi
Key lime pies are one of those things that are fairly common and usually good, but until you’ve had a truly great one you can never know their potential.
- Apple dumplings – Amber Stewart
I remember the year I first had these at Thanksgiving. In quite the rare occurrence, I ended up not having room to try all the desserts.
- Peach cobbler – Debbie Landrum recipe
The quality / effort ratio is off the charts on this one. It’s one of the simplest recipes out there (I’ve made it myself!).
- Pineapple upside down cake – Aunt Brenda
An old family recipe. I feel like pineapples in general are under utilized in desserts.
- Sugar cookies – Aunt Brenda
They look like basic frosted sugar cookies, but there’s really no way of describing these without having one.
- Snickerdoodles – Grandma Moon
The key to a good snickerdoodle is the texture. These were always perfectly soft and chewy, easily my favorite treat for the years she watched me after school.
- Oatmeal creme pies – Grandma Kelly
I love Little Debbie, and their oatmeal creme pies, but they just don’t compare to the real thing.
- Lemon bar – anywhere
Is it possible to make a bad one?
- Zucchini bread – Mom
Maybe not technically dessert, but even with zucchini in the name it’s good enough to pass for one and just as addictive.
- Bagels – Aunt Mary Ann
Enjoyable on their own and with that authentic crisp outside chewy inside texture that doesn’t need to be toasted, but again not technically dessert until I’ve added the maple syrup and apple butter. These are my default go-to between loops at Barkley.
- Oreo cherry cheesecake – Me
Alright, there’s still room for improvement, but anything you put in the work for yourself seems better.
These obviously aren’t quite as good as the homemade and restaurant options (for the most part), but sometimes availability is the most important thing.
- Christmas Tree Cakes – Little Debbie
I may or may not keep a frozen stockpile of these well past December 25th.
- Maple sugar candy
Basically crystallized maple syrup, or maple crack as I like to call it.
- White chocolate covered Oreos
These really need no explanation.
- Goo goo clusters
Little Debbie and Moon Pie (both Chattanooga-based) are probably the best known Tennessee snack foods, but goo goo clusters (out of Nashville) might top them all.
- Hot fudge sundae Pop-Tarts
These essentially got me through college.
- Peanut butter creme pies – Little Debbie
These are the superior but lesser known little brother of their Oatmeal Creme Pies.
- Mini crunch donuts – Little Debbie
Other brands make these, but my snack food brand loyalty shows here. I just don’t know why the crunch variety are harder to find.
- Reese’s Pieces
An absolute must-have for any outdoor adventure – delicious, calorie dense, and they don’t melt or easily get smashed.
- Nutty bars – Little Debbie
A great ultra-running emergency food. Similar to UK Tunnock’s Bars, but with peanut butter instead of caramel.
I don’t have these as often anymore, but I can’t neglect my favorite childhood candy bar.
- Cream Soda – A&W
I used to import boxes of these from Tennessee when I couldn’t find them in Pittsburgh. Pairs quite well with Butterfingers. And whisky.
- Fudge rounds – Little Debbie
Just a catalog of Little Debbie products would work quite well for this list. These aren’t quite at the same level as some of the others here, but definitely still make the cut.
- Cadbury eggs
Not just for Easter. Freeze them, remove the foil, microwave for about 10 seconds, thank me later. Just don’t microwave too long or it will explode. Not that I would know.
- Chocolate covered cherries
Also a bit of a holiday item, but good snacks shouldn’t have a schedule.
- Turkish delights
The packaged variety of these is probably my favorite candy bar not available in the US.
- Jelly Babies
They seem like every day gummy candies, but somehow they’re so much better. I first had these when someone came out to meet me on my bike route on the Grand Round and gave me a bag.
- Battenberg cake
One of the few packaged “snack cakes” that I’ve found in the UK, but they almost make up for the lack of variety (who am I kidding, of course I’d rather have Little Debbie here).
I’m really not picky on these, but the best ones are soft and gooey rather than crumbly. My brother found me a mini version that I use to supplement my race fuel in longer events.
- Sticky toffee soft-baked cookies
The classic sticky toffee pudding got supplanted by treacle pudding on the restaurants list, but these cookies can be found at most grocery stores in the UK and would top my list of store-bought cookies. Sorry, biscuits. I think. I still don’t understand the biscuit vs. cookie vs. cake thing here.
Ice-cream and milkshakes
Yes, this needs its own category. I’ve found that people love a good debate over which ice cream is the best, especially here in the UK (the love of ice cream in a perpetually cold and rainy climate is pretty amazing). But here’s the thing: all ice cream is good. We’re talking on a scale of 1 to 10 the worst might be a 9.7. I’m pretty partial to Mayfield for store-bought and Kelly’s for by-the-scoop (for more than just the name, but obviously that counts to). Really, it comes down to flavors. And that can be pretty situational. There are just a few ice-cream based desserts I have to specifically call out, though.
- Cook-out milkshakes
There are around 50 flavors, which can be selected in any combination. And they’re not really “flavors.” A strawberry cheesecake shake means an actual piece of strawberry cheesecake is tossed in the blender for it. My freshman year I set a goal of trying all the individual flavors. After succeeding in my 2nd semester I set about the endless combinations. I could write a separate post about only this topic, but for here I’ll just say that it’s hard to go wrong with strawberry banana Oreo cheesecake.
- Chick-fil-a peach shake
Cook-out might reign supreme in terms of selection, but for that short stretch of the year when Chick-fil-a has their peach shake available it stands alone.
- Snickerdoodle and Bear Batter ice cream cookie sandwich – The Baked Bear
I’m always a sucker for an ice cream cookie sandwich, but it’s gotta be the right softness of cookie and the right hardness of ice cream or else it ends in disaster. Pro tip: for homemade ones, let the ice cream melt a bit and then re-freeze it. It re-freezes harder.
- Sonic Butterfinger Blast
I have a soft spot for this one, with Sonic being basically the only place nearby for a quick dessert where I grew up.
- International McFlurries
I can’t remember the last time I had an actual meal at McDonald’s, but the McFlurry is solid. Moving to Europe and then seeing all the different flavors they have in different countries has really just taken them to a whole new level.
- Any warm brownie with any ice cream
This one really can’t be messed up.
Also, nearly any dessert mentioned previously will benefit from adding a scoop of ice cream (or 2 or 3). And speaking of improving desserts, that brings me to…
The Golden Rule of Dessert
All dessert is made even better by the addition of Oreo. And usually maple syrup (but there are rare exceptions to that one).