Sweet and forgotten: 15 old fashioned classic desserts from the decade I was born!

From the black forest cake you bring out at special celebrations to finger buns from the local bakery, the gen-x versions of retro desserts have a history to remember. And nothing hits the spot better than these vintage remakes. Reminisce and re-live the awesome goodness of these smash hits from the fabulous fifties. Just let go of yourself and don’t forget; you are never too old to enjoy!!

Few things endure, like fond memories of the foods we ate as children. They are pleasant and reassuring. If you are from the 1950s or 1960s, you would agree that life was no less complicated and imperfect then, as it is now. Those were the times when nobody would settle  for anything less, especially if it was about food. Yet it was all so simple and perfect! From frosted party sandwich loaves to tea sandwich treats, from ribbon sandwiches to their pinwheel and mosaic cousins; moist, frosted and vibrantly flavored classics ‘afters’ were everywhere. You just couldn’t have helped drool over those sensational dinner and dessert combos! Few of you might still be bumping into Spam loaf flashback now and then.

And remember those quirky ads plastered high and bright across the billboards and splashed over TV screens! ‘Try topping your mister’s Jell-O Chiffon Pie with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. He’ll love it!”. The years of fabled 50’s were the dawn of easy-to prepare foods. For the first time you didn’t need to make simple dish like pie from scratch. Jell-O had come out with new easy-fillings for favorites like Chiffon and Lemon meringue pie. Cakes and pies were the hot favorites for desserts. Every baker now knew that for Chiffon desserts, egg whites was to be beaten into the mix to produce the “fluffy” consistency. But with the new Jell-O Chiffon pie filling, only sugar and water whipped up a light and airy treat that was similar in texture to that of Chiffon fabric, another popular trend in the Fabulous Fifties!

The first thing that had stormed the center stage of desserts then, were the ads featuring Jell-O recipes. Jell-O was a big deal then and people were beginning to learn all the neat things one could do with it; Parfaits, Jell-O molds, even pies! Popping in a fruit into a Jell-O mold was the perfect sweet pot-luck theme. To the 1950’s, Jell-O was heaven-sent! It made things so easy to end up with people-pleasing treats. All that was then needed to satisfy a sweet tooth was a wrap of banana cream pudding, a frozen pie crust, and some whipped topping; simple, classic, and always a huge hit!

But, like all the subtler things in life, desserts too changed trends. Over the time the people have aced the art of making great desserts, but the missive is loud and clear; Golden desserts from fifties are still missed. You can’t time travel, but you can always remember the happy fulfilled days of poodle skirts, jukeboxes and diner foods of old fashioned recipes invariably flanked with assortment of delicious desserts to polish off.

Take a trip down the memory lane with these 15 long forgotten desserts and find out what second course everyone was talking about then and if any of those delights are still around or forgotten much like that exquisite chocolate fondue you were gifted on your wedding day!!

Angel Food Cake

This sponge cake was one dessert that made its place as the most popular sweet serve to the guests in the 1950s. Topped with sugary berries and no chemical leavener, this most ethereal of cakes drew its distinction from other kuchens of its time, for it ruled out  butter. First created in as early as the late 1800s, it gained wide acclaim because of a particularly light, fluffy, airy texture and mild flavor. “Food of the angels”, is how people knew it then. Traditionally baked in a tube pan or bundt pan (inspired by a traditional European cake known as Gugelhupf, the pan is shaped into a distinctive doughnut form), it was typically devoured plain, but preferred toppings were a fruit compote or sauce or a light glaze; flavors that turned it heaven-bound. Topped or frosted, these angels were delicious anytime of the year.

Baked Alaska

Feature credits: ‘ Baked Alaska recipe’ by Home cooking Adventure in youtube.com on Jun. 30, 2017.

Made from sponge cake and meringue topped ice cream, this decadent dessert, rumored to have been invented as early as 1867 in New York, is quick-baked in high temperatures. The meringue cuts–off the ice cream from the heat and prevents it from  melting while it sets.

Baked Alaska first found its way into print in Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston cooking school cook book, though some say that the idea of baking ice cream inside cake and meringue had been around for quite some time. This science defying pud vowed the masses when introduced in the 1950s. Made with a sponge bottom, a thick layer of jam, a dollop of ice cream and a perfectly baked meringue shell, this hot- outside-cold-inside dessert had quickly turned into an impressive potluck centerpiece. For a refreshing end to a rich meal, this freezer finale never failed to draw ‘oohs and aahs’.

Banana Split

First created in 1904 the banana split was the buzz word at soda fountains all the way up to 1950’s. There were lots of ways to make one, but the classic consisted of a banana cut lengthways, served with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, a drizzle of pineapple, chocolate and strawberry sauce, plus whipped cream and maraschino cherries or two. Chopped nuts or peanuts, fresh berries, and pineapple chunks were other traditional toppings that made this dessert stood out among the usual fare. Cool, creamy and with no last minute fuss since you pull it out from the freezer, this classic banana skillet dessert was something to look at and unbelievably delicious.

Served in a boat shaped dish, it features as a vintage throw back on diner menus even today.

Pineapple Upside down Cake

Image source: ‘Pineapple Upside-Down Cake’ by Betty Crocker Kitchens in bettycrocker.com on

This cake has a long history stretching over to may be Victorian or more. Nobody is sure! Easy as it were; fruit, sugar and other ingredients were first added into a pan, then cake batter was poured over it and cooked over medium flame; the stuff would then be dumped upside down. Times changed and so did the way it were made. Not long after a machine was invented that sliced pine apples into rings, it was introduced to this upside down cake concept. By the end of 1950’s this simple delicious dessert had made inroads on kitchen platters everywhere. Jell-O products though didn’t blink then and continued to fascinate many. But kitchens of 50’s were beginning to like to use pineapple. Dole and Del-Monte pineapple ads were showcasing ideas on how to infuse pine apples into desserts. “Pineapple upside down cakefound firmer grounds thereafter.

The 1950’s version of this cake hasn’t changed much today, but its popularity has waned over the time as the canned pineapple, once a favored convenience food – so new and easy to make desserts – also lost most in shelf space.

Unlike other dessert to many, it still tastes heavenly. If you’ve had a slice of sweet cream pie before, you would know how good it tastes. Super simple ingredients! Sugar, butter, and heavy cream…need anything more to be said?

This old-school one-plate cake is often baked in large cast iron skillet and pizza pans. Studded with diced pineapple and topped with glazed coconut and nuts, this one from a pre-boxed-mix times hums heavenly flavors to any fan of dump cake!

Peach cobbler

Winter desserts are everybody’s favorite for they make you feel warm and cozy and satiate on a cold night. This dessert is no exception. Made in three easy steps you could try all types of fruit combinations. From blueberries, apples, pear, apricot, to mixed berries, just everything makes it look stunning and insanely yummy.

Although the dessert of baked fruits topped with biscuit dough has been around for ages, it came to be associated with the culinary renaissance of the 1950s. This was the time when adverts for tinned peaches were everywhere. Refreshing as it were with a smooth and sweet topping of whipped cream and light ice cream, a layer of diced peaches in it balanced out everything perfectly. The crust held the perfect touch of saltiness with a slight cinnamon flavor. No wonder this dessert checked out perfectly on all boxes; crunchy, sweet and salty, creamy, fruity; it’s got all you would ever want!

Made with fresh or canned peaches, a classic peach cobbler is never a miss even to this day. Prepared with fruits or savory filling, all baked in a large dish, covered with nuts and glorious sweetened peaches on the bottom and cakey goodness on top, this delightful lazy day cobbler could become your re-treat in no time!

Banana Foster

Image source: ‘ Banana foster’ in cookist.com

Sautéed bananas floating in a dreamy sauce of caramelized sugar and rum and topped with thawing vanilla ice cream! Would there be a more romantic dessert than this? Then there’s a flame too, to bring in the hype.

This sticky caramelized dessert first appeared at Brennan’s restaurant in early 50’s and was named after the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman Richard Foster for whom it was created. This ready-in-10 minutes dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, all trumped up with a sauce of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur, was so easy to whip up after dinner. Firm, ripe bananas sautéed in a rum-infused caramel sauce were flambéed tableside and spooned over with vanilla ice cream. A pinch of cinnamon thrown onto the sauce as it flamed, forged a visual treat with an extra bit of drama!

An iconic delicious dessert of mildly cooked bananas bathed in a gooey spiced caramel sauce and drizzled over vanilla ice cream, this remains the most favored decadent rum laced treat since good o’l days. You can order it from the menu even today. Spoon it over French toast, waffles or crepes and switch peaches, pears or cherries, for banana and the twist in flavors is so magical and refreshing. But hell!. Then it won’t be a banana foster any longer!

Garlic pudding

Feature credits: ‘Garlic Kheer’ by Times food in youtube.com on May 05, 2021.

When we say retro, the first thought that crosses our minds is something exotic and classic in an antique way; some long forgotten decadent treat that has retained its culinary appeal; is of high quality and represents the irresistibly best of its kind.

Garlic pudding is one such legendary dessert from Awadhi kitchens, which was not given a name, because the chefs didn’t want to reveal the secret ingredient in there. Its remarkable and intriguing history dates back to Mughal royal kitchens. With an unmistakable touch of silky flavors and mesmerizing textures, this all Indian signature dessert has somehow weathered the changing trends and has not lost on its heavenly appeal.

 Lehsun ki kheer” is a rich concoction of milk, dry fruits, and of course -the quintessential garlic. Rice pudding has always been an integral part of Indian cuisine and this one, because of the secret ingredient garlic, was not revealed until the late 40s. Still nonplussed!! Wondering how can garlic be used in a truly amazing dessert when it smells strong and has pungent flavor?

The smell incidentally is washed-off as garlic cloves undergo a hot bath and pungency is only a faint hint as the pudding is served cold with a handful of dry fruits as toppings. The flavor is something out of the box! The thick consistency of milk, the creaminess and the taste of cardamom, saffron and dry fruits, all make it  taste more  like an almond pudding. That mild pungency of garlic essentially helps to make this extreme dessert more subtle and light.

Kabishambardhana Burfi (Fudge)

Image source: ‘Top 20 Vintage Food Of India’ by superadmin in crazymasalafood.com on Ap.13, 2017.

The word Kabishambardhana means “Honors of the Poet “in Bengali. This historic recipe was prepared by the niece of India’s greatest poet and writer, “The Bard of Bengal ” Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, to celebrate his 50th birthday. It was his favorite sweet dish. This recipe traditionally originated from Kolkata but failed to make much of a headway as it was closely guarded and only few knew about it .

All cauliflower!! Would you have ever dreamed of a sweet made out of mild tasting, slightly nutty and crunchy textured veggie? Today this unique fudge is nowhere to be found on the menu and you need to spoil yourself in the kitchen to make it and enjoy.

Easy and simple, this fudge requires only two ingredients, cauliflower and khoya or milk solids. Making the latter is simple but takes minimum two hours from scratch to finish. Switch to condensed milk, If you find that too onerous. Either ways you get a decadent dessert which is simply yum. Gluten free and mouthwatering, this barfi (soft fudge) doesn’t ask much of brain wracking and is a simple homespun fare. Adding saffron is optional and it will give a lovely hue along with the rich aroma. 

Ricotta Pancakes in cardamom syrup

Malpuas or ricotta pancakes share an unmistakable special seat in every Indian kitchen and is a delight for innate connoisseurs around the World. Gluten free, rich, tender and indulgent; every bite of this creamy dessert soaked in cardamom syrup and sprinkled with pistachios make for an ethereal dessert and is an extravagance in taste! Similar to American hotcakes-wonderfully thick and fluffy and with just the right kind of light texture from the ricotta- these pancakes never fail to spark the craving for more.

But unlike the American peers, their popularity dates back to an era, that is best remembered as Vedic times. In Rigveda, there is a mention of ‘Apupas made of barley flour and honey. Undeterred and densely influenced, these delightful pancakes have travelled through the times and have matured to this day to relive the awe of forgotten times.

Made using flour, spices and milk solids or paneer (fresh Indian cottage cheese) these pancakes get their golden hue after being deep fried in ghee (clarified butter) and then dunked in cardamom or saffron flavored sugar syrup. Just to remember you or if you didn’t know; saffron contains pharmacologically active compounds that render notably potent antioxidant activity.

For a twist, a stack of these gratifying crêpes comes with the cardamom scented blueberry sauce for an indulgent brunch or fruity dessert. Top them with seasonal fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup, if you want a more evolved ‘sweet-afters’. There are still plenty of variations to be found; some have fruits like banana and pineapple mixed to the batter, others blend rice or barley flour with honey as a sweetener. A combination of spices like pepper, ginger, fennel and saffron are also used both in the batter and sugar syrup. Served with a garnish of chopped almonds and pistachios, it gets a Shineroad twist when accompanied with a creamy non dairy layering.

Magic Jell-O Dessert

Feature credits: ‘1950’s Magic Jell-O Dessert’ by Recipelion in youtube.com on Dec.27, 2016.

When it comes to dessert, sometimes we like a bit of nostalgia. Take a step back in time and you will find that some of the very best desserts from way-back-when came from golden agers. Somehow, they felt so comforting and filling, yet remained inexpensive!

It was the decade of 50’s that some staples of cuisine like macaroni and cheese were swaying the food connoisseurs; some of them immensely popular. People were also head-over-heels in love with Jell-O. Magic Jell-O Dessert had turned super popular then and it’s not difficult to see why? It was a show stopper that tasted stellar. Besides, the families of the 1950s were no longer afraid of crazy creativity in the kitchen and had come to value comfort foods.

So much was happening to good o’l school treats that they fell in and out of favors, yet remained just as delicious as ever. With simple ingredients, vintage desserts were both visually appealing and crazy easy. Jell-O in fact was easily a must have at any dinner or potluck party. Because everyone loved it there was always something for every taste. Cool things like slushies, chocolate pudding cats, dirt cups, and lollipop jiggles were creating fun for those who knew how to indulge in a yummy dessert that’s also fat-free and low-calorie. The excitement was virtually contagious!

Boiling water and gelatin blended for 30 secs and combined with cold water and ice cubes, never failed to spin the magic. Some more gelatin was stirred in till ice melted partially. A few hours of deep freeze, and everything was set nice and firm to enjoy.

Plain Jell-O and sweet Jell-O salads are still widely consumed and are reminiscent of the desserts from fabulous fifties.

Boston cream pie

Image source: ‘Gluten-Free Boston Cream Pie’ by Betty Crocker Kitchens in bettycrocker.com.

The French pastry chef who created this pie at Boston’s Parker House hotel as early as mid 19th century, wouldn’t have imagined that well over a century later, this sponge cake layered with cream and iced with vanilla and chocolate fondant would still be doing rounds; even finding fame in doughnut flavor. The unwavering appeal of two layers of golden sponge cake sandwiching thick custard and all topped with a ganache glaze of chocolate, in fact owed its visibility to the Betty Crocker Mix from the 1950s. But traditional or not, it’s simply irresistible.

Moist and tender, this trifle is a very old concoction, but the variations since 50s have turned it into a classic occasion-ready centerpiece today. Even those loyal to traditional Parker house version are not going to miss eclectic flavors pinned down in this sublime dessert.

Red Velvet Cake

If only you could recall the onslaught of red velvet desserts that peaked in the 50s! A ruby red cake with cream cheese frosting and a storied history as old as Victorian, it rose to fame after being served at the Waldorf-Astoria in the 1930s. Red velvet’s origins are in fact mixed up with a more visually subtle dessert. This was America’s first chocolate cake that depended more on the science of baking for its color than a pinch of edible dye. A perfect throwback milk frosting had found everybody falling hard for it then in the 1950s.

Cream cheese frosting is the fun-fact hype on red velvet cake these days. Classic whipped cream frosting though is still everybody’s call for a more balanced sweetness. A cloud of meringue piled sky-high over lemon-curd filling makes this  meals-after a best seller.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Image source: ‘Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Cocoa Cream Filling’ by Jennifer in totallychefs.com

If you are keen for a potluck dessert that stands out from the rest, this is the cake you ought to be looking for. As adverted by General Mills “the first really new cake in 100 years”, the chiffon cake were everywhere in the late 1950s. Standing tall and elegant and put together in oil instead of traditional butter, this super soft rich textured kuchen was baked in a cake tin with a metal tube in the middle to help it rise high.

Drenched in a succulent chocolate glaze, with an airy texture and simmering flavors of coconut ginger, even to this day it’s a ravishing and unforgettable finish to your meals.

Coconut Cream Pie

Image source: ‘Triple-Threat Coconut Cream Pie. by Pillsbury Kitchens in pillsbury.com.

If you love pies, this one just got added to your list! Just think of it as a Samoa cookie in pie form. It’s easy pat-in rich grainy crust, fills-in old fashioned coconut cream and is topped with a fluffy meringue. Sporting airy texture and out-of-this-world coconut-ginger flavor, it’s a delightful end to meals each time, every time.

Whensoever you need an impressive potluck worthy dessert for a special occasion, turn to this one! Creamy and full of coconut flavor all confined within a delicious crust and topped with fresh whipped cream; it’s always a hard to resist favorite.

Bonus: Torch it, for even more drama!!

Classic finger buns

If there is one baked treat from 50s that could stir up nostalgia from childhood days, it is Finger buns aka iced buns. A sweet staple from Aussie bakeries, these yeasted buns, filled with raisins and coated with pink ice cream and desiccated coconut was every child’s idea of slice of heaven on plate. Made from enriched dough, the soft and fluffy delights were somewhat similar to French Brioche but were less buttery.

Up-market versions these days go all out and use a mix of raisins and dried currants. Even dried sour berries and cranberries find preferences sometimes. But make no mistake! these buns are popular for one good reason. The combination of fluffy sweet, sticky bread bun laced on the top with a thick layer of butter cream icing and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, is a celebration of flavors; once and always!

From potluck pies and box cakes of 50’s to cake pops and liquid nitrogen desserts of 90’s to trendy delights of this century, our preferences for sweet course have changed hugely. Yet desserts from bygone times continue to trigger some of the sweetest, happiest food related memories. If or not you grew up in the middle of the last century, as I did and feel some nostalgia stirring within when it comes to desserts, then perhaps you are curious to know which desserts had caught everybody fancy then. What fascinations romanticized platters and caught every family’s attention as they sat together for a quaint meal each day and finished it with a delicious fun filled sweet? Answers are many, but few are worthy of a rally. There wasn’t much of a health craze then, but home cooks from the 1950s had created some delicious treats that never lost their appeal and many are still around today. From Peeps to Peanuts M&M to Chocolate and Root beer Dumdums; every authentic bunch of desserts  has earned a comeback. For me, these were certainly some sweet discoveries that debuted in the best decade of all times. 

So sit back after a dinner soirée, relax and enjoy them. This is your moment for a fun-filled time travel to fantastic fifties with wobbly, gooey, frozen, silky wonders; all reborn with a twist!


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