Chocolate Chip Cookies: Even more so than apple pie, chocolate chip cookies are the most iconic American dessert, the sort of childhood favorite you never outgrow. While invented in the late 1800s, they came to fame during World War II, when US citizens were widely encouraged to send cookie care packages to American troops stationed abroad.
Brownies: While their chocolate color goes without saying, brownies are likely also named after Brownies, the pointy-eared gnomes that starred in an immensely popular series of children’s books by author and illustrator Palmer Cox.
Angel Food Cake: Recipes for airy sponge cakes made from egg whites and sugar date back to a Kentucky cookbook published in 1830, but it wasn’t until the invention of the rotary hand-beater that cloud-like angel food cakes would take America by storm.
Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin pies have been gracing holiday tables for some two hundred years, but the invention (and convenience) of canned puree in the 1890s made pumpkin pie a quick and easy holiday staple across the country.
Cake Doughnuts: As with chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts have been around for ages but they didn’t secure a place in the American pantheon of dessert until World War II, when the Salvation Army brought fresh doughnuts and coffee to American troops stationed overseas.
Oreos: This dainty cookie is well over a hundred years old, but it’s actually a knock-off of an even older cookie called Hydrox. For decades, fierce competition in supermarkets and advertising made both brands a household name, but it was a battle that Oreo won in the end.
Hershey’s Syrup: Druggists originally used the bold flavor of chocolate syrup made from Hershey’s cocoa powder to disguise the unpleasant taste of medicines like cod liver oil. As drug stores transformed into soda fountains, chocolate syrup became a go-to solution for dressing up ice cream sodas, floats, and shakes.
Snickers: Another World War II era classic, crates of candy bars were shipped to troops overseas and advertised as a quick and wholesome source of energy for American heroes.
Rice Krispie Treats: Back-of-the-box advertisements in the 1940s turned millions of cereal boxes into billboards, introducing kids to a simple snack made from chewy vanilla marshmallows and crispy puffed rice.
Rainbow Sprinkles: Sprinkles were the proverbial “spoonful of sugar” that helped the medicine go down. Their prevalence in drug stores would later make candy sprinkles indispensable in soda fountains, where they became a classic topping for ice cream sundaes.
BraveTart, by Stella Parks, is published by W.W. Norton & Company Ltd., £28.00, https://www.wwnorton.co.uk/books/9780393239867-bravetart'