These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (2024)

These old fashioned recipes for desserts are still totally in style.

Everything old is new again. Classic dessert recipes are all the rage. Don’t worry, we’re not talking 1940s Jello recipes (may they rest in peace….forever…). Think more along the lines of old-fashioned cakes and cookies that your grandma probably made on repeat. In fact, many of these recipes have been passed down through generations.

Why, exactly, are these old-fashioned recipes back on our radar? Maybe these nostalgic desserts are embraced because they offer a sense of familiarity and comfort. Maybe it’s because they’re unfussy and uncomplicated. Or maybe it’s just because they’re incredibly delicious.

So, embrace your inner grandma, grab an apron and test out a few of our favorite old-fashioned recipes. We think you’ll find a few new favorites.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (1)

36 Lady Cake

In the early 1960s, the California Prune Advisory Board (hey, that’s us…in a past life) sponsored a recipe contest. One recipe was unanimously favored by the judges, but there was just one problem – 36 different women had entered the exact same recipe prune Bundt cake. From then on, the cake was famously known as 36 Lady Cake. The true origin of this recipe remains a mystery, but it’s a local favorite to this day.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (2)

Old Fashioned Prune Cake

Old-fashioned prune cake was a staple in many cookbooks from the 1940s. In 1942, most of the world was at war. Sugar was rationed in the United States and abroad. Your grandma, however, was clued into a little secret – by adding prunes to a recipe, you can reduce the amount of sugar needed.

Prune cake became a family favorite – and this old-fashioned dessert is now finding favor with a new generation. In fact, it’s become one of Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman’s most popular cake recipes, and is regularly on the menu at her bakery!

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (3)

Prune Upside-Down Cake

Upside-down cakes have been around for centuries – dating back to when folks would have cooked baked goods baked goods over a fire. When you think about it, it makes sense to add the fruits to the bottom of the pan. It would caramelize the natural sugars and prevent the bottom of the cake from burning. In the early 20th century, Upside Down Cake became a trendy American treat when Pineapple Upside Down Cake made its meteoric rise. This recipe inspired many delicious variations – including our favorite, this Prune Upside Down Cake with Toffee and Sesame from Bayou Saint Cake.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (4)

Election Cake

If you’ve ever tried to bribe a toddler with a treat, you’ve got a decent understanding of the thought process behind election cake. When the United States became independent in 1776, early citizens realized the importance of civic participation. Early American women regularly baked dried fruit studded cakes to encourage folks to attend elections and town meetings – hence, the name Election Cake.

Fun fact: some election cakes weighed in at nearly 12 pounds!

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (5)

Malt Loaf

Malt Loaf is an old-fashioned British treat that made quite a splash when featured in Season 12 of the Great British Bake-Off. Prue Leith describes it as a “richer, denser fruitcake.” It is traditionally served at tea time with a dollop of whipped butter.

Fun fact: One of the first Malt Loaf recipes was patented in England in 1886, and then in the US in 1889 by John Montgomery. The (very) specific techniques he used to bake malt loaf caused some of the starches to break down into malt sugar – resulting in a softer bread with a longer shelf life.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (6)

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake is a similar to fruit cake, in that it’s loaded with dried fruit, nuts and usually a bit of booze – but no crazy dyed green and red fake-ish jarred fruit. Great British Bake-Off judge Paul Hollywood’s Christmas Cake is a rich recipe made with dried fruits, nuts and warm spices.

Another beloved British chef, Nigella Lawson,has never been shy about her love of adding prunes to baked goods. She uses them in herChocolate Christmas Cake and her Luscious Vegan Gingerbread too.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (7)

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding was invented by a British chef in the 19th century as a way to use up leftover dates. The original recipe was simply sweetened dates drizzled with a toffee sauce. Over time it has evolved into a custard-like recipe. This old-fashioned recipe for British dessert is now making a splash in the states, thanks to shows like The Great British Bake-Off and Master Chef. Belly Full came up with the perfect take on this dreamy dessert – swapping the traditional dates for delicious California prunes. Brace yourselves for another British Invasion – this classic dessert is quickly winning the hearts of a new generation. In fact, Vy at Beyond Sweet & Savory uses prunes in her Toffee Pudding too!

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (8)

Traditional Sugar Plum Candy

Traditional Sugar Plum Candy has clearly stood the test of time. The poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” may have immortalized this old-fashioned recipe in 1823, but the oldest recorded mention of this confection dates all the way back to 1403 when they were served at a royal wedding! This original rendition didn’t even contain plums – it was simply a plum-shaped candy (think sugar-coated seeds and nuts). Over time, the recipe evolved. Today, sugar plums are made with dried fruit (including prunes – which are dried plums), nuts and warm spices rolled in a crunchy sugary coating.

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (9)

Far Breton

Far Breton is a classic French dessert from the Brittany region of France. The custardy Far Breton was a delicious showcase of the region’s signature products – brandy and prunes. This simple recipe gained popularity because it could be made with items almost always on hand. The original version didn’t even include eggs!If you’ve never tried Far Breton, it’s similar to a clafoutis (think a cross between a custard and cake). Our friend Guy Branum bakes a mean one, and he shared his fantastic recipe with us.

Want to learn more about baking with prunes?

Check out our Guide to Healthier Baking. We’ll walk you through how (and when) you can use prunes to replace some of the sugar, oil, butter, and even eggs in traditional recipes. And share a few delicious examples, of course.

Article by Hilary Rance for California Prunes

These Old-Fashioned Recipes for Desserts are Back – and Better Than Ever (2024)


What did people in the Old World eat for dessert? ›

Desserts in history, such as in the middle ages, revolved more around fruity sweet foods such as jellies and wafers mixed with exotic fruits, nuts, and butter. Indeed, the custard is known to be one of the first desserts ever eaten in the middle ages.

What desserts did they eat in the 1800s? ›

Ready, Set, Bake: Recipes from the 18th and 19th Century
  • Queen Cakes – (Rundell, 1822)
  • To make Ratafia-Cakes – (Kettilby, 1719)
  • Excellent Rolls – (Rundell, 1822)
  • The best Orange-Pudding that ever was tasted – (Kettilby, 1719)
  • Rasberry Tart – (Henderson, c.1800)
  • Rich Puff Paste – (Rundell, 1822)
Aug 24, 2016

What is the world's most delicious dessert? ›

15 Must-Try Desserts From Around the World
  • Pavlova, Australia and New Zealand. ...
  • Qatayef, Middle East. ...
  • 10. Japanese cheesecake, Japan. ...
  • Tiramisù, Italy. ...
  • Polvorones, Mexico and Central America. ...
  • Nanaimo bars, Canada. ...
  • Knafeh, Levant. ...
  • Sticky toffee pudding, United Kingdom. Sticky toffee pudding is a hearty British classic.

What was the first ever dessert made? ›

It's likely that the first 'desserts' were made of concentrated juices from grapes, dates, figs, pomegranates, etc. mixed with boiled grains. These are known from ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia. Of course, honey could be put on grains or bread, too.

What did slaves eat for dessert? ›

During the week, if there was a dessert, it would be a piece of corn bread with some molasses poured on top or some fruit. In addition, slave cabins rarely had the cooking equipment or appliances necessary to adequately bake a pie.

What dessert did the queen eat? ›

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

The queen had a legendary love of sweets, especially anything chocolate. She especially enjoyed a classic icebox-style cake using simple tea biscuits suspended in an egg-enriched ganache and then chilled before coated in a thin layer of chocolate.

What is the oldest American dessert? ›

An irresistible baked pudding that might just be America's oldest dessert!

What dessert did cowboys eat? ›

The lunch and dinner meals included roast beef, boiled potatoes, beans, brown gravy, bread or biscuits and coffee. Dessert consisted of dried fruit pies, stewed dried fruit and spiced cake made without butter or eggs. Do cowboys still drive cattle?

What is the hardest dessert to make? ›

The 11 Most Difficult Desserts, Ever
  • Epic 12 Layer Chocolate Cake | Cleobuttera. Epic 12 Layer Chocolate Cake | Cleobuttera. While not difficult to make, this is a multi-step, highly involved cake that requires planning ahead. ...
  • 1:04. Lemon Meringue Eclairs. ...
  • Latte Chiffon. Latte Chiffon. ...
  • Tulband basisrecept. Tulband basisrecept.
Apr 11, 2022

What is America's favorite dessert? ›

Ice cream is America's favorite dessert and is a key driver of the frozen food category.

Which celebrity eats dessert first? ›

Shaq calls Atlanta home much of the time, and servers around town quickly grew to learn he orders dessert first. (He's a big brownie-and-ice cream guy). Why, we asked during an interview a few years ago. "Growing up as a youngster, we never had dessert," he said.

What country eats dessert before their meal? ›

My dad served in the US Army and when we were stationed in Germany, we learned the European way of eating: dessert first. Throughout Europe it's common for a meal to begin with a fruit tart or pastry.

What did cavemen have for dessert? ›

We have found evidence they ate dates, apples, and other sweet fruits. Considering the similarity of their biology to humans, its likely they enjoyed the foods.

What desserts do old people eat? ›

25 of our favourite old-fashioned desserts
  • Coffee cake. How surprised were you when you finally realized there was no coffee in these delicious cakes? ...
  • Peach crisp. Or any fruit crisp, really. ...
  • Apple crumble. We can't decide which we enjoy more. ...
  • Pound cake. ...
  • Banana cream pie. ...
  • Date squares. ...
  • Chocolate cake. ...
  • Bread pudding.
Apr 12, 2024

Did the Old World have cake? ›

Cakes, in the ancient world, had ties with the annual cycle, and people used them as offerings to the gods and spirits who exercised their powers at particular times of the year...

Did ancient people eat sweets? ›

For most of human history, crystalline sugar simply did not exist, and people were happy with honey, sweet beans, glutinous rice, barley, or maple syrup. More than 2,000 years ago, however, peasants in Bengal learned how to boil cane juice into a raw dark sweet mass.


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