Anyone can be an alpha pragmatist, or a Type B, or an INTJ Myers-Brigg type. But what kind of dessert are you?
In this wholly unprofessional yet factual exploration of dessert histories, we aim to analyze your type using after-dinner menu items.
Your Dessert: Madeleine
Madeleines are mini sponge cakes baked in clam-shell molds, so they come out looking like the pieces of The Little Mermaid’s top. This little cake’s fame can be traced back to Commercy, in Lorraine of northeastern France, where many of today’s commercial madeleines are still produced.
In Lorraine, it is believed that a maid named Madeleine Paulmier made these cakes, which Louis XV first tasted at his Chateau Commercy in 1755. Louis’ wife Marie shared them with the court, and soon all of Versailles were raving over madeleines.
In 1913, the cakes were further immortalized by French writer Marcel Proust, who, in his autobiographical novel, described madeleines in an unforgettably titillating way as a “little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.”
Your Dessert: German Chocolate Cake
It turns out that German chocolate cake is not German at all. In 1852, an American named Sam German developed a baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company called Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. This chocolate became the staple ingredient in a German’s Chocolate Cake Recipe, published in the Dallas Morning Star in 1957.
Over time, the apostrophe was dropped, hence the assumption that this cake hails from Germany.
Your Dessert: Ice Cream Sundae
In the mid-1800s, technological advances like steam power and mechanical refrigeration democratized frozen desserts, including ice cream sodas. In 1874, the soda fountain shop and the “soda jerk” were equivalent to today’s coffee shop and barista—meaning the shop was an everyday hangout and the soda jerk was everybody’s best friend.
At the time, ice cream sodas were deemed “sinfully” rich to eat on Sundays. To get around that, ice cream retailers left out the soda water and called the new desserts “Sundays.” Later, the spelling was changed to “sundaes” to remove any connection with the Sabbath.
Your Dessert: Tiramisu
Although several people claim to have invented tiramisu, according to the Washington Post, the dessert probably came from a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso, Italy. A modern dessert, the recipe for tiramisu was first published in 1981 in Italy and did not originally contain rum or marsala.
Carminantonio Iannaccone, a baker in Baltimore who also claims to be the father of tiramisu, has always used marsala. But he laments that popular tiramisu replicas are “a mess.” According to him, the ladyfingers need to be dipped briefly in coffee so they hold their shape. Next, the zabaglione (egg yolks, sugar, marsala, lemon zest, and vanilla extract) and pastry cream must be made separately, then chilled overnight, before being gently folded into mascarpone and whipped cream and (finally) assembled.
Right. Just hand it to me with a fork, quick.
Your Dessert: Cake Pops
When you had leftover cake crumbs and rolled them with icing sugar, you got cake balls, which tasted great but didn’t look so hot. In 2008, baker and blogger Bakerella started dipping cake balls in sugar coatings and adding cute designs. One day, a cake pop creation of hers went viral, and Bakerella landed on the Martha Stewart Show. Cake pops have been mainstream ever since.
Your Dessert: Petit Four
Petit fours—dainty cakes the size of matchboxes—have nothing to do with the number four and everything to do with a clever way to save energy. In 19th-century France, ovens lacked temperature control dials. They had two settings: full-blown ON, used for roasting wild boar, beef ribs, potatoes and vegetables, and the other setting, called “petit four.”
Petit four literally means “little oven,” and it’s used to describe the low-heat setting of a diminishing oven fire. It is within this residual heat that petits fours were originally cooked, making them an economical baking hack.
Your Dessert: Holey Doughnut
Before there were doughnuts, there were Oliekoecken, the “oil cakes” that Dutch immigrants brought to America in the 1800s. Dutch oil cakes, British fritters, and other doughnut precursors didn’t used to be see-through. Whence the hole, you ask?
Rumor attributes the invention of the holey doughnut to Captain Hanson Gregory, who told the Washington Post in 1916 that he had invented the doughnut in 1847. It had been reported that Captain Gregory, who had to keep his hands glued to the ship’s wheel, skewered a doughnut through one of the wheel spokes.
Gregory himself clarifies that he cut the first doughnut hole using the cover of a tin pepper box. We’re not totally sure which version is true (Gregory was confined to a retirement home by the time the Washington Post interviewed him), but we like the vision of a storm-fighting captain who was so committed to steering the ship to safety that he had to invent the doughnut.