20 of the Best Midwest Desserts

For homey treats that always hit the spot, go for classic Midwest desserts. No one can resist a homemade buckeye, chewy scotcheroo or flaky kringle!

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St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake

If you ask a Missourian, gooey butter cake is at the top of the list of great Midwest desserts. This cake is unfussy and unfrosted but has seriously rich flavor. For optimal results, use the best butter you can find.

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Chocolate Scotcheroos

No Midwestern bake sale or church potluck is complete without a pan of scotcheroos! These no-bake bars are simple to stir up and combine two beloved flavors: peanut butter and chocolate.
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Shaker Lemon Pie

Also known as Ohio lemon pie, this Shaker lemon pie is a Midwestern favorite. Its thrifty use of whole lemons is unique and gives the pie a lovely combination of sweet and tart. It’s also a great way to make use of your cast-iron skillet.
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Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

While the combination of strawberry and pretzel may seem inexplicable, it’s a darn tasty combo that you’ll find in many Midwestern recipe boxes. The mix of sweet, salty, cool and creamy always hits the spot. And if you want to level up, you can try Arley Bell’s twist on this treat: a strawberry pretzel cake!
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Michigan Bumpy Cake

This funny-sounding cake has been pleasing Michiganders for more than 100 years. Back in 1913, the folks at Sanders Chocolates created this cake: essentially a chocolate cake with buttercream and a chocolate glaze. The buttercream bumps have been part of the formula since the start and soon what was once called “Sanders Devil’s Food Buttercream Cake” became known as “Bumpy Cake.”

You can still get bumpy cakes straight from Sanders, but why not try our version of the recipe right in your own kitchen?

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Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Rhubarb is very common in many Midwestern gardens. Come springtime, folks harvest stems and use them in all kinds of seasonal treats, including this coffee cake.
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Magic Bars

Some folks call these seven-layer bars, others magic bars and there are even a few that dub them Hello Dolly bars. No matter the title, this is a Midwest dessert that hits the spot every time. You can try different types of magic bars, but know they all have one thing in common: They are so easy!
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In the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin, kringle is serious business. This treat is made of buttery, laminated Viennese pastry dough, filled with fruit or nuts and then topped with a simple sugar glaze. It’s a great Midwest dessert, and it also can easily serve as breakfast with a cup of coffee.

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Sugar Cream Pie

Sugar cream pie is Indiana’s state dessert. It’s a great recipe to keep in your back pocket because it can be made with ingredients you typically have right in the pantry.
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Apple Crisp

Come fall, folks flock to nearby orchards to go apple picking. You’ll find that so many types of apples are grown throughout the region, though classics like Cortland, Northern Spy and Empire are always great for baking. Use them in one of the best Midwest desserts of all time: apple crisp. Be sure to serve it warm with a scoop of ice cream.
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Candy Bar Apple Salad

Only a Midwesterner possesses the charm to serve up a mixture of Cool Whip, apples and chopped-up candy bars and serve it up as a salad. Press pause on putting this dish out on the dinner table and instead share it for dessert.
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Cherry Hand Pies

Tart cherries thrive in the northern part of the Midwest. Both Michigan and Door County in Wisconsin grow these tiny fruits with pride. While you can bake cherries into all kinds of desserts, these hand pies from Wisconsin native Allison Cebulla are exceptionally tempting.
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Cookie Brittle

This recipe comes from the queen of Midwest desserts and author of Midwest Made, Shauna Sever. These treats have all the flavors of your go-to chocolate chip cookie but don’t require any fuss. Just stir them up with a wooden spoon and bake them in a sheet pan. Once baked, just break the goodies into shards to share and enjoy.

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Frozen Custard

Think of frozen custard as ice cream’s smoother, more decadent cousin. This is thanks to the custard base that uses egg yolks. The result is creamier and just a bit more indulgent. You can make a batch yourself at home or travel the region and stop at local frozen custard shops.
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No list of Midwest desserts would be complete without this Ohio staple. Buckeyes are essentially a mix of the best two sweet flavors of all time: peanut butter and chocolate.
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The Midwest is home to a large Polish-American population, so it’s no wonder that these Polish doughnuts are so popular there! Paczki are fried, filled with jam and then tossed in sugar.
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Fudgy Brownies

Did you know that brownies were invented in Illinois? They were created for the Columbian Exposition back in 1893. More than a hundred years later, there are plenty of brownie recipes to experiment with, though this fudgy brownie from Taste of Home‘s Executive Culinary Director Sarah Famer’s kitchen is one of the best!
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Bundt Cakes

Nordic Ware has been manufacturing Bundt pans in Minnesota for more than 75 years, so it’s no wonder that Bundt cakes of all kinds are extremely popular in the Midwest. Just make sure to grease the pan well and you’ll end up with a delightful dessert worth sharing.
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Dirt Cake

Dirt cake or dirt dessert can be found at many a kid’s birthday party. Made with crushed Oreos, cream cheese and pudding, it’s a treat that no kid can resist. For extra kid-friendly appeal, top this Midwest dessert with plenty of gummy worms.
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Fresh Plum Kuchen

German immigrants brought kuchen recipes with them when they immigrated to the region. Now, kuchens of all kinds are some of the most beloved Midwest desserts. This one made with fresh plums is delicious, though you can swap in any stone fruit.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.