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The Very Interesting Origins of Our Favorite Desserts

Interesting Origins of Our Favorite Desserts
Popsicles were invented by a kid, and cheesecake was invented by a doctor. Learn the origins of your favorite sweet treats!
Buzzle Staff
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2018
Oh, dessert. We wish for a world where dessert was healthy and salad made you fat. What other meal conjures such fantasies in the minds of young and old? It's even an effective bribe, as in, "Finish all your green beans or no dessert."

Everyone has their favorite dessert food, and each has its moment in the sun as the foodie trend of the moment. But have you ever wondered where these incredible gifts to mankind came from? You might be surprised...
The Cheesecake Factory did not invent the cheesecake (they don't even make it very well, to be honest. They are what the Olive Garden is to Italian food). No, cheesecake has been around for thousands of years - as in pre-Roman Greece. The original authority on this delectable vehicle of sugar and milk fat was a Greek physician named Aegimus. That's right, a doctor practically invented cheesecake. That makes it healthy, right? Right?
Most American cheesecakes are technically New York style, made with cream cheese and a graham cracker crust. The lighter, airier French style is made with Neufch√Ętel cheese and whipped egg whites over a pate sucree crust, while the wetter, fruitier Italian style uses ricotta cheese and orange flower water with a light dusting of amaretti cookie crumbs in place of a crust.
Cookies have been around since people discovered what fire does to wheat, but they were usually more similar to flatbreads, meant as normal sustenance while traveling. Cookies as we know them today are a relatively recent development - traditionally, cookies were somewhat similar to fruitcake, just a ball of crushed nuts, honey and water.
The cookie we would recognize as such today came to the U.S. in the 1600s, when the convergence of English and Dutch settlers gave us macaroons and gingerbread men - but the more popular cookies like chocolate chip and oatmeal wouldn't come about for another hundred years, when the practice of creaming together the fat and sweetener became widespread.
I scream, you scream... well, you know the saying. Frozen confections have been around since the Persian Empire, but they were more akin to ice pops than ice cream. True ice cream was introduced in the 1700s, and brought to America by Quaker settlers. At the time, ice cream making was a major labor-intensive process involving tightly-sealed pots and loads of ice - remember, there was no refrigeration yet, so ice cream was the province of the wealthy for the most part. Poor folks couldn't afford to waste ice like that, and didn't have time to churn the mixture as it froze over the course of several hours.
Oddly, ice cream sundaes weren't invented until the late 1800s. Ice cream sodas were already popular, but Blue Laws prohibited their sale on Sundays. So people skipped the soda and went straight to the good stuff, circumventing the law and enjoying an even more decadent treat.
Cupcakes first appeared toward the end of the 18th century, but they weren't as fun as they are now. Muffin tins did not yet exist, so cupcakes were baked in ramekins or other small pots. Usually smaller than what we know today, the original cupcake was served without a thick layer of frosting or decoration - more like a muffin in appearance.
The term "cupcake" itself caused a bit of confusion in the dessert's early stages, because home cooks were just beginning to transition from weight measurements to volume measurements in the kitchen. A "cupcake" could refer to the mini cake we know today, or it may have referred to a full-sized cake made with "cup", or volume measurements. In other words, a cupcake and a pound cake may have been exactly the same finished product but just used different units of measurements during preparation.
Remember what we talked about in the ice cream section? Yes, ice-based desserts have been around for thousands of years, but they didn't always come on a stick. Back in the day, aristocrats would have snow brought from a mountaintop to the kitchen, where the cook would flavor it with grape juice, fruit, wine, and sweet syrups. It would be served in a bowl, with a texture somewhere between a snow cone and a sorbet.
This practice continued for many years, restricted to the homes of the wealthy - in the 1600s, England's King Charles I promised his cook a never-ending pension if the recipe was kept secret, to prevent its falling into the hands of non-royals.
Frozen dessert equality was achieved around the turn of the 20th century, by an eleven-year-old (couldn't you have guessed?). A boy named Frank Epperson left a stir stick in his soda water one night when the temperature dropped below freezing. The next morning, he discovered that even soda is more delicious when eaten frozen off a stick. About twenty years later, he applied for a patent and made freezer aisle history.
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