Q: The Texanist’s monthly column is my favorite feature in the print edition of Texas Monthly, but I always wait until I’ve read the rest of the magazine to savor it, kind of like dessert. Speaking of which: What are the best desserts in the Lone Star State?

Grant Betz, Sugar Land

A: Well, thank you very much—for the sweet compliment as well as this sweet query, which the Texanist finds to be very on-brand for a letter writer who hails from Sugar Land.

Speaking of which, Sugar Land, as you are likely aware, Mr. Betz, happens to be situated in an area known as the sugar bowl of Texas. And your city of residence is named partly in honor of the famed Imperial Sugar company, Texas’s oldest brand, which was founded way back in 1843. Little-known fact: the crown image found at the center of the City of Sugar Land’s seal is a nod to the crown in Imperial Sugar’s logo.

Now, with that settled, the Texanist—who is possessed of an insatiable sweet tooth—will roll up his sleeves, tuck a napkin into his shirt collar, lick his chops, and dig into mouthwatering question. But because our state is home to a vast smorgasbord of toothsome desserts, it’s going to be a tough one to answer.

Indeed, due to our diverse cultures, readily available fresh ingredients, and love of feasting, Texas’s proverbial dessert cart runneth over. We really are blessed with a wide, wide range of sweet offerings. So, taking the abovementioned items into consideration, the Texanist is, without further ado, pleased to present his first-ever, semi-definitive, completely biased, unranked ranking of the best desserts in Texas. (In lieu of a “best to slightly less best” listing or an alphabetical listing, the Texanist has opted to arrange this collection in canonicalish order, more or less.)

Texas Sheet Cake

Is it really “sheath” cake, as the Texanist’s dear old mother-in-law proclaims? There is, apparently, an argument to be made, as this sheet cake is “sheathed” in icing. The Texanist calls it sheet cake, and he once described this delicious dessert as being “as big as Texas and twice as oily.” Whatever you call it, it’s puredee Texan and probably top of anybody’s list of the best desserts in Texas. Here’s an excellent recipe.

Pecan Pie

Texas’s official state tree is the pecan tree, and the nut of that tree is our official state nut (insert your own “Oh, I thought it was [POLITICIAN’S NAME HERE]” joke). Thus, it makes sense that pecan pie is, since 2013, the official state pie of Texas.

Banana Pudding

Here is, perhaps, the perfect topper for a barbecue repast. “At its best banana pudding is simplicity in a bowl. Sliced bananas, vanilla custard, and a topping of Nilla wafers is all that’s required,” wrote Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor, Daniel Vaughn, in his 2013 book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue.

Peach Cobbler

It’s the official state cobbler of Texas. There’s nothing like a piping hot serving with a scoop or two of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Dr Pepper Cake

Time was, this cake, which is akin to a Texas sheet cake but with Dr Pepper as an added ingredient, was the birthday cake of choice for many a young Texan.

Peach Ice Cream

With fresh Hill Country peaches on a hot summer day. Period.

Tres Leches Cake

The ever-moist pastel de tres leches, the cake of three milks (evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream) is a Latin American favorite that long ago found its way into the hearts of Texans.

Hand Pies

Apricot is the Texanist’s colleague Pat Sharpe’s favorite. And, she reminds the Texanist, hand pies were a staple of the cattle trail.

Luby’s Chocolate Icebox Pie

As a fatherly way to con a slice of pie away from an innocent child, the Texanist’s dad used to say that the whipped cream topping was “calf slobber.” Let’s also give an honorable mention to wobbly Luby’s Jell-O.


The sopaipilla is a former official state pastry (it’s a long story), and a basketful of these puffy, sugar-and-cinnamon-dusted delights, along with a bottle of honey, never fails to satisfy.

Fruity Kolaches

God bless the Czech bakers and their doughy apple-, apricot-, blueberry-, cherry-, prune-, and strawberry-topped confections. The cottage cheese, cream cheese, and poppy seed varieties ain’t bad either.


Known by many different names across the world, the runny caramel sauce–covered custard of Tex-Mex eatery fame has been a standby for a long time. Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat favors the chocoflan, a.k.a. impossible cake, version, which consists of silky flan fused to a base layer of chocolate cake. “The mixture of spongy chocolate cake with a custardy match is the perfect end to any meal,” he says.

Blue Bell Ice Cream

There’s a reason the Brenham creamery has been, ahem, churning out ice cream for more than a hundred years.


Preferably from Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery. It’s even better when properly doctored up with bourbon or rum.


For folks of South Asian descent, the custom of gifting these small, one bite–size flour, milk, and sugar sweets on the Hindu holiday of Diwali is as faithfully observed as the exchanges of Thanksgiving pies and Christmas tamales. For Houstonians, procuring mithai from Raja Sweets Indian restaurant and confectionery is a Texas tradition nearly forty years in the making.

Texas Pecan Logs

Creamy nougat or divinity covered in caramel and then rolled in gobs of pecans. Nutty, sweet, simple, and delicious.

Big Red Float

Our other unofficial state soda water poured over vanilla ice cream always brings about big smiles—big, red smiles.


It is, perhaps, a less prevalent occurrence than it once was, but there was a time when the moments between the last forkful of a Tex-Mex enchilada platter and the arrival of the check were happily interrupted by a brief, three-word question from the waitperson: “Sherbet or candy?” The “candy” was a big praline, and the sherbet was, well, sherbet. There was no wrong answer.


See “pralines,” above. Rainbow is best; followed by orange, which tastes exactly like chewable baby aspirin; and then lime.

Dairy Queen Dipped Cone

DQ wasn’t born here (the company was founded in Illinois), but, lucky for us, it got here—with its simple yet perfectly satisfying chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve—as fast as it could. Whenever the Texanist comes across a “Texas stop sign,” as DQ signs are known, he almost always takes advantage of the opportunity.

Pecan Sandies

These basic shortbread cookies enhanced with pecans are probably the closest thing to a Texas cookie there is—unless, of course, you consider the ranger cookie.

Ranger Cookies

Similar to cowboy cookies, ranger cookies can be thought of as tasty proto–energy bars that are fortified with cereals, such as cornflakes, puffed rice, or wheat flakes, but can also have dried fruit, such as raisins, blueberries, and cranberries.

Red Velvet Cake

Some will argue that red velvet cake isn’t really Texan per se. The Texanist will counter that it is has been enjoyed widely in Texas for a long, long time and that, further, in many instances the cake’s redness comes by way of food coloring from Adams Extract, a hundred-plus-year-old Texas company headquartered in Gonzales. Adams Extract is also credited with popularizing the cake back in the day.

German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake isn’t German or even German Texan, but it is Texan, having first appeared in a 1957 as a recipe in the Dallas Morning News. The chocolate layer cake with sweet coconut flake–and–pecan–speckled frosting takes its name, so y’all know, from a chocolate maker whose last name was German.

Buttermilk Pie

Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. Including, as this sweet, sweet pie proves, our appetites for sweet, sweet things.


Another former state pastry, this one compliments of actual German Texans.

Mrs. Van Bibber’s Strawberry Kiss

This meringue, vanilla ice cream, and strawberry sauce confection is served at Salado’s historic Stagecoach Inn, where the Texanist celebrated many special occasions in his youth. Ruth Van Bibber, the dessert’s smoochy namesake, was an early proprietor.

So, there you go, Mr. Betz: the 27 or so very best Texas desserts. (With apologies to those Texas-y treats the Texanist has likely overlooked.) Which of these are better than the others? Who’s to say? Not the Texanist, that’s for sure. At one time or another, he’s loved them all.