Retro Desserts Revamped

Most new recipes aren’t new at all. “A pound cake is a pound cake. A chiffon cake is a chiffon cake. You can’t really reinvent the wheel,” says Valerie Gordon, co-owner of Valerie Confections in Los Angeles. “What you can do is apply your own perspective and personality onto desserts.”

That’s what she did when she launched her eatery in 2004 with chocolate-dipped toffee inspired by historic confectioner See’s Candies’ Victoria Toffee. A few years later, she began resurrecting historic cakes, like the famous Coffee Crunch Cake from now-closed Blum’s Bakery in San Fransisco, which created the iconic dessert in 1941.

“It’s all about getting to the heart of the dessert and really honoring the original."
–Ali Graeme, owner, Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale, Illinois

Gordon isn’t the only one with an appetite for bygone sweets. At Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken in Washington, D.C., retro flavors take new form in a pineapple upside-down cake donut made with a brown sugar glaze, diced caramelized pineapple and pineapple-caramel drizzle.

Ready to build a retro-inspired creation? Start by deconstructing classics and use garnishes that hint at the desserts’ traditional forms, says Ali Graeme, owner of Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale, Illinois. “You eat with your eyes, so you have to pay attention to both the presentation and the flavor,” she says. Sweet Ali’s banana split cupcake is made with bananas and vanilla buttercream frosting and topped with nuts, hot fudge, cherries and sprinkles.

And don’t forget to tell a great story. Gordon explains her desserts’ origins on Valerie Confections’ menu and website. “It’s all about getting to the heart of the dessert and really honoring the original,”she says.