30+ Categories of Sweet Desserts

According to scientists, our tongues can distinguish five types of tastes: pungent (acrid), sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.  In honor of the holidays, which is all about sweet foods, following is a list of some of my favorite go-to treats - a useful list in case you're trying to figure out what to prepare for dessert!
  1. Brownies.  Nothing wrong with a basic chocolate brownie, though these days the fashion seems to be "fancying" them up by adding caramel, nuts, or flavored chips (mint, raspberry)
  2. Butterscotch.   Like caramel, butterscotch can be fashioned into a delicious buttery candy or used as an ingredient in candy bars, cakes, or pies.
  3. Cakes: So many delicious choices, I've devoted a whole blog entry to them!
  4. Candies-chocolate.   Turns out pretty much anything tastes delicious if you coat it in chocolate! This category includes everything from m&ms to bon bons and truffles.
  5. Candies-hard. Includes lollipops, lemon drops, peppermints, rock candy, ribbon candy, and candy canes
  6. Caramel.  Available as a candy, but more commonly encountered as an ingredient in other sweets.  Without caramel there would be no toffees, no flans, no caramel chocolate bars, no caramel sauce for ice cream or caramel glaze for cakes; no caramel apples; and (say it isn't so) no caramel corn! 
  7. Cheesecake. Top your basic cheesecake with fruit; or, add ingredients to the batter (chocolate, pumpkin, berries, lemon/lime, mocha, peanut butter) to create different varieties
  8. Chewing Gum.   Includes regular chewing gums and bubble gum
  9. Chocolate: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate ... need I say more?
  10. Cookies: Includes American cookies, English biscuits, wafers, animal crackers, biscotti, macaroons, gingerbread, and shortbreads.
  11. Cotton candy.  Airy, flossy, sugary goodness!
  12. Drinks - novelty.  Since the beginning of time people have been creating sweet novelty drinks, often by combining sugar, alcohol, and other ingredients into concoctions such as mulled wine, eggnog, or mead; today, we tend to call them "cocktails." Other sugary novelty drinks include flavored milk, lemonade, and artificial "fruit" drinks like cool-aid.
  13. Drinks - soda.  Sodas deserve their own category, if only because they are such a dominant source of sugar in our everyday diets!  Today we have Coke and Pepsi but even during the civil war people enjoyed sarsaparilla.
  14. Frostings/glazes.  Though one tends to think of your basic royal icing or fondant when talking about frosting, delicious sweet toppings can also be crafted out of cream cheese, marshmallow, caramel, and a variety of fruits.
  15. Frozen treats:  Includes popsicles, snow cones, gelato, and sherbet
  16. Frozen Milk treats: Includes ice cream in all its forms: bars, cones, pints, cakes, and milkshakes
  17. Fruits:  Nature's original dessert!  This category includes raw fruits, poached fruits, dried/candied fruits, fruit smoothies, jellies, jams, and fruit juices.
  18. Fudge. Like brownies, fudge is delicious plain but is also available in dozens of flavors.
  19. Gelatin.  Includes gelatins like jello; also licorice and gelatin-based "gummy" candies (gummy bears, jellybeans)
  20. Honey: Honey-based treats include challah, baklava, and candy corn; also, by the way, it can also be fermented to create a yummy alcohol generally called mead!
  21. Liquors.  Given that alcohol is nothing more than fermented plant sugar, the wide array of sweet liquors available shouldn't be surprising.  Some of these include: Amareto, Kahlua, creme de cacao, Frangelico, and Grand Marnier
  22. Marshmallow.  An essential ingredient in rice crispy squares, s'mores, and peeps.
  23. Marzipan.  Marzipan, a dough made from almond flour (or sometimes other sweetmeat flour), can be shaped into cookies or works as a filling for chocolate candies.
  24. Meringue. Meringue, a confection created by whipping egg whites until they turn into a froth, are great alone or topped with fruit.
  25. Milk Products (lactose): Turns out adding sugar to milk products = fabulous!  Sweet butters and creams are the foundation of any number of delicious treats.
  26. Molasses: Used in some spice cookies; also adds the "sweet" to many barbeque sauces and baked bean recipes. 
  27. Nectar. One word: honeysuckle!  It may not be a major ingredient in anything, but if summer had a taste, it would be honeysuckle.
  28. Pastries.  Includes doughnuts, beignets, napoleons, strudels, baklavas, croissants, fritters, eclairs, danishes, and turnovers
  29. Pies/Cobblers/tarts: Includes pies, cobblers, and tarts.
  30. Puddings/mousses/custards:  Includes American puddings (vanilla, chocolate, tapioca); thicker British puddings (plum pudding, etc.); mousses (basically, frothy puddings); and custards like crème Brule, blancmange, and flange
  31. Relishes/chutneys/salsas.  Though we typically think of relishes as salty, delicious fruit relishes and chutneys are excellent spread on bread or served with meats.
  32. Sauces/syrups. Sauces (ex: chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce) and syrups (corn, maple, blueberry) typically aren't served alone but add plenty of sweet when poured over breads, puddings, or ice cream.
  33. Sweet Breads: In this category I'm including breads as well as breads with yummy things rolled into them: sweet rolls, cinnamon rolls, panettone, funnel cake, muffins, rugelach, and jellyrolls/yule logs all fit into this category
  34. Sweetmeats: "Sweetmeats" is an old term for nuts: walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, poppy seeds, etc.  Eat them raw as snacks or use them as ingredients with other sweetables like cakes, pies, brittles, or candies
  35. Taffies/nougats.  A category of extremely chewy treats - delicious but hard on the teeth!
  36. Truffles.  A delicious combination of cake, pudding, and fruit - often with a sauce or topping thrown in!
  37. Wines.  Several varieties of wine are known for their sweetness, including Rieslings, gewurtstrameners, and sauternes.

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