Well, it’s NCAA tournament time! After rounds one and two of the men’s draw, the Sweet 16 is set, and there aren’t a whole lot of surprises. In fact, outside of Auburn and Oregon, the tournament has gone chalk. So, to add some excitement, I put together my own Sweet 16. But instead of hoops, I thought it’d be fun to consider something that is actually sweet—desserts!
What I’ve done is compile a list of some of the most popular desserts I have encountered, seen featured over the last year, or found on Google. From there, I consulted the greatest dessert aficionado I know—my sister—to help me fill in any gaps. Then, I whittled the list down to the top 16. Finally, I seeded each of them, and arranged a bracket-style tournament where the masses will decide on this year’s champion. The king of the sweets. The top treat. The most dominant dessert. In case you’re curious, I seeded based on what I had read, my experience, and what matchups seemed reasonable.
As you can see, this was an official process. However, as with any tournament selection, there are going to be controversial choices. Some desserts may have found themselves on the bubble, and did not get in this year. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. That’s not to say they aren’t stellar options. They just didn’t make it. Maybe next year. So, without further ado, here’s the Sweet 16 for 2019.
If all you care about is casting your vote, go pick your winners for Round 1! But for stats on each contender, keep reading.
Chocolate Cake earns the top seed in this year’s tournament. Featured at birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties, and most restaurants, fancy or fun, this crowd pleaser is going to be tough to take down.
2. Apple Pie
There aren’t many things more American than apple pie. Which is why making it our number two seed was easy as pie. It’s a fall staple that has a standing invite to the biggest food holiday there is—Thanksgiving. I pity the dessert that has to face apple pie. Anything but the championship would be a disappointment.
No one can argue that these hand-held goodies are a dessert classic. Batter delicious enough to throw in ice cream? Check. Chocolate as a featured ingredient? Check. Too good to eat just one? Check. Giving chocolate chip cookies the three seed seemed like a no-brainer. Can they emerge victorious and win the whole thing? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t bet against them.
Another handheld treat is the brownie. Their versatility is something to look out for. Like something cakey? They can do that. Prefer them more gooey? No problem. Like them with nuts? Me too! Need them without? That’s fine. Heck, you can even put icing on ‘em, sprinkle ‘em with powdered sugar, or serve ‘em plain. Their downfall could just as easily be their saving grace. While close to cake, they aren’t cake.
Our number 5 seed is where ice cream makes its first appearance. But this is no ordinary ice cream. It’s topped with hot fudge sauce, whipped cream, the nut of your choosing, and, if you’d like, a cherry. Each, on its own, is good. Put them together, and you have a stellar dessert. While a number five seed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hot fudge sundae advance far into this tournament.
Perhaps the dessert that showcases the graham-cracker crust the best, cheesecake will be a formidable opponent for whichever dessert(s) it faces. Made with graham crackers, butter, vanilla, eggs, and sugar, its success will be dependent on how many people like its primary ingredient—cream cheese.
7. Crème Brûlée
Crème brûlée takes the number seven seed as a fancy-restaurant-dessert-menu staple. The simplicity of the dish is what makes it great. Custard topped with caramelized sugar, served chilled in a dish. It’s elegant, sweet, and satisfying. But, does it have enough to make it all the way?
Strawberries seem tailor-made for dessert, and there’s perhaps no dish that highlights strawberries like strawberry shortcake. What do you call shortcake biscuits, topped with ice cream or whipped cream, then finished off with macerated strawberries? Heavenly. It might not have the cachet of chocolate cake, but watch out for this sleeper pick!
9. Oreo Shake
If there’s a drink out there that deserves consideration as a dessert, it’s the milkshake. And there may be no better milkshake flavor than Oreo. This simple concoction of vanilla ice cream, Oreo cookie crumbles, and milk is inspirational. While folks might not traditionally think of a drink as the best dessert out there, this one might sneak up on you!
10. Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate, egg whites, cream, and sugar. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But a mousse, well-prepared, is a thing of beauty. There’s an elegance about mousse that leaves little doubt that it deserves a spot in this tournament. But is it mainstream enough to make it into the next round? We’ll see.
Whether you’re a baby, an older kid, or a full-grown adult, you’ve likely enjoyed vanilla ice cream. The cone is a bonus! Not as flashy as the hot fudge sundae, there’s something comforting and classic about his dessert that could make it capable of an upset or two.
When restaurants that don’t share the cultural roots of a particular dessert still serve that dessert, you know it must have made it. That’s tiramisu, and that’s why it’s our 12 seed. This perfect conglomeration of marscapone cheese, whipped cream, and coffee– and rum-soaked ladyfingers is unique and delicious, making is a tough matchup.
13. Bananas Foster
Like strawberries, bananas are a fruit that seem tailor-made for dessert. So, it’s only natural to feature banana’s signature dessert in this year’s tournament. While you might not encounter bananas Foster as often as some other items in the tourney, its rich decadence (it features butter, brown sugar, rum, and bananas, after all) is enough to make its opponents take it seriously.
While there are those out there who think that cupcakes will never trump a full-blown, real-deal cake, there’s a growing legion of devotees who beg to differ. The red velvet variety may be the cupcake’s best hope of achieving glory. As a chocolate cake, dyed red, with creamed cheese frosting, we don’t know of any dessert looking forward to facing red velvet cupcakes, head-to-head.
Peanut butter fiends are ferociously devoted to peanut butter—even (maybe especially) in desserts. If you want to encounter peanut butter in all its sweet splendor, look no further than a peanut butter bar. Sugar, PB, and chocolate are the key ingredients here. Could these splendiferous squares have been a higher seed? Yes. But you can’t discount the effect of peanut allergies as a significant obstacle to overcome.
These very thin, sweet pancakes, filled with strawberries, and ever-popular Nutella, snuck into this year’s pool. As the 16 seed, they have a tough road ahead, but if they make it through the first round, there’s no telling how far they could go.
Here are the match-ups:
#1 Chocolate Cake vs. #16 Strawberry Nutella Crepes
#8 Strawberry Shortcake vs. #9 Oreo Shake
#5 Hot Fudge Sundae vs. #12 Tiramisu
#4 Brownies vs. #13 Bananas Foster
#6 Cheesecake vs. #11 Vanilla Ice Cream Cone
#3 Chocolate Chip Cookies vs. #14 Red Velvet Cupcakes
#7 Creme Brulee vs. #10 Chocolate Mousse
#2 Apple Pie vs. #15 Peanut Butter Bars
Which dessert will go on to win this year’s Sweet 16? Only time, and your votes, will tell.