8 Quintessential Florida Desserts With Flavor and Flair
From Key Lime Pie to citrus-flavored soft serve, eat your way through the Sunshine State by sampling these quintessential Florida desserts.
Florida does dessert right. We’re talking generous portions and great taste plus a certain something extra. Sometimes it’s the theming. Sometimes it’s the presentation. But it’s always an experience.
Below, you’ll find the treats Florida is famous for, along with a few to surprise you. (Can you name the official state dessert?). Consider this the sweetest way to get to know the Sunshine State.
In This Article
1. Key Lime Pie
On a plate or on a stick? Try it both ways and see which you prefer.
The latter comes coated in chocolate, a trend popularized by Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. You can visit the original location in the Florida Keys or try their lesser-known outpost farther north in DeLand, where prices are discounted, but the taste is just as decadent.
But in general, Key West is the place to go, though there’s considerable rivalry over who has the best pie. Love meringue? Try Blue Heaven. Looking for a light, cream-dolloped slice? You can’t go wrong with the waterfront Half Shell Raw Bar or the award-winning Key West Key Lime Pie Co.
2. Orange Soft Serve
If you’re in Florida for the citrus season, you’ve got to visit an orange grove for fresh orange ice cream. Go ahead and make a day of it. At Ridge Island Groves in Haines City, you can pick fruit and reward yourself with a swirl of their “Orange Dream.” After downing a cone at Mixon Fruit Farms in Bradenton, take a tram tour through the grove. In Clermont, the Showcase of Citrus entertains with a monster truck safari and their signature orange slushie with vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, one of the oldest groves in the state (dating to the 1880s), Joshua Citrus packs a double citrus punch with orange soft serve in an OJ float.
3. Strawberry Shortcake
Not to get controversial, but there’s only one official state dessert for Florida, and — as of March 2022 — it’s strawberry shortcake. It was signed into law at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, an 11-day festival drawing half a million guests every March. But, if you’re not in town then, don’t worry. Instead, you can get your shortcake fix at the family-owned Parkesdale Farm Market. From January to mid-April, the market draws visitors worldwide to enjoy biscuit-like shortcakes loaded with local strawberries and whipped cream.
Tip: Not strawberry season? Order a strawberry parfait or milkshake to taste the berry goodness year-round.
4. Chocolate Souffle
Perhaps you can eat chocolate desserts at other Florida restaurants, but certainly not with the panache of the Chocolate Museum & Cafe in Orlando. First, sign up for a tour of the museum. You’ll cover the 3,500-year history of the cacao bean, marvel at over 20 global landmarks sculpted from chocolate, and sample a range of premium bars. But the real fun happens in the cafe. The on-site chocolatier crafts creatively flavored truffles — chili, espresso, caramel bourbon and hazelnut, for starters — plus lava cake, fondue, gelato and more for dessert. For an intense chocolate experience, indulge in the souffle and its velvety molten core.
5. Guava Pastelitos
Imagine warm guava jelly wrapped in a buttery puff pastry, often with cream cheese folded in. That’s a guava (or guava and cheese) pastelito. Sometimes called a guava turnover, it’s a popular pastry you’ll find in Cuban communities and shops throughout Florida. Not too sweet, it can double as a light breakfast, especially when paired with a cortadito (sweetened espresso with steamed milk).
Florida’s two most famous bakeries featuring Cuban specialties — La Segunda in Tampa’s Ybor City and Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana — carry this handheld treat. But feel free to stop into any Cuban bakery on your adventures through Florida. You’ll find each has a slightly different version.
6. Orange Crunch Cake
In some ways, this cake is quintessential Florida. It’s big, orange-flavored and served in a bright, eclectically themed restaurant near the beach. And I do mean eclectic. The Bubble Room on Captiva Island is tricked out with Hollywood memorabilia, old-timey toys and Christmas decor. It has lights, it has elves and it even has a miniature train chugging around the ceiling. The desserts are just as theatrical, cakes like red velvet and cheesecake built to massive proportions. If you can’t decide, get the orange crunch. It’s a Bubble Room original: layers of crunchy almond brown sugar and cake amply swathed in orange cream cheese icing — indulgence with every bite.
7. Kumquat Pie
Summing up a kumquat isn’t easy. Hints of tangerine, a mere suggestion of lemon. “It’s nature’s Sweettart,” according to Greg Gude of Kumquat Growers, the largest kumquat wholesaler in the country. At their gift shop in Dade City, Florida, browse kumquat everything: butter, chutney, jam, jelly, vinaigrette, barbecue sauce, salsa. And the most amazing pie. The pie is creamy and sweet in a graham cracker crust with flecks of kumquat zest in the filling. Buy it by the slice or buy it whole (it freezes well). If it’s not kumquat season, which runs from November to March, you can still find this unusual pie in and around Dade City at local restaurants like Olga’s Bakery & Deli and the Farmhouse Market & Café.
8. Guanabana Milkshake
Robert Is Here opened as a fruit stand in Homestead in 1959. You’ll find weird-looking produce, a play area for kids and various farm animals such as goats and emus. But what really draws crowds is the milkshakes. They come in a rainbow of flavors: both exotic (passion fruit, papaya, tamarind, canistel) and familiar (mango, coconut, blackberry). Which should you try? Robert himself recommends guanabana. Also called soursop, guanabana sort of tastes like a mellow, citrusy banana custard — which is to say, like nothing you’ve ever had before. Need it dairy-free? They do smoothies, too.