Sweet 16 dessert bracket 2019

Well, it’s NCAA tournament time! After rounds one and two of the men’s draw, the Sweet 16 was set, and there weren’t a whole lot of surprises. In fact, outside of Auburn and Oregon, the tournament had 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 did was 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 match-ups seemed reasonable.

As you can see, this was an official process. However, as with any tournament selection, there were going to be controversial choices. Some desserts 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.

Round 1 is all wrapped up, and the Elite Eight have battled it out. Cast your vote for the best desserts to determine which ones advance from the Final Four to fight for the top spot in the championship!

1. Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake recipe


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. After the first and second rounds, unsurprisingly, it’s still in the running.

2. Apple Pie

Classic Apple Pie recipe


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. It still has a chance, as it handily survived round one. UPDATE: It was a close one, but apple pie got knocked out of the running in round two—it lost to fancy French creme brulee, 49 to 51.

3. Chocolate Chip Cookies

crunchy chocolate chip cookie recipe


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. Seeing as they made it into the second round, I’m sticking to that. UPDATE: Another upset—chocolate chip cookies almost made it through to the Final Four, but got edged out by cheesecake!

4. Brownies

classic chocolate brownie recipe


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. But like cake, they are also still in the running for the championship! UPDATE: They are fighting against chocolate cake in the Final Four—this is the toughest one to call yet.

5. Hot Fudge Sundae

hot fudge sundae


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. It’s made it past the first round and has a great chance against its next opponent. UPDATE: Brownies proved to be the better dessert when they went up against ice cream sundaes in the Elite Eight. So long, sundaes.

6. Cheesecake

orange vanilla ricotta cheesecake


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. It made it into the second round, so clearly, there are plenty who do! UPDATE: Cheesecake advanced again, beating out chocolate chip cookies (and upsetting many fans in the process).

7. Crème Brûlée

Eggnog 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? It’s advanced into round two, so it has a chance, at least. UPDATE: Unlikely underdog creme brulee scored a couple more points than apple pie and made it into the Final Four.

8. Strawberry Shortcake

classic strawberry shortcake recipe


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! It earned its way into the Elite Eight, and that’s more than the rest of the bunch can say. UPDATE: Strawberry shortcake probably never stood a chance against chocolate cake. It’s out of the game for this year.

9. Oreo Shake

chocolate date shake recipe


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 could have crept up on you. Sadly, it lost out to strawberry shortcake in the first round.

10. Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse recipe


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. UPDATE: It came so close! Neck and neck with crème brûlée, it was almost an overtime situation, but one vote clinched it in crème brûlée’s favor. Good show, though, mousse. Maybe next time.

11. Vanilla Ice Cream Cone

vanilla soft serve ice cream cone


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. UPDATE: Knocked out by cheesecake in round one, we’ll always be a fan of the vanilla cone anyway. And sundaes still have a chance to win it all.

12. Tiramisu

tiramisu recipe


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 match-up. UPDATE: Another fairly close one, but tiramisu ultimately lost out to the hot fudge sundae (53 to 47).

13. Bananas Foster

bananas Foster recipe


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. UPDATE: In the most crushing defeat of the first round, bananas Foster lost big time to brownies (23 to 77). We can’t say we’re terribly surprised, but that’s gotta hurt a little for Foster fans.

14. Red Velvet Cupcakes

red velvet cupcake


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. UPDATE: Matched up with chocolate chip cookies, red velvet was also a loser, suffering a defeat almost as embarrassing as bananas Foster (24 to 76). But don’t lick your wounds if you were rooting for them, lick some cream cheese frosting instead.

15. Peanut Butter Bars

chocolate peanut butter bars


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. UPDATE: Whether allergies were indeed a factor or peanut butter bars just never stood a chance against American allegiance to apple pie, they did not make it past the first round. We still love them.

16. Strawberry Nutella Crepes

Nutella crepe recipe


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. UPDATE: Not far enough, as it turns out; they lost out to top seed chocolate cake in round one.

Here are your match-ups for round three:

#1 Chocolate Cake vs. #4 Brownies

#6 Cheesecake vs. #7 Creme Brulee

Which desserts will go on to win this year’s Final Four and fight it out for the championship? Only time, and your votes, will tell.

So click here to vote in the 2019 Final Four Dessert Bracket Challenge, and check back often to see which sweets advance to the last round!

Round One Stats

#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

Round Two Stats

#1 Chocolate Cake vs. #8 Strawberry Shortcake

#5 Hot Fudge Sundae vs. #4 Brownies

#6 Cheesecake vs. #3 Chocolate Chip Cookies

#7 Creme Brulee vs. #2 Apple Pie

Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, and he's the best version of himself when he's well fed. When he's not writing for Chowhound, he's writing about handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and stay-at-home parent for his new online community. Visit philosophyofdad.com.
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