Kuchen is a tasty dessert with a dough crust and custard filling. Usually fruit is found in kuchen, but cheese or sugar can be used instead. It is normally topped with cinnamon.
Although it is most commonly thought of as a dessert, it can also be eaten as a snack or breakfast food. It is a staple at almost any kind of gathering. On July 1, 2000, kuchen became the official state dessert of South Dakota, joining 17 other state designations. The idea of a state dessert began when the Eureka Community Development Company (ECDC) president (who was also superintendent of Eureka Public School) saw a school daily trivia question. It asked for the state dessert of Massachusetts. Further research showed that, although South Dakota has many official symbols, dessert was not one of them. The legislature was in session at the time in 1999 and Senator Lawler, representing District 3, agreed that kuchen would be a great state dessert and introduced the legislation.
ECDC organized what they hoped would be the components necessary to pass the bill. Only a short amount of time was available so arrangements were made quickly. The Schmeckfest Committee found volunteers to attend the Senate State Affairs Committee session where the proposed bill was debated. Those volunteers, along with ECDC board members and community leaders, presented a skit emphasizing kuchen in the lives of pioneers. All were dressed in pioneer style clothing. Samples of kuchen were given to Senate committee members and people in the audience. Governor Bill Janklow, who was present to testify for another bill, stated that he would sign the bill if the legislature got it to his desk. The bill passed from the committee unanimously, then passed on the Senate floor 23-10.
When the bill appeared at the House State Affairs Committee, a large group of Eurekans again were present to testify on behalf of the bill, present the skit, and hand out kuchen samples. It passed that committee 11-1. However, it was defeated on the House floor 41-26.
In the year that followed, kuchen did not fall by the wayside. As more people became familiar with kuchen, support for the state dessert grew. Many people across the state were surprised to learn that kuchen was not already the state dessert.
Because of kuchen's popularity, ECDC decided months before the legislature convened to again attempt a state designation. Elmer Diedtrich, Representative from District 3, was the prime sponsor of the bill which, in 2000, originated in the House of Representatives.
Since kuchen was a favored dessert all across the state, and since it was a state designation that was being sought, it only seemed right that all of South Dakota should have the chance to be involved. Letters were sent to every town in the state asking if they wished to support the bill naming kuchen as the state dessert. Seventeen towns, in addition to Eureka, gave written support for the bill.
When HB 1229 was introduced in the House State Affairs Committee on February 7, 2000, only a handful of supporters were present, but they carried with them the written support of towns from across the state. The amount of kuchen samples was minimal. The bill passed 8-5. When the bill was on the House floor two days later for debate and a vote, members from South Dakota Economic Development Group (comprised of Eureka and Mobridge) and community leaders were introduced in the gallery. It passed 39-24. It was a sweet Valentine's Day when the bill passed the Senate State Affairs Committee by a vote of 8-1. The following day, it passed the Senate by a vote of 19-11. Following a long wait of over a month, supporters of the bill statewide were happy and relieved when the governor signed the bill on March 11.