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Cheryl Day Just Wrote the Definitive Book on Southern Baking

Orignally published on 2021-10-26 23:44:05 by www.msn.com

Baking in the American South is more than just a holiday-season endeavor or casual hobby–it is a staunchly storied way of life. If your family tree is rooted in the Deep South like mine, you have strong opinions on which auntie makes the best banana pudding and whether or not sugar belongs in cornbread. Even if you’ve never set foot on Southern soil, you’ve probably been lucky enough to try some of the region’s most iconic dishes, like flaky buttermilk biscuits, crumbly peach cobbler, and fluffy sweet potato pie (which is miles better than pumpkin pie; you simply cannot change my mind).

But Southern baking–like most of the region’s historic foodways–is more than just an amalgam of timeless treats: Many of the South’s most cherished baking traditions are vestiges of the lives and livelihoods of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Black women, in particular, originated many of the innovative recipes that the white women they cooked for would publish and profit from. This whitewashing erased generations of Black women’s contributions to Southern culinary culture, a long legacy that chefs and food historians are working to fully uncover to this day.

While many conversations on Southern baking still tiptoe around this complicated history, Back in the Day bakery co-owner and Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice co-founder Cheryl Day is here to set the record straight: “We are the creators of this cuisine,” Day tells me, holding my Blackness in tandem with hers for a brief moment. “I want [Black] folks to be really proud of the fact that Southern baking is something that we created.” Day’s pride in her craft and heritage shines brightly through the pages of her newest cookbook Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking, out November 9.

“This book would not have been possible without the millions of enslaved laborers who worked in the fields, plantations, and kitchens of the United States,” Day writes in the book’s dedication. “My great-great-grandmother Hannah Queen Grubbs was born enslaved in 1838 and was among the women who created many of these Southern recipes.” Featuring over 200 original and adapted scratch-made recipes beautifully captured by food photographer Angie Mosier, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking is a masterful work, bringing centuries of Southern food, hospitality, and culture into homes across America and around the world.

“I consider my heritage, my ancestors, and the recipes that were passed down to me some of my greatest treasures,” Day tells me. As the title implies, Treasury of Southern Baking is an invaluable trove of collective knowledge representing Day’s two greatest passions: food and history. “There were so many recipes I wanted to include, and it just kept growing and growing,” she says of the extensive recipe selection process. “I talked to all the people in my community, looked through my vast collection of cookbooks, and came to the decision that these are anything that you would ever want if you are a Southern baker.”





© Photo by Angie Mosier


When Cheryl Day says “anything that you would ever want,” oh boy, does she mean it. Drawing inspiration from vintage cookbooks, old church bake sale ledgers, handwritten family recipes, and more, Treasury of Southern Baking is a masterclass in making memorable baked goods. Heck, three of the book’s thirteen chapters are dedicated to cakes alone, drawing distinct lines between gathering cakes (the kind usually made on a sheet tray for picnics and baby showers), layer cakes (those gorgeous gals stacked high and slathered with frosting), and loaf and bundt cakes (like this decadent, ganache-enrobed sweet potato number).

If you’re looking to satisfy more than your sweet tooth, don’t worry. Beyond the cakes, pies, cookies, and other confections that make up the bulk of the book, Treasury of Southern Baking also features a hefty helping of savory recipes, from spicy jalapeño corn sticks to whole wheat mushroom hand pies to, yes, four kinds of biscuits. “If you’re a Southern baker, you need more than just one biscuit recipe,” Day says matter-of-factly.

As educational as it is expansive, Treasury of Southern Baking sprinkles informative sidebars throughout its chapters; there’s a guide on cake-decorating techniques, a cheat-sheet on hosting with Southern hospitality, and even a step-by-step process for peeling ripe peaches with precision. “I didn’t want you to have to pick up another book,” Day says. “If you were interested in the craft of Southern baking, I wanted it to all be in this book, and I feel like we accomplished that.”

At its heart, Treasury of Southern Baking celebrates the most important ingredient of all, as cheesy as it may be: love. “Southern food is a mélange of cultural influences,” Day notes in the book’s introduction. “Tastes and flavor profiles vary from region to region, and yet it all represents love and treasured memories of our mosaic heritage.”

While her skill and expertise with Southern baking are made evident by the book’s breadth alone, Day’s dedication and love for the craft–and for the Black women who birthed it–set this towering tome apart from every baking book I’ve ever read. “This is a way for me to pass on the legacy of our ancestors,” Day says, her exuberance echoing over the phone. “It’s really the book that I wish I always had, and I am just excited that I am the person to bring this forward.”

Bake like Cheryl Day:

Apple-Rose Pie





© Photograph by Christopher Testani, Food styling by Victoria Granof, prop styling by Alex Brannian


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake





© Photograph by Christopher Testani, Food styling by Victoria Granof, prop styling by Alex Brannian


Mini Baked Alaskas





© Photograph by Christopher Testani, Food styling by Victoria Granof, prop styling by Alex Brannian


Lavender-Lemon Crinkle Cookies





© Photograph by Christopher Testani, Food styling by Victoria Granof, prop styling by Alex Brannian


Orignally published on 2021-10-26 23:44:05 by www.msn.com

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