26 Old-Fashioned Southern Desserts
Enjoy one of these traditional Southern desserts for a trip down memory lane.
By: Kaitlin Weiler, Editor, FaveSouthernRecipes.com
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It's always great when we discover fun, new, and innovative recipes, but sometimes it's nice to get back to basics with some vintage recipes. In this collection of 26 Old-Fashioned Southern Desserts you will find some of our most delicious old school desserts that are guaranteed to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth.
The fondest childhood memories are often of times spent in your grandma's kitchen. These recipes for desserts are guaranteed to remind you of days gone by. Whipping up some of these old-fashioned desserts from yesteryear will ensure that they will never really go out of style.
The best thing about these old-fashioned desserts is that they have universal appeal. No matter how old you are, you are sure to love each and every sweet treat included in this collection. You can easily start a new tradition that will last for decades to come just by making some of these Southern dessert recipes for your family and friends.
BONUS! If you're a visual learner, check out the video below for Southern Vintage Pecan Cake from our friends at RecipeLion!
26 Old-Fashioned Southern Desserts
Table of Contents
For more delicious Southern recipes, check out our collection of Southern Cake Recipes: 31 Traditional Southern Cakes
Homemade Cake Recipes
When you think of old-fashioned desserts, you most likely think of beautiful layer cakes on pretty pedestals. With these homemade cake recipes, you can recreate some of the best Southern desserts from the past. These cakes are perfect for dessert after Sunday dinner, potlucks and parties, or even for breakfast.
- Old-Fashioned Caramel Layer CakeThis vintage recipe is known for its sweet caramel frosting, but it is notoriously difficult to make. When done correctly, the frosting texture is crossed between a fudge and a glaze. Pro tip: Keep a bowl of warm water and a hand mixer ready when frosting the cake in case it gets too thick.
- Apple Maple Bacon Coffee CakeCoffee cake is believed to have originated in Germany, and the tradition of enjoying a sweet bread or cake with coffee soon became popular across Europe. However, these spiced cakes weren’t called “coffee cake” until the late 1800s.
- Old-Fashioned German Apple CakeApple cake is a traditional dessert in Germany, and there are many different versions of the recipe. However, the recipe usually consists of a buttery cake layer topped with sliced apples. These desserts are sometimes called “Wednesday cakes” because they are simple enough to be prepared during the week.
- Old-Fashioned Coca-Cola CakeThis special chocolate cake recipe also features marshmallows and, of course, Coca-Cola. The first printed recipe for Coca-Cola cake appeared in a newspaper column in the 1950s. The cake recipe saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1990s when Cracker Barrel Old Country Store added a version of the Southern classic to their restaurant menu.
Southern Cakes with Pineapple
- Old-Fashioned Hummingbird CakeThis Southern pineapple and banana cake first appeared in print in a 1978 edition of Southern Living magazine after it was submitted by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins, a resident of North Carolina. It is thought to have been invented in Jamaica as a similar recipe was popular there in the 1960s. While the origin of the name is unclear, there are many theories about it, ranging from the way people hover over the cake to the idea that it is sweet enough to attract a hummingbird.
- Pineapple Cake with Coconut Pecan IcingPineapple desserts gained popularity in the 1950s when Hawaii was in the process of becoming the 50th state of America. Another popular dessert from this period was Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The cooked icing on this cake is also very similar to that of German Chocolate Cake, which was also invented in the 1950s.
- Preacher's CakeAccording to Southern legend, this cake gets its name because it is simple enough to whip up when the preacher unexpectedly drops by. While the traditional recipe is made from scratch, there are versions that are made with cake mix to save you even more time.
Pound Cake Recipes
- Kentucky Butter CakeThis recipe is somewhat similar to a traditional pound cake, but it differs because it is coated in a buttery, vanilla-flavored glaze. While it is unclear exactly how this cake got its name, the result is a delicious dessert that is crossed between pound cake and a glazed donut.
- Grandma's Special Lemon Pound CakeBecause the flavors of traditional pound cake are so simple, it’s a recipe that lends itself well to additional flavors such as lemon. This Southern recipe incorporates both lemon juice and zest in the batter and lemon juice in the glaze, so it is bursting with fragrant flavor.
- Old-Fashioned Southern Pound CakeThere are nearly as many pound cake recipes as there are Southern cooks, but this one prides itself on simplicity. Almond extract (in addition to vanilla extract) is the main addition to this simple pound cake recipe. Whip up some homemade whipped cream and you have the perfect topping.
- Nana's Secret Ingredient Pound CakeThe secret ingredient in this cake recipe is homemade lemon curd, which if you like lemon desserts, is the perfect addition. To give this pound cake recipe a perfectly crisp crust, preheat the baking pans in the oven for a few minutes.
Homemade Pie Recipes
Making a homemade pie is often a labor of love, but it is so worth the effort. These classic old Southern recipes are bound to become a permanent part of your recipe arsenal once you realize just how scrumptious they are.
- Best Buttermilk PieOriginally a custard-like dessert from United Kingdom, buttermilk pie has since become a traditional pie in the South. These pies are also sometimes known as “desperation” or “make-do” pies because they are made without seasonal fruit and instead use common pantry ingredients.
- Nana's Fried Apple Hand PiesTraditionally, Southern hand pies are made using reconstituted dried food which prevents the filling from being too runny. While there is some debate over the “correct” method of making hand pies, this portable dessert is a nostalgic staple at Southern church bake sales and picnics.
- Nana's Brown Butter Chess PieChess pie is often confused with buttermilk pie because they have a similar ingredient list and texture; however, the main difference is that chess pie is made with cornmeal. The origins of the name are uncertain, but there are many amusing theories dealing with the Southern dialect, ranging from the misheard “It’s jes’ pie” (It’s just pie), to “chest pie” (because the pie held up at room temperature).
- Nana's Chocolate PieThis chocolate pie is a classic dessert that features decadent chocolate custard topped with fluffy meringue. This dessert is unique because the chocolate filling is cooked on the stove before it’s added to a baked pie crust. The pie is baked only briefly to brown the meringue.
- Aunt Irene's Old-Fashioned Lemon Meringue PieWhile lemon custards and desserts have been around since the 1700s, the dessert that is known today as lemon meringue pie was created in the 1800s. There are several theories about the recipe’s creator, but the true source is unclear. August 15th is known as National Lemon Meringue Pie Day!
Nothing says you care like baking a batch of cookies for a friend, and these old-fashioned cookie recipes would brighten anyone's day. Invite your friends over for afternoon tea and reminisce while you pass around a plate of these homemade cookies. You won't regret it.
- Favorite Old-Fashioned Tea CakesDespite their name, tea cakes are actually a type of cookie that was originally made in Britain to go alongside afternoon tea. According to some historians, tea cakes became a part of American South when slaves recreated the English recipe. Today, tea cakes are a token of nostalgia as the recipe has been passed down for generations.
- Iced Lemon CookiesUsing fresh lemon juice makes all the difference in baked goods. To get more juice from a lemon, try putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds. It’s also helpful to roll lemons on the countertop or use a citrus reamer to release more juice.
- Forgotten Chocolate Nut CookiesForgotten cookies get their name because they are left to dry, or forgotten, in the oven overnight. A type of meringue cookie, this recipe is often made during the holidays. The process of making forgotten cookies is sometimes used as a way to teach children the story of the Resurrection.
- Date and Nut ChewsThese classic bar cookies are also referred to as “Chinese Chews.” A reader-submitted recipe appeared in a 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping. The origins of the name itself are unclear.
- Lemon Bar CookiesThis cookie recipe gets a lot of its flavor from boxed instant pudding mix. Instant pudding was a product released by Jell-O in 1936. The first flavor was chocolate, but due to its popularity, many additional pudding flavors followed.
Other Old-Fashioned Desserts
If you are at a loss for which of these old-fashioned Southern desserts to make, we guarantee that you cannot go wrong with these recipes for other old-fashioned desserts. Whether you're looking for soul food desserts like banana pudding and peach cobbler, or new twists on classic recipes, you'll find an incredible dessert here. These homemade desserts may not fit into a specific category, but they are still delicious and satisfyingly vintage!
- Southern Banana PuddingBananas were available in the United States as early as the mid-1800s thanks to trade with Caribbean islands. Banana pudding was already popular, but the 1900 release of Nabisco Nilla Wafers increased interest in the dessert and altered the recipe to what it is today.
- Grandma's Peanut Butter Banana MuffinsBecause the first recipes for banana bread appeared in the 1930s, there are several theories surrounding the sudden interest in these banana desserts. Some historians believe these recipes provided a way to use overripe bananas during the Great Depression, while others credit the mass production of baking powder and soda, which also happened in the 1930s.
- Nana's Old-Fashioned Peach CobblerCobbler is historically thought of as a makeshift interpretation of a traditional pie recipe. European settlers in 1800s America had to adjust their recipes based on the ingredients that were available.
- Gooey Pecan CobblerPecan desserts are a staple in the South, largely because Texas and Georgia are the largest producers of pecans in the United States. In fact, America produces about 80% of the worldwide crop.
- Southern Strawberry Coconut Punch Bowl CakeAlso known as a trifle, this layered dessert was historically served in a punch bowl. Since the punch bowl was so common at Southern gatherings, it became a multipurpose dish that was even used to serve dessert, thus the punch bowl cake.
BONUS: New Old-Fashioned Dessert Recipe
- Old-Fashioned Butterscotch PuddingThis scratch-made pudding will remind you of your grandmother's kitchen. The rich creamy pudding is served chilled and topped with whipped cream for the perfect vintage dessert.
We've got plenty of dessert recipes for you to try in this free, downloadable, and printable eCookbook, Heavenly Southern Desserts: 9 Easy Cake Recipes
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