Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake

This is a New Orleans original. A special-occasion cake, a doberge is six to nine layers of vanilla sponge cake sandwiched between custard or creamy filling. This particular half-and-half version, though, is a classic regional favorite. We made it a little easier by using jarred lemon curd and store-bought chocolate pudding. 

2 of 30Photo: Victor Protasi; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Apple Stack Cake

Like all apple stack cakes, this one tastes better after a few days of resting. According to Appalachian folklore, this cake was traditionally a wedding delicacy made from layers brought individually by women in the community that were then stacked together. (Odds are, this legend isn’t true, but it sure sounds romantic.) 

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Blackberry Jam Cake

Kentuckians like to say that the jam cake belongs to their state as much as the Derby or bourbon, but the spice-filled cake was actually brought over to the region by German immigrants originally. It’s a traditional holiday dessert that uses homemade berry jam and whichever nuts can be collected locally (like pecans or black walnuts). 

Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food styling: Mary-Claire Britton

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

How long did it take for us to figure out that Mama’s cakes were so moist because of Duke’s? Longer than we’d like to admit. By then, every Southerner is too far gone in the delicious chocolate cake that he or she couldn’t care less that mayonnaise is the secret anyway. 

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Hummingbird Cake

It’s the most popular recipe in Southern Living history. Need we say more? If this cake hasn’t graced your plate, well, you’re surely not from around here. 

Photo: Iain Bagwell

Texas Sheet Cake with Fudge Icing

Texas claims this fudgey sheet cake as its own, dating back to the mid-20th century. Maybe because of the pecans, an ingredient that grows in abundance throughout the Lone Star State; or perhaps due to the inherent decadence that fits the bill: “Everything is bigger in Texas!”

Hector Sanchez

The Lane Cake

It’s as steeped in Southern history and tradition as the sweet tea we drink. Over 100 years ago, this cake won the county fair competition in Columbus, Georgia, and was later featured in the literary classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. The fruit-filled, bourbon-spiked, meringue-topped cake is a cultural throwback that deserves a try. 

Southern Living

Coca-Cola Cake

By the 1990s, using Coca-Cola in everything from barbecue braises to sheet cakes was standard among Southerners. We even picked this famous cola cake recipe to be included in Southern Living’s first cookbook—1970’s Our Best Recipes—though the sheet cake didn’t gain widespread love until the 1990s when Cracker Barrel added a chocolatey version to its menu.

Southern Living

Lemon Cheese Layer Cake

By the 1940s, almost every good cook south of the Mason-Dixon Line had a recipe for lemon cheese layer cake in her repertoire. Inside, you’ll find soft cake layers sandwiching rich, buttery lemon curd. Outside, the cake is frosted in creamy buttercream flavored with lemon and orange. 

Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Mississippi Mud Cake

Decadence was the name of the game in the 80s, as noted by the surge in dessert recipes with the name “mud” in them. Mississippi’s take might be the richest, darkest, most decadent chocolate dessert you’ve ever nibbled on. (Oh, there are some marshmallows in there too.)

Jennifer Davick

Caramel Cake

It’s the chosen birthday treat for many Southerners, but only Mama’s Mama knew how to get that frosting just right: not too dark, not too light. But, bless her heart, Mama will never stop trying. 

Southern Living

Little Layer Chocolate Cake

Known best below the Gnat Line, this towering chocolate cake’s height can be based on which birthday you’re celebrating. Incredible and height-defying, the cake is anything but little, while the 10-18 layers used are thin and perfectly baked. It’s a feat, without a doubt, but totally worth it. 

Photo: Alison Miksch

The Ultimate Carrot Cake

Carrot cakes are as close as it gets to ancient history, in one form or another. But the decadent versions that Southerners love today, speckled with ingredients like pecans, coconut, pineapple, and spices, really took off after World War II. The traditional, nut-studded layers are covered with cream cheese frosting and ready for every occasion. 

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck

Tennessee Jam Bundt Cake

Many say the origins of jam cake lie deep in Appalachia where store-bought sugar was often scarce and desserts were sweetened with homemade jams and preserves. This Bundt version is a Tennessee rendition, filled with blackberry jam and topped with caramel frosting. 

Jennifer Davick

Red Velvet Layer Cake

Though this recipe gained traction in the mid-1900s when food coloring came into fashion, the crimson cake truly became a national treasure after its fan-favorite appearance in 1989’s Steel Magnolias in the form of an armadillo-shaped groom’s cake. It’s a masterpiece of epic proportions.

Jennifer Davick

Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake

A certain Harry Baker introduced the chiffon cake in the mid-20th century, and it was dubbed the first “new” type of cake in over 100 years. Until then, sponge and butter cakes had reigned supreme. He held on to his secret ingredient—using oil instead of butter—until he sold the recipe in the late 1940s. Citrus flavors are made to pair with the fluffy layers. 

Photo: Hector Sanchez

Coffee Baba au Rhum

It’s not a Southern holiday season without something that’s been decidedly soaked in rum: rum balls, rum cake, rum punch. You name it. This coffee-and-rum cake strikes a certain balance that keeps us from falling asleep on the party porch. 

Hector Sanchez

The Coconut Chiffon Cake

One of the crown jewels of Southern baking, coconut cake has been reigning over Southern dining tables for more than a hundred years. This homage features coconut-packed layers, whipped white chocolate buttercream, and a rich coconut-mascarpone filling. 

Jennifer Davick

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Someone once thought that butter, brown sugar, and pineapple should cook together at the bottom of a cast-iron skillet to make a deliciously gooey topping for a cake when flipped over. That someone deserves an award. The upside-down cake is a bit of a Southern specialty. 

Southern Living

Mama’s German Chocolate Cake

The first thing to know about this vintage cake: It’s not German of the lederhosen-donning variety, but, instead, that of German’s Sweet Chocolate. The rich frosting, chunky with pecans and flaked coconut, is the standout star of the recipe.

Photo: Alison Miksch

Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake

Similar to the savory-sweet balance of hoecakes drizzled with cane syrup, this plum and berry-studded sheet cake makes use of a Southern staple: cornmeal. Flavored subtly with vanilla, it’s a not-too-sweet traditional treat. 

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Marbled Pecan Pound Cake

Straight from the Southern Living archives—1993 to be exact—this marbled pound cake is a holiday favorite that can be served as-is or sweetened a bit with homemade whipped cream. We think Mama might’ve loved it a little more since you can make ahead and freeze it before the in-laws get into town. 

Photo: Hector Sanchez

Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake

This bright pink sheet cake was a no-brainer for birthdays, thanks to an easy 9×13 form and use of ready-made frosting. Not to mention, it incorporates a beloved vintage ingredient: gelatin. 

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

There are a few varieties of pound cake that a Southern cook needs to know, no negotiating. Buttermilk, sour cream, and cream cheese pound cakes are among them. This basic recipe can be enjoyed stag or paired with berries and whipped cream. 

Photo: Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Fudge Cake

Entertaining expert, Elizabeth Haskell, said that when her mother talks about this fudgy dessert, her eyes glaze over. Enough said? The Southern favorite was sold at the Lowry Motor Court restaurant in Greenville, Mississippi, displayed by the register under a glass dome in perfectly square slices wrapped in wax paper.

Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Cassandra’s “Light” Fruitcake

Now, this is a throwback to the Christmases of Southerners’ past. It’s a delicacy that will last longer than most, as the joke goes. If you’re skeptical of this old-school holiday treat, know that this recipe has turned even the most fruitcake-hating people in the region. 

Jennifer Davick

Hummingbird Bundt Cake

The Hummingbird Cake recipe was first submitted to Southern Living in 1978 by Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina (and has since become the magazine’s most popular recipe). Mama approved of this spin on the classic Southern cake because of its relative ease and fuss-free hands-on time compared to the layered version—without sacrificing the amazing flavor of the crushed pineapple, bananas, cinnamon, and pecans.

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Ana Kelly

Lemon-Orange Pound Cake

Recipe: Lemon-Orange Pound Cake

This version of a classic citrus pound cake comes straight from one of the most highly esteemed community cookbooks in the country: Stop and Smell the Rosemary from Houston, Texas. 

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Ana Kelly

Grand Marnier Cakes

Recipe: Grand Marnier Cakes

Layer cakes might get most of the attention, but pound cake is the real Southern workhorse. Made in a tube pan or mini Bundts, this classic recipe hails back to the Southern practice of adding a bit of liqueur or spirits to a cake to keep it moist and delicious. This particular version comes from Augusta, Georgia, as a favorite at teatime that follows tee time. 

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting

This take on fruitcake quickly became a reader favorite after being submitted by Susan Houston of Tucker, Georgia, and featured in our 1990 November issue. Some lend it to the fact that it leaves out candied fruit altogether, while others say it’s the spice-filled layers topped with a sweet lemon-coconut frosting. 

This content was originally published here.