Old-Fashioned Homemade Sweets Only Southerners Remember
Retro sweets like bourbon balls and divinity will always have a place on our dessert tables.
Southerners have a tendency to go seriously old school during the holidays, especially where our collective sweet tooth is concerned. We don’t want the hip and happening for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We want old-fashioned candy like pralines and Fantasy Fudge; other old-fashioned sweets like gingerbread and oatmeal raisin cookies; in short—Memaw’s recipes.
We polled our Southern Facebook Brain Trust to see which old-fashioned homemade sweets they can’t live without this time of year. (You’ll notice lots of beloved cooks referenced: Mamaw’s divinity, Aunt Callie’s teacakes, etc. And lots of exclamation points!!!)
Here’s what the Brain Trust said—let us know what we missed:
“Bourbon balls. Mama called them Kentucky Colonels. And she may or may not have added an extra splash or so of bourbon to the recipe—which was not cooked so the alcohol did not cook out. Needless to say, everyone loved them!”
“My mother believed only in homemade divinity. She abhorred the ‘store-bought’ stuff they tried to pass off as divinity.”
“Aunt Callie’s divinity!”
“My Mamaw made divinity in a cast iron skillet with no recipe. It was fabulous, and I have never tasted any that was better!!”
“My mother’s peanut brittle and divine divinity.”
“Peanut brittle made in a cast iron skillet.”
“I make a lot of peanut brittle—but not as much as I used to!’
“Later in life. my mother was fond of dipping everything in almond bark (pretzels, half a cookie, etc.).”
“Fantasy Fudge made from a recipe on the back of Kraft marshmallow crème.”
“Fantasy Fudge really started out as Mamie Eisenhower Fudge . . .”
“Potato candy—not my favorite but memorable anyway.”
“Peanut butter potato candy!!!”
“I still don’t know what potato candy is!”
“Gingerbread—with a big gob of home-churned butter!”
“Judy Miller’s orange slice cake.”
“My mom used to make ‘Forgotten Cookies.’ I think they were like divinity but easier to make? Also ‘Haystacks’ and ‘Puppy Chow.’ Did I mention she’s a kindergarten teacher?”
“I never heard of Puppy Chow until someone brought it to a church thing a few years ago. Boy, what I had been missing!!
“Oatmeal raisin cookies. Always delicious.”
“Date nut balls and Russian tea—only at Christmas!”
“Grandmother’s date nut cookies and Mama Bird’s tea cakes.”
“My grandmother, ‘Nanny,’ made tea cakes."
“Miss Lillian Spates’ tea cakes. She was my sister-friend Sarah’s grandmother.” [See Sarah’s comment below.]
“My grandmother’s tea cakes, Mother’s Reese’s Cup balls, and your mother’s divinity.”
“Mama’s tea cakes and no-bake oatmeal cookies.”
“I have the recipe for ‘Queenie's tea cakes.’ Queenie cooked for my great-grandmother Augusta Sharpe Jordan. According to my mother, her own family tea cake recipe was never written down but was a tradition back in Edgefield, South Carolina. When she married my father and moved to Birmingham, she tasted Queenie's tea cakes, and they were the same as the ones my mother grew up with. Queenie made them from scratch, by memory. Mama sat in the kitchen with her through a couple of baking sessions to work out the recipe and wrote it down. I'm not sure if anyone else in the family has a copy or not.”
“Pies, allllllll kind of pies.”
“We have a family friend who comes to every Auburn home game. While my brother and I were there for college, she would park her RV in a cow pasture, and Luke and I would go out to meet her for some peanut butter fudge. Every home game! We still get some now that we’re alumni. Thanks, Mrs. Martha! War Eagle!”
WATCH: This 18-Layer Chocolate Cake Has A Rich Southern History
Y'all—you've got to see this cake. Only Mama'n'em could dream up a cake with EIGHTEEN layers, for goodness sake! But there's no denying the yum factor.