50 Vintage Cakes from the South That Deserve a Comeback

Gâteau de Sirop (Syrup Cake)
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

We'll be the first ones to admit that Southerners can have odd culinary tastes. After all, we put salt on just about everything—including our fruit—and are known for gelatinizing just about anything (tomato aspic, anyone?). Desserts are not exempt from our culinary explorations, and we've come up with quite a few weird cakes over the years. We're talking soda-spiked batters and cakes named after scripture. Sure, there are some failures, but there are also some absolute gems—so many of these vintage masterpieces are now beloved across the South. The sweetest gatherings might revolve around a slice of fudgy Texas sheet cake, or maybe spiced Tennessee jam cake, or even New Orleans' custard-filled doberge cake.

Don't be surprised when you find out that some of your favorite Southern cakes are older than the heirloom china upon which the slices are served. These funky vintage cakes will always be in style in the South. If you're looking to bring back a cake just like one of your grandma's recipes growing up, look no further. These vintage, classic cakes are as storied as they are delicious.

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Hummingbird Cake

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

Recipe: 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.

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Coffee Baba au Rhum

Coffee Baba au Rhum
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake

Lemon-and-Chocolate Doberge Cake
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: 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.

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Blackberry Jam Cake

Blackberry Jam Cake
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: 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).

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Apple Stack Cake

Apple Stack Cake
Photo: Victor Protasi; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: 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.)

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Texas Sheet Cake with Fudge Icing

Texas Sheet Cake with Fudge Icing
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: 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!"

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The Lane Cake

The Lane Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Coca-Cola Cake

Coca-Cola Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: 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.

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Lemon Cheese Layer Cake

Lemon Cheese Layer Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: 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.

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Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Alison Miksch; Prop styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food styling: Mary-Claire Britton

Recipe: 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.

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Little Layer Chocolate Cake

Ivy Odom 18-Layer Chocolate Cake Still

Recipe: 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.

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The Ultimate Carrot Cake

Ultimate Carrot Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: 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.

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Tennessee Jam Bundt Cake

Tennessee Jam Bundt Cake
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck

Recipe: 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.

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Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake

Orange Chiffon Cakes
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: 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.

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The Coconut Chiffon Cake

The Coconut Chiffon Cake
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple-Upside Down Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: 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.

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Mama's German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: 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.

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Mississippi Mud Cake

Mississippi Mud Cake
Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: 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.)

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Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake

Plum-Berry Cornmeal Sheet Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: 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.

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Marbled Pecan Pound Cake

Marbled Pecan Pound Cake Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake

Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake

This bright pink sheet cake was a no-brainer for birthdays, thanks to an easy 9x13 form and use of ready-made frosting. Not to mention, it incorporates a beloved vintage ingredient: gelatin.

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Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Hector M Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Fudge Cake

Fudge Cake Recipe
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Recipe: 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.

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Cassandra's "Light" Fruitcake

Cassandra’s “Light” Fruitcake
Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Recipe: 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.

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Hummingbird Bundt Cake

Hummingbird Bundt Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: 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.

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Lemon-Orange Pound Cake

Lemon-Orange Pound Cake from Stop and Smell the Rosemary
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Ana Kelly

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.

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Grand Marnier Cakes

Grand Marnier Cakes from Tea-Time at the Masters
Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Ana Kelly

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.

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Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting

Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: 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.

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Busy Day Cake

Busy Day Cake
Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Erin Merhar; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Busy Day Cake

"Busy Day is everything we want in a classic butter cake: tender texture that's both spongy and fluffy with clean, not-too-sweet flavor that keeps us coming back for just one more bite," writes Sheri Castle. We tend to think you'll agree, and it won't be difficult to find out: You probably have everything you need for this treat sitting in the kitchen. A dollop of homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberries are the ideal toppers.

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Caramel-Pecan Icebox Cake

Caramel Pecan Icebox Cake
Joy Howard

Recipe: Caramel-Pecan Icebox Cake

We updated the classic icebox cake made with chocolate wafer cookies to include chopped pecans and caramel sauce. Make this summertime cake the night before you plan to serve it so the layers can soak up all the sweet, whipped cream goodness.

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7UP Bundt Cake

7-UP Bundt Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner

Recipe: 7UP Bundt Cake

"Soda has popped up in all sorts of recipes, with 7UP cake being one of the most famous," writes author Toni Tipton-Martin. "The effervescence of 7UP produces a lighter crumb in pound cakes made from scratch and gives packaged cake mix a mild lemon flavor." Topping a classic Bundt cake with swirled Lemon-Lime Cream Cheese Frosting and a sprinkling of Sugared Lemon-Lime Zest makes this a dessert fit for any celebration.

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Peach Streusel Coffee Cake

Peach Streusel Coffee Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Peach Streusel Coffee Cake

Southern Living Test Kitchen Pro and Hey Y'all host Ivy Odom remade this coffee cake recipe that originally ran in Southern Living's pages in the 1960s. Like many vintage cakes, this one includes evaporated milk for a moist result.

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Scripture Cake

Scripture Cake
Greg Dupree; Prop Stylist: Heather Chadduck; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Scripture Cake

Though our version of this fruitcake-like confection doesn't require you to flip through your Bible with shortening on your hands like the original iterations, this recipe does make two loaf cakes, perfect for sharing at the next church potluck.

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Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Recipe: Angel Food Cake

This light and fluffy cake supposedly has Southern roots in St. Louis as far back as the 1800s. We enjoy it topped with fresh sweetened whipped cream and berries and alongside a warm cup of coffee or tea.

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Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake

Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake
Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Erin Merhar; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake

"The name Lazy Daisy describes uncooked frostings that are spread or sprinkled over a warm, freshly baked cake and broiled until toasted and bubbly," writes Sheri Castle. "Lazy Daisy toppings appeared on a variety of cakes in the 1950s and 1960s, and after one bite, one has to wonder why we stopped using them given how quick, easy, and delicious they are." Novice bakers, we recommend you start your foray into vintage cakes here.

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Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Wacky Cake

If you're in need of a delicious dessert on the fly, look no further than this vintage chocolate cake. Also called depression cake, this fudgy confection is stirred together right in the baking pan. Plus, you don't even need eggs or milk to serve up this delicious, budget-friendly treat.

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Sock It To Me Cake

Sock It To Me Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey, Food stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey

Recipe: Sock It To Me Cake

This retro Bundt Cake is a product of the groovy '60s. The true treat is the surprise ribbon of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans running through the center of the cake when you cut into it. Serve this at the next family reunion, and you'll have plenty of people who remember the version of this recipe that ran on the back of the Duncan Hines yellow cake mix.

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Dr Pepper Texas Sheet Cake

Dr Pepper Texas Sheet Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner

Recipe: Dr Pepper Texas Sheet Cake

This classic Southern soft drink's 23 flavors add surprisingly complex spice to a traditional chocolate sheet cake. The secret to this cake is that the warm fudge icing is poured over the still-warm cake, ensuring a moist and luscious result.

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Ocracoke Fig Jam Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

Ocracoke Fig Jam Cake with Buttermilk Glaze
Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Erin Merhar; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Ocracoke Fig Jam Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

Jam cakes are a popular vintage recipe from all over the South, but the type of jam is usually dependent on what's fresh in the area. "A jar of jam adds fruity goodness and sweetness to classic spice-cake batter, especially back in the days when there would be little, if any, fresh fruit to use during much of the year," writes Sheri Castle. On Okracoke Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks, only fig jam will do.

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Cinnamon Upside-Down Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Upside Down Coffee Cake
Photography: Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Cinnamon Upside-Down Coffee Cake

This delightful coffee cake recipe came straight from the Southern Living Annual Recipes book from 1985, and Test Kitchen Professional Ivy Odom says it "stood the test of time." Like a combination of sticky buns and other classic upside-down cakes, this sweet treat will wow your weekend brunch crowd.

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Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake
Southern Living

Recipe: Italian Cream Cake

The origins of the Italian Cream Cake aren't clear, but it's theorized that it was created by an Italian who moved to the Southern United States, where it became popular. Since this three-layered confection is full of Southern-favorite and grown-pecans in the batter and frosting, that theory might not be so far off.

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Jocelyn Delk Adams' Sour Cream Pound Cake

Grandbaby Cakes_Sour Cream Pound Cake
Marisa Siriano

Recipe: Jocelyn Delk Adams' Sour Cream Pound Cake

For some Southern cooks, pound cakes are only made with cream cheese. For others, only sour cream will do. Jocelyn Delk Adams, cookbook author and blogger behind Grandbaby Cakes, says this classic pound cake recipe reminds her of visits to her grandmother's home in Mississippi. "This kind of cake was one of those things that we always baked together," she says. "It was just filled with such comfort. Filled with such soul and spirit."

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Brownstone Front Cake

Brown Stone Front Cake
Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Erin Merhar; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Brownstone Front Cake

"Brownstone Front was a go-to favorite in the days before rich, intense, dark chocolate cakes became the rage in the 1990s," writes Sheri Castle. In fact, there's evidence of this recipe popping up in print as early as 1895. But "the name and the chocolate are about the only things bakers agree on" when it comes to this vintage confection.

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Charlotte Russe Cake

Charlotte Russe Cake
Micah Leal

Recipe: Charlotte Russe Cake

Similar to Southern-favorite icebox cakes, this Charlotte Russe Cake, which has a history that goes back hundreds of years, doesn't require you to turn the oven on. Our version, lined with lady fingers, brushed with a lemon-thyme syrup, filled with fresh blackberries and a zesty lemon custard, and topped with more blackberries and whipped cream, is perfectly beautiful for a luncheon or shower.

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Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Chocolate Chiffon Cake
Photographer: Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist: Christine Kelly Food Stylist: Ali Ramee

Recipe: Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Light and airy chiffon cakes have been gracing Southern sideboards since the 1920s, and this is our Test Kitchen's latest iteration of the vintage confection. A tip from the Test Kitchen: Inverting this cake while it cools is key to its delicate texture.

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Georgia Pecan Mist Cake

Georgia Pecan Mist Cake
Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Erin Merhar; Prop Styling: Prissy Lee

Recipe: Georgia Pecan Mist Cake

There's no typo here: This old-fashioned cake only calls for eggs, powdered sugar, pecans, and salt. "Instead of flour, the body of this confection comes from ground pecans that look like mist suspended in each slice," writes Sheri Castle.

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Lady Baltimore Cake

Lady Baltimore Cake
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Lady Baltimore Cake

"A Lady Baltimore Cake puts bakers through their paces, but it's worth the time and care," writes Sheri Castle. But it isn't from Baltimore. Instead, its history lies in a writing of fiction.

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Prune Cake

Prune Cake
Greg Dupree, Food Styling: Emily Hall, Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Recipe: Prune Cake

This loaf cake will bring back memories of weekends at Grandma's house. Adapted from vintage recipes she would've made herself, this Prune Cake is best served with a warm cup of coffee and some good conversation.

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Strawberry Icebox Cake

Strawberry Icebox Cake
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Melissa Gray; Prop Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

Recipe: Strawberry Icebox Cake

Our Test Kitchen described this summer dessert as a "fancied-up version of the whipped cream-and-cookies icebox cakes from your childhood." Icebox cakes are a favorite make-ahead option for summer gatherings.

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Gâteau de Sirop (Syrup Cake)

Gâteau de Sirop (Syrup Cake)
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Gâteau de Sirop (Syrup Cake)

"By the antebellum period, almost all of the cane consumed in the United States came from Louisiana and the state was the sugar capital of the nation," writes culinary historian Jessica B. Harris. This old-fashioned Louisiana specialty lets Southern cane syrup shine. Don't forget to put on a hot pot of coffee to enjoy with it.

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