It would be impossible to talk about the history of American baking without talking about Black bakers, who have contributed immeasurably to the food culture of this country. From an inventor who revolutionized bread machines, to a caterer who designed the first spring-loaded biscuit cutter, to generations of home bakers who preserved and passed on their recipes, Black Americans have shaped what and how we bake. In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 of our favorite recipes from Black bakers, including a truly spectacular coconut layer cake, fluffy buttermilk biscuits, and a Bundt cake with an unusual ingredient.
1) Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake
Baker and celebrated cookbook author Cheryl Day credits her mother for this recipe. She left Alabama for California during the Great Migration and brought this treasured recipe on the journey. Tender cardamom-scented yellow cake layers are stacked with a creamy coconut filling, then slathered with coconut milk buttercream and showered with flaky coconut for a show-stopping celebration cake.
Get the recipe: Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake
2) Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with Red Fruit Glaze
Created in honor of Juneteenth by Baltimore baker Amanda Mack, this rich, moist chocolate Bundt cake is topped with a vibrant fresh fruit glaze. The glaze isn’t just delicious, it’s also meaningful, as the color red represents the red stripe of the pan-African and Juneteenth flags and, says Mack, "the power and strength we have as African Americans."
Get the recipe: Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake with Red Fruit Glaze
3) Emancipation Breakfast Cake
Brimming with berries (fresh or frozen) and crowned with walnut streusel, this cake from Wisconsin baker Adrian Lipscombe was created to celebrate Juneteenth in Texas, where Lipscombe grew up. It’s a snap to make and good any time of year, especially on a chilly February morning.
Get the recipe: Emancipation Breakfast Cake
4) Purple Sweet Potato Pie
A lot of people only think of sweet potato pie once a year, at Thanksgiving. That’s a shame, because this version from baker Joanne Canady-Brown will brighten the darkest winter day. The filling is a vibrant violet color thanks to the purple sweet potatoes and is flavored with citrus, cardamom, and ginger. A poof of torched marshmallow completes the pretty pie.
Get the recipe: Purple Sweet Potato Pie
5) Scallion and Cheddar Cathead Biscuits
Cheryl Day is known for her biscuits. These oversized examples (so named because they’re as big as a cat head) are tender inside (thanks to the inclusion of cake flour), with crispy edges from the addition of a generous amount of cheddar cheese. And because they’re drop biscuits, they’re especially easy to make.
Get the recipe: Scallion and Cheddar Cathead Biscuits
6) Root Beer Cake with Chocolate Root Beer Ganache
There’s a long Southern tradition of cakes made with soft drinks, and this Bundt cake recipe, from baker Carla Hall, continues the legacy. Root beer is added to the batter, where its spicy flavor is reinforced by cinnamon, fresh and ground ginger, and star anise. A simple cocoa and root beer glaze completes the cake. (Problems with your Bundt cakes sticking? Check out this blog: How to prevent Bundt cakes from sticking.)
Get the recipe: Root Beer Cake with Chocolate Root Beer Ganache
7) Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls
The addition of sweet potato purée to the dough results in outrageously tender buns with a golden hue. Swirled with cinnamon and slathered with buttery frosting, these rolls are a wonderful weekend bake. The recipe was developed by baker Carla Briggs, who chronicles the influence of Black bakers, inventors, and scientists who came before her (with a hat tip to George Washington Carver’s research on sweet potatoes) in this blog: I’m carrying on the legacy of Black bakers before me.
Get the recipe: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls
8) Rose Pistachio Cookies with Cherries and White Chocolate
Baker Dawn Konofaos is known for her beautiful and delicious vegan recipes, and these gorgeous cookies, studded with pistachios, tart cherries, and white chocolate, and fragranced with rose petals, are no exception. She calls them “goddess cookies,” and says she created the recipe to celebrate the Black femme entrepreneurs who have impacted her life. Bake them for the goddess in your life — they would be a perfect sweet treat for Valentine’s Day.
Get the recipe: Rose Pistachio Cookies with Cherries and White Chocolate
9) Coffee Cake Biscuits
This genius morning mash-up of biscuits and coffee cake comprises a tender biscuit topped with cinnamon-y streusel crumbs. Baker Amanda Mack recommends slathering them with cinnamon-maple butter for an exceptional breakfast.
Get the recipe: Coffee Cake Biscuits
10) Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding
According to recipe developer Tiffany-Anne Parkes, “Sweet potato pudding is arguably the most beloved sweet treat not just of Jamaicans, but the entire non-Spanish speaking Caribbean.” Her version of this iconic Jamaican sticky-sweet baked pudding is loaded with raisins and warm spices, sweetened with sweet potatoes, sugar, and molasses, and spiked with rum. Boldly flavored and intensely comforting, it’s a wonderful way to cap off a wintry meal.
Get the recipe: Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding
Cover photo (Cheddar and Scallion Cathead Biscuits) by Rick Holbrook, food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.