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Even after a big holiday meal, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Southerner who would turn down a slice of pecan pie or red velvet cake for dessert. So many memories are made around Southern food, and during the holidays, when there is nothing more cherished than feeling at home, family recipes find an extra special place in our kitchens and on our tables. We asked some of our sweet (pun intended!) baker friends to share the stories behind the desserts they come back to year after year, no matter how many cakes, pies, and treats they’ve perfected along the way.

Ashley of Ashley Cakes, Raleigh, NC

My absolute favorite thing to bake during the holiday season is my Grandma Mitchell’s homemade carrot cake. For as long as I can remember, she has been baking this yumminess for every Thanksgiving and Christmas family get-together. Since I’m a cake baker, she shared her recipe with me (of course!), and it is one that I will cherish forever! It was fun converting some of her recipe to actual measurements, because, like all great Southern cooks, hers contained instructions like “two shakes” of this and “three pinches” of that! I can’t say that mine will ever be as delicious as hers, but I love carrying on the tradition. With every bite, it takes me back to being a little girl at Grandma’s kitchen table.

Shay Cochrane

Natalie of Chic Sweets, Tampa, FL

These desserts come straight from my home, heart, and family. I have a rather large family, and one of our traditions is cooking up our favorite recipes all day and then getting dressed up to sit down and enjoy our special dishes. It may seem a bit silly that we all get dressed up, but with a house full of boys, I love getting dolled up to sit at the table with family and friends! When we wrap up dinner and our bellies are full, I get to share two of my favorite desserts with my family. I don’t ever like to go too heavy with desserts, especially after a big meal, and my heart-shaped strawberry Nutella mini-pies and white chocolate hot cocoa always hit the spot!

Natalie graciously shared her recipes with us! Download the recipe cards to add to your collection here and here.

Jocelyn of Grandbaby Cakes

This “Real Deal Caramel Cake” is my essential for all holidays because it has such a rich history in my family. The caramel was passed down from my Aunt Beverly, and has been the centerpiece of our holiday baking tradition for years. There is nothing more delicious, and nothing more beautiful, than baking this cake in the kitchen with my family.

Anna of One Belle Bakery, Wilmington, NC

One of my favorite things to bake this time of year is a to-die-for peppermint red velvet cake. Is there a more Southern cake than red velvet? It’s possible, but not according to my sweet Southern granny. In her house, the most delicious deviled eggs you’ve ever tasted always meant spring was here, fresh watermelon slices arranged just so on a polished silver platter meant summer was here, and this cake meant the the holidays were here! I can still smell the peppermint that filled her house when she would make this cake. It’s one of those recipes that will always be special to me and bring back the best memories of time spent with my family. Like most Southern families, food surely brought us together.

What dessert do you bake for the holidays every year? We’d love to hear your stories, too!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
  1. avatar Molly reply

    I’ve been making this Chocoloate-Pumpkin Layer Cake recipe from The New York Times for 6 years now. Sometimes I cheat and use my favorite store-bought chocolate icing, though. I make this for Thanksgiving usually, and it gets me in the holiday spirit every year!

  2. avatar amy reply

    Look at that red velvet cake, doesn’t get better than t hat!

  3. avatar Dana reply

    we must try that caramel cake!

  4. avatar Stacy {Woodsy Weddings} reply

    These all look and sound delicious. Love the bite size heart pies with the touch of sprinkles. Perfect for after a large dinner or for a dessert buffet.

  5. avatar Nutella Filled Heart Shape Pies and White Chocolate Hot Cocoa with Shay Cochrane Photography – Chic SweetsChic Sweets reply

    […] recipes below. Feel free to tweek to your liking. Southern Weddings also has this posted on their blog as well, along with a printer-friendly version of our […]

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Y’all may not know this, but I’m completely obsessed with Goldfish, Cheez-Its, and any and all other variations of cheese crackers. When I was a little girl, I went through a month-long stage when I refused to eat anything BUT Cheez-Its! So when Emily and I were brainstorming Southern delicacies, I knew cheese straws was going to be one of my favorites!

Recipe and photo from the Food Network

Cheese straws are traditionally served as a cocktail snack, and pair perfectly with wine, beer, spirits on the rocks and savory mixed drinks. Though they’ve been baked for centuries and enjoyed for a long time in the South, cheese straws have made a comeback in recent years. Which is appropriate, we think, because they’re perfect for the Southern hostess to have on hand — that way, she can be ready with a bite to eat for unexpected guests at a moment’s notice!

Cheese straw recipe and photo from and fancy cheese straws from Southern Living

There’s not much history on these yummy little guys, but they are credited as a Southern invention. According to one story, they were dreamed up by a frugal cook who mixed leftover biscuit dough with some cheese, and formed the result into long, narrow strips.

Southern welcome bag (including cheese straws!) from Martha Stewart Weddings and cheese straw recipe and photo from Paula Deen’s son Bobby!

A basic recipe includes flour, grated cheese, a teaspoon of salt, and baking powder, but I think I’d rather try PD’s son Bobby’s recipe!

Beyond serving these cheesy treats at cocktail hour, we love the idea of including them in welcome bags or as a late night treat! Yum!

Are cheese straws one of your favorite Southern snacks? Emily thinks they’re too dry, but obviously I love them!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    oh my stars! cheese straws are my favorite! i ESPECIALLY love when they have cayenne in them for a little bit of heat! i had some homemade ones from a sweet old lady in newbern, al and they were the best i’ve EVER had.

  2. avatar Marissa reply

    Oh, yum!! I bet those ones in Newbern were divine!

  3. avatar Lauren @ Every Last Detail reply

    Ahhh lOVE LOVE LOVE cheese straws! One of my brides had them in her welcome bags, and they were a HIT! Her inlaws actually own a bakery that do them… SO good! You might want to check them out! :)

  4. avatar Erin reply

    We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Cheese Straws here in the South…especially in Georgia! Two amazing Georgia Artisans who make them are Kim’s Cheese Straws in Statesboro and Chinaberry Foods in Thomson, GA. We sell both on our website. Perfect wedding welcome gift or favor, for sure!

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When I travel (and I do travel, often!), I always make it a point to try the local delicacies. If the restaurant we’re eating at has a famous dish or drink – that’s what I’m ordering. So you can bet that if I was at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, I’d be ordering the Hot Brown!

I must admit, though, I didn’t know too much about this delicacy before I sat down to write today’s post, and I still have never tried it myself. Who’s in for a Southern Weddings field trip to KY?

Photos from Seven Spoons, One Lovely Life, and

I love the story of how the Hot Brown was born, so throw on your longest strand of pearls, your grandmother’s long white gloves and your favorite shade of red lipstick, and let’s head back to the 1920’s! Back then, The Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dances (whoa!). Guests, dancing into the wee hours of the morning, would take a break from Charleston-ing and head to the hotel’s restaurant for a bite to eat. According the Brown Hotel, their resident chef, wanting to offer party-goers something besides the standard ham and eggs, devised an open-faced turkey sandwich complete with bacon and Mornay sauce. Voila – the Hot Brown was born!

If you’d like to try your hand at whipping up a Hot Brown, we suggest first heading to the Brown Hotel’s website, which lists the original recipe here. We also found a few fun variations of the recipe, including Hot Brown Cheese Grits and Hot Brown Biscuits. Yum! I think I might need to pop on my seersucker apron and start trying some of these!

For those who are more into aesthetics, we also found this neat version of the Kentucky Hot Brown at Stately Sandwiches. Kelly’s on a mission to make a sandwich for each of the 50 states, and the hot brown was her pick for Kentucky! You can see other states, including Southerners Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, here!

Image courtesy Stately Sandwiches

Do you have a Kentucky Hot Brown recipe? Have you tried the Hot Brown? Let us know in the comments below!

Still hungry? You will be after you read a few more of our Southern Delicacies!
Sweet Tea
Deviled Eggs
Chicken and Waffles

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Mary Kate F. reply

    Absolutely love this-
    As a Louisville native, it is wonderful to see Kentucky culture getting some limelight :)
    The Brown Hotel definitely has the best Hot Brown, and the atmosphere can’t be beat!
    Thanks ladies for sharing!

  2. avatar rachel reply

    As a Louisville Native, and bride getting married in downtown louisville with all the local flair, I will be having a Chicken stuffed hot brown for our main course at our reception with beat and biscuits (country ham biscuits) and local pies from the pie kitchen! Thanks for featuring Louisville! And check out the Galt House hotel (it is the only still owned by a local louisville family hotel) in louisville!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Oh Rachel, that sounds so divine! My mouth is watering just thinking about all that yumminess in one place! I’m sure your wedding will be wonderful! Best of luck! xx

  3. avatar Ruff House Art reply

    … Wow. That looks… Incredible! Would love to sink my teeth into that! Yumyum.

    – Noëlle

  4. avatar Brynn Snyder reply

    We would love you to come visit Kentucky! If you come I would love to take you to get a hot brown! When my mom came to visit, I took her to try one, they are great! Now I just need to learn how to make one!

  5. avatar kimber reply

    After leaving my beloved Tennessee home, KY welcomed me with open arms and the deliciousness of this open-faced lovefest on a plate. The Brown Hotel has a great hot brown, but Ramsey’s in Lexington has a good ol’ down and dirty hot brown that does the trick and it’s closer to home.

    Mini-hot browns at my wedding…Yes!

  6. avatar Melissa C. reply

    I don’t even know what to say about that first picture, but when is the first flight from Reagan to Louisville? Y-U-M.

  7. avatar Sierra reply

    Have y’all ever tried a Hot Brown at a Chick-fil-A Dwarf House?

  8. avatar Katherine reply

    Hands down, my favorite version of this is the Southern Living take on it, and it’s “light” too! I love making mini versions with pumpernickel squares you can find near the deli counter.

  9. avatar Mason-Dixon Madness: The Round of 32 – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] it was a long shot for a Kentucky Hot Brown or benne wafers to make it out of the first round, I have a feeling that these Southern delicacies […]

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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