Southern Living: Classic Southern Desserts

By Southern Living Magazine

Cookbook review courtesy of contributing writer
Stephanie Sears

Cappuccino-Frosted Brownies

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Test: The recipe itself is incredibly basic, utilizing a typical brownie recipe and topping it with a cappuccino icing. Instead of using the baking squares that the recipe suggested, I used chocolate chips. This may or may not be a result of my having already eaten all of the baking squares I had in the house. Either way, the substitution did not seem to make much of a difference in taste or texture. NOTE: I find that when switching chips for squares, you must stir the chocolate more frequently as it is melting in order to prevent the chocolate from burning.

The Results: I wanted to love these brownies. In fact I was certain that I would end up eating the entire pan leaving Nathan none to take to his work bake-off. Instead I had one, and the results were less than impressive. The brownies themselves were just okay, and on their own they would get a rating of 2 from me. It’s the icing that makes these edible. The delicious cappuccino icing melts on your tongue like a snowflake.

My suggestion would be to swap out the brownie recipe for whichever one you normally use. The icing would work on any batter (or chocolate cake), so don’t feel tied down to the recipe in the book. I wouldn’t suggest making any changes to the icing; it is essentially perfect.

Triple-Decker Strawberry Cake

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Test: I have an aversion to recipes that call for things like boxed cake mix and Jello, but this recipe is featured on the cover of the cookbook and looked fantastic. So I gritted my teeth and instead of swapping out boxed cake mix for the homemade version, I decided to follow the recipe exactly.

Don’t get discouraged if the batter looks funny. Mine looked more like a sponge cake batter than typical cake batter, and I started to get nervous. However, everything turned out perfectly in the end.

Make sure to let the cakes cool completely before icing. For whatever reason, this cake took much longer to cool than most. In fact, I ended up letting them cool overnight on my kitchen bar and icing them in the morning. I was making this dessert for Nathan’s work bake-off, and I just needed to make sure it was ready to go by the time he left for work. Luckily icing the cakes only took me 30 minutes so it wasn’t an issue. Whew.

I would also recommend not adding the strawberry garnish until minutes before serving. To prep, I cut the strawberries and put them in a bag for Nathan to take with him to his office.  His only responsibilities were to add them just before the bake-off began and to remember to bring home a slice for me!

The Results: This is easily the best cake I’ve ever made. The cake is perfectly fluffy and light which is nice considering there are three layers. The strawberry flavor is quite heavy, but it was never overwhelming. In fact, I would almost suggest using more strawberries than is called for in the recipe.

What really makes this cake is the Jello used in the batter. It adds a certain something that I think a lot of cakes lack.

Something to consider is that the icing is very strawberry heavy. If you are looking for more subtle strawberry flavor I would recommend switching the icing out for plain vanilla or cutting back on the amount of strawberries used in the icing. It is very sweet as it is, and a little bit of it will go a long way.

Peanut Butter Pie

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Test: I think we need to get this out of the way: peanut butter pie is and always will be one of the greatest desserts on earth. However I happen to believe that even a mediocre peanut butter pie is better than the world’s best cupcake, so I might be a tad biased when it comes to this dessert.

This was definitely the most complicated recipe of the three I tested, and yet it was not too difficult.  If you are familiar with peanut butter pies then you know the filling is like custard, so people who aren’t familiar with making custards may find this process a little challenging. However it is still a simple recipe when compared to most desserts and the directions are incredibly easy to understand.

The Results: I could basically sum up this recipe by shouting “make this pie right now” from the rooftop!  It could possibly be the best peanut butter pie I’ve ever had, and I’m something of a peanut butter dessert connoisseur. It is perfect in every way. Throw some whipped cream on here, and you have a slice (or two…or three) of pure heaven. It isn’t overly sweet which admittedly makes it very easy to enjoy more than once slice.

Nathan and I both loved this pie. In fact we loved it so much that I forgot to take pictures! Thank goodness for istock.