Cheryl Day: Paying homage to her ancestral Southern ovens

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Gathering cakes are brought to joyous and sad occasions in the South, and Cheryl Day recalls her grandmother bringing cakes to church. But who wouldn’t want to share a tray of her Wildflower Honey-Caramel Buns? Photo by Angie Mosier.

Pastry chef Cheryl Day grew up in Los Angeles but spent summers with her grandmother in the South. She recalls baking, stopping at roadstands to pick up ingredients for the perfect pie, and coming back home with mason jars. Day was left with her mother’s journal full of letters, recipes, and family history, including the story of her enslaved great great grandmother, who worked for a local politician and was remembered for her biscuits.

There is a history of resourcefulness in Southern baking where rosewater, sorghum, cornmeal, and cane syrup are used for flavoring and never left for waste. Day, who started as a home baker before opening  Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia,  was fascinated by the ingenuity of Southern bakers. Her latest cookbook is “Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking.”

“It was a clarity of purpose for me,” says pastry chef Cheryl Day upon discovering her family’s baking history in her mother’s journal. Photo by Angie Mosier.

Day’s great great grandmother baked for a local politician who professed that she made the best biscuits in the whole county. Photo by Angie Mosier.

“Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking” pays homage to recipes and ovens of her ancestral matriarchs. Photo courtesy of Artisan.



Evan Kleiman