In recent years, U.S. chains have spotlighted down-home classics like po’boys, buttermilk biscuits, brisket and fried chicken (and fried chicken again, and again). Now making waves are classic Southern desserts. Some chefs are using cast-iron skillets, a prized possession in the South, to cook fruit crisps and cobblers, while others are highlighting classic or riffs of regional Southern recipes like Mississippi mud pie and Kentucky butter cake. Many of these recipes fall in line with ideals that are important to consumers, such as scratch cooking and real ingredients like butter, as well as today’s comfort food comeback. The plus for operators: Most of these recipes are made with simple ingredients that require standard cooking tools and techniques. Here are five sweet fixin’s of the South on the rise.
1. Butter cake
Popular in the South with some versions originating in Kentucky and St. Louis, butter cake is similar to pound cake, although it varies in the proportion of its main ingredients and sometimes in the incorporation of additional ingredients like buttermilk. The simple recipe features readily available staples: butter, sugar, eggs, flour and leavening agents. On its new Flavors In-Demand menu, Claim Jumper unveiled a Berry Butter Cake. The traditional casual-dining chain’s version features a warmed cream cheese butter cake topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, strawberries and blackberries. It’s priced at $8.99.
2. Mud pie
Likely to have originated in Mississippi, mud pie typically features a chocolate crust topped with chocolate filling, whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Some versions have additional layers, some feature no-cook recipes and others take the base ingredients and inspirations that make up Mississippi mud pie into other dessert forms. In its current rotation of seasonal shakes, Shake Shack is offering a Mud Pie version featuring marshmallow frozen custard blended with fudge and coffee and topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. It’s priced at $5.79.
3. Skillet desserts
Cast-iron uses go well beyond savory entrees. Cookies, pies, cakes and cobblers can all be prepared in a cast iron to give a Southern scratch cooking effect. Known for its Southern hospitality, Fatz Cafe recently unveiled a Hot Apple Crisp Skillet on its Extra-Special Menu. The $5.49 dessert features baked cinnamon apple slices covered in a crust and topped with vanilla ice cream. It’s served in a skillet to the table.
4. Bread pudding
Bread pudding is a simple baked dessert made with cubes or slices of bread saturated with a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. There are regional variations around the world, but in Louisiana bread pudding is usually topped with a whiskey or caramel sauce and ice cream. LongHorn Steakhouse’s winter bread pudding is a play on the Louisiana version. The Western steakhouse chain’s $6.99 Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding features bread pudding topped with chocolate chips, warm bourbon-infused caramel, bananas and vanilla bean ice cream.
Cobbler is a baked, deep-dish fruit dessert topped with thick biscuit crust sprinkled with sugar. Back Yard Burgers’ newly unveiled Pecan Cobbler features pecans, vanilla extract and brown sugar baked in a crust. Aside from nuts, cobblers also commonly have a single fruit highlighted in Southern recipes. Grandy’s, for example, recently launched a limited-time Peach Cobbler for $1.79.