TOPS | Our Favorite Southern Recipes | Sweets


A Word On Food

When we were dreaming of the perfect issue to kick off the new year, the first two words that came to mind were “Southern comforts.”

After the trainwreck that was 2020, everyone deserves a little comfort. And no one gets comfort quite like the South.

Cooking is about nourishing bodies and bringing people together around a table. But for anyone who has experienced a proper Southern spread, you know: Southern cooking about so much more than feeding one another. It’s about making the most with the least and transforming humble ingredients into something that feeds the spirit.

Think about your favorite Southern dishes. Your mind is probably dredging up a hearty bowl of chicken and dumplings, a spread of beer cheese and crackers, honey-drizzled cornbread with soup beans or collard greens, bourbon-drenched bread pudding, fried catfish with crunchy hushpuppies, boiling hot burgoo, steamin’ hot biscuits, and a gallon of sweet tea. The thought of each dish is like a balm for the soul, soothing you with the memory of a full belly and the glow of love.

We can’t help but think of the ways this past year changed our relationship with food. Like Southerners who came before us, we felt the call to stretch the ingredients in our pantries to ease our families through an uncertain time. Getting carryout was no longer a weeknight treat, but instead an important connection to our neighbors, a gift we gave and received from our community. A Thanksgiving without sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, and sweet potato rolls reminded us that every gathering around a table is something to cherish and celebrate.

As we head into 2021, let’s hold those lessons close to our hearts. Let’s remember our gratitude for the cooks in our homes and the food industry workers we visit around town. Let’s stay curious about what’s in our cabinets and available on grocery store shelves, finding new ways to create (and savor!) delicious bites. Let’s nourish our communities and share our favorite foods with everyone around us.

Let’s get cookin’!

No Bake Cookies

From TOPS staff: Haley Norris

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 T cocoa
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 c. of peanut butter 3 c. of oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Mix sugar and cocoa in pan Add milk and butter
  2. Bring to a full boil, continue to boil for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add peanut butter
  4. Add oats and vanilla
  5. Spoon out onto wax paper at desired size
  6. Let cool/harden and enjoy!

Italian Cream Cake

From TOPS staff: Diana Gevedon

For Cake:

  • 1 box white cake nix
  • 1 box instant cheesecake pudding 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 c. flaked coconut
  • 1 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. almond flavoring
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the cake mix, pudding, buttermilk, eggs yolks, and oil.
  3. Beat for 2 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed. Fold in whipped egg whites and beat another minute.
  4. Add pecans, almond flavoring, and flaked coconut and mix with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour batter into 9 x 13 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes.

For Frosting:

  • 4 T butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 2 T cream
  • 2 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar 1 1/2 c. flaked coconut
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a medium mixer bowl, blend the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and enough cream to make it a smooth spreading consistency.
  3. Frost cake with frosting and sprinkle with coconut and pecans

Carson's Bread Pudding

(Note: these recipes were slightly adapted from Carson’s Food & Drink production recipes.)
362 E Main St. | Lexington, Ky | (859) 309-3039

  • 12 oz. raisins
  • 4 oz. brandy
  • 3 oz. unsalted butter
  • 4 lbs. Sister Schubert Rolls 2 qts. + 3 c. heavy cream
  • 3 c. liquid egg
  • 32 oz. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 T vanilla extract
  • 1 T cinnamon
  1. Cut the rolls into 1/6 squares and place in a large mixing bowl. (Let bread sit out to dry some. It will absorb more of the cream.)
  2. Pour heavy cream over bread and soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Place raisins and brandy into the skillet and flame off brandy (which means to catch the brandy on fire and remove from heat, continually stir the raisins with a rubber spatula until the flame has gone out) then add the butter and set to the side to allow butter to melt.
  4. Put liquid egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and blend.
  5. Next add the raisins, butter, and brandy mixture to the mixing bowl and blend with rubber spatula.
  6. Once evenly blended, add to the bread mixture and fold it in gently so bread doesn’t break down.
  7. Pour mixture into buttered hotel pan. Once you have evenly spread out the mixture, take your rubber spatula and scrape out remaining liquid from the mixing bowl. You want to use this liquid to pour around the sides of the pan or any posts that need additional liquid (this gives a good edge to the pudding).
  8. Bake at 250° in the oven for 1 hr. 30 min. and rotate every 30 min.
  9. Check the internal consistency of the pudding to see if it is done (insert a toothpick in several different areas; if it comes out clean, it is done. If pudding is on the toothpick, then it needs to cook a little longer.)
  10. With the pudding being internally done, you now want to turn the oven to 350° and brown the top of the pudding, about 5-10 min.
  11. When completely cooled, cut into 15 equal pieces and refrigerate.

Carson's Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding

(Note: these recipes were slightly adapted from Carson’s Food & Drink production recipes.)
362 E Main St. | Lexington, Ky | (859) 309-3039

  • 1 bread pudding portion
  • 1⁄2 T butter oil
  • 1 half banana (into 5 slices)
  • 2 oz. caramel sauce
  • 1 T bourbon/banana liquor mixture
  1. Warm bread pudding portion.
  2. Place butter oil in sauté pan and allow to get hot.
  3. Place bananas in sauté pan and get a quick saute on bananas without breaking them down.
  4. Add caramel sauce to pan and allow sauce to get hot and bubbly. Deglaze the pan with the bourbon/banana liquor mixture.
  5. Place banana slices on top of bread pudding and pour sauce over the entire pudding, allowing it to pull within the dish.
  6. Top with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and a sprig of mint.

Bourbon adds a subtle flavor to baked goods... but when used in recipes that aren’t cooked, things can get pretty boozy! Plan accordingly, especially if you’re serving kids!

Season's Brownies

Season’s Catering |

  • 4 1/2 c. cocoa
  • 1 T baking soda
  • 4 c. melted butter 3 c. boiling water 12 c. sugar
  • 12 eggs
  • 9 c. flour
  • 2 T vanilla
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 6 c. nuts, chopped

Stir cocoa and baking soda in mixing bowl; blend in 1 cup of melted butter. Add boiling water all at once and stir until mixture thickens. Stir in sugar, eggs, and remaining butter; stir until smooth. Add flour, vanilla, and salt; blend completely. Stir in nuts. Pour into two large pans sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Frost while still warm.

For Frosting:

  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 c. granulated sugar 1 c. chocolate chips

Heat butter, milk, and sugar until well blended. Add chocolate chips and stir constantly until melted but not overcooked.

Banana Bread

From TOPS Staff: Courtney Desrochers

  • 3 overly ripe bananas, mashed 1/3 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

Always start with your
wet ingredients! Beat the two eggs then add in your melted butter and vanilla extract. Whisk in all your dry ingredients until nicely combined. In a separate bowl, mash your bananas), then, add to the mixture
last. If desired, add in the chopped nuts of your choosing right before baking. Pour mixture into a non-stick loaf pan (I lightly run butter all over the pan). Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for one hour.
Your house is sure to smell Heavenly!

Maker's Mark Bourbon Pecan Pie

Courtesy of:

  • 1/4 c. Maker’s Mark® Bourbon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the pie crust:

  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 3 T ice water

To make the crust: In a food processor, pulse 1-1/4 cups flour, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar to mix. Add the cut pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the ice water on top and pulse until large clumps form. Press the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Tuck in the overhang and decoratively crimp the edges. Freeze while heating the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove crust from freezer and line with parchment paper. Place pie weights or dried beans on top and bake crust at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust is dry around the edges and just beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar. Continue whisking while adding the butter and then the bourbon. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour until well-combined. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into the warm pie shell.

Bake until the filling is set and the top golden, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge

From TOPS Staff: Amanda Harper

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Melt peanut butter and butter with vanilla in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until combined and completely melted. Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar in, a cup at a time. Stir to combine. If desired, you could add chopped peanuts or miniature chocolate chips.

Pour into an 8” pan that’s well-buttered (or lined with parchment paper) and press into corners. Refrigerate until cool before cutting.

Sorghum Brittle

Adapted from Red Truck Bakery Cookbook

  • 2 T unsalted butter 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. sorghum syrup 1/2 c. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. roasted peanuts

Melt butter over low heat. Add sugar, syrups, and baking soda and increase heat. Cook until the mixture reads 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.

Stir in peanuts. Pour mixture into a greased 9x12 baking sheet and allow to cool for around half an hour. Break the brittle with the handle of a wooden spoon.

Easy Divinity

  • 2 egg whites, room temperature 2 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Microwave sugar, water, and corn syrup on high for four minutes, stir. Cook until 260 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 6 minutes. (Stop to stir and read temperature about every 2 minutes) 

Beat egg whites to stiff peak stage. With mixer running on high, slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream. Beat 15 minutes, or until it loses its gloss and holds shape. Stir in vanilla. 

Drop by spoonful onto wax paper. Let dry overnight. 

Twinkies "Sushi"

  • Twinkies
  • Assorted candy and dried fruits
  • Green fruit leather
  • Chocolate syrup
  1. Slice Twinkies into 1” sections.
  2. Slice 1” wide strips of fruit leather long enough to wrap around the sections of Twinkie.
  3. Lay flat on a serving tray. Place candy and fruit into the cream filling.
  4. Serve with chocolate syrup for dipping and be the embodiment of class and style.

Chopsticks are absolutely optional.

Box cake mixes are kinda magical. But everyone knows Betty Crocker when they see her. Dress up your cake and fool folks into thinking it’s from scratch!

  • For a richer, more moist cake, add two egg yolks in addition to the eggs the recipe calls for.

  • For something lighter, use egg whites and add 1 T butter for every yolk removed.

  • Try swapping water for room temperature brewed coffee, milk, stout beer, pop, or fruit juice!

  • Experiment with a box of instant pudding in the mix. You’ll need to add a little liquid to compensate.

Domestic Do's and Dont's

There’s something fun about vintage advice! This comes from a 1930s-era Boyd County newspaper, courtesy of a mysterious “L.H.”

Some of these tips hold up nicely, while other items are best left in the Depression.

See what you think of these “helpful” cooking hints!

Did you know? To keep icing soft, add a pinch of baking soda to the whites of the eggs before beating them, then beat in the usual way and pour the hot syrup over beaten eggs, and it will be creamy.

Before heating milk in a saucepan, rinse the pan with water and it will not scorch so easily. A few whole cloves in a kettle of fat, give doughnuts a nice flavor.

When making egg custard pies, always heat the milk to the boiling point before mixing it with the eggs. If this rule is followed, the undercrust will be crisp.

To brown pies and tarts, use a small pastry brush and brush them with milk before putting them in the oven, and to glaze pies, brush them with the white of an egg if you wish them to be shiny brown.

Next time you cook fresh peas, try this method: Wash the pods well and drop into a kettle of boiling water. When done the pods come to the top and the peas stay on the bottom. They have a lovely flavor when cooked this way.

Celery tops, save and dry, put them into glass jars and use to flavor sales, salads, stew, etc. when celery [sic] is not on hand.

When using molasses and it is not as dark as desired for gingerbread or cookies, add a tablespoon of melted chocolate to molasses and spices, and you will find it improves the flavor.

In placing dishes on ice, place a rubber ring under the dish to keep it from slipping.