Call her biased, but when it comes to holiday cooking, Tyra Morrison always starts with desserts. As a trained pastry chef (and a producer on theGrio’s social media team), Morrison’s culinary roots run deep, all the way back to her hometown of Saint Francisville, Louisiana — population 4,000. There, she learned to appreciate and prepare Southern classics under the instruction of her great-grandmothers, Lillie and Willie Mae.
“I was blessed enough to have my great-grandmothers in my life for a very long time,” Morrison told theGrio, explaining that two dishes in particular “remind me of where I came from … they have a sense of pride about them that every time I eat them, I’m just like, ‘Wow, this is from my great-grandmother’s kitchen, and I’m just so blessed to have been in the kitchen with them and see them making them’ — and for me, it’s all about the experience.”
That reverence for the past now infuses Morrison’s contemporary Los Angeles-based kitchen, which she frequently opens to local friends and chosen family and shares recipes via her online platform, “Tyra’s Table.” Known for churning out sweet treats year-round, this holiday season, Morrison shares two crowd-pleasing classics with theGrio.
“Baking is a huge part of my life, and I chose these two desserts because, first of all, you can’t have the holidays without dessert. I personally think they are more important than the staple savory things!” she said. “You can’t have the holidays without a Sock-It-To-Me cake or a buttermilk pie.”
Many will recognize the Sock-It-To-Me Cake as a Southern classic and a staple on Black holiday dessert tables, one Morrison perfected alongside her great-grandma Lillie.
“I remember going to her house during the summertime, and I would be out helping her in her garden,” she recalls. “And we would come in, and we would end the day finishing off the cake; I would get to drizzle the icing on the top of the Sock-It-To-Me cake. And it really just put something in me to want to make people feel the same way.”
Paying the deliciousness forward, this holiday season, Morrison shares her recipes for Grandma Lillie’s Sock-It-To-Me Cake and Willie Mae’s Buttermilk Pie — and assures us they are easy additions to the holiday table.
“The Sock-It-To-Me Cake, it’s actually made traditionally with a box of yellow cake mix, and you just zhuzh it up a little bit. That’s super easy,” she says. “And then, the buttermilk pie is the same thing. Mix everything together in a little bowl, and pour it over into a prepared pie pan you can get at the grocery store!”
Grandma Lillie’s Sock-It-to-Me Cake
1 box yellow cake mix (15.25 oz)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons prepared cake batter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (add 1 cup if you like nuts)
1 cup 10x (confectioners’ sugar)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. In a large bowl, mix together the yellow cake mix, sour cream, softened butter, vegetable oil, sugar and eggs until well combined.
Prepare filling: Set aside 2 tablespoons of the prepared cake batter for the filling. In a separate bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of cake batter with brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and chopped pecans.
Layering: Pour 2/3 of the cake batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the batter. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the cake batter.
Baking: Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cooling: Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
Prepare glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract until smooth.
Glazing: Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.
Serving: Allow the glaze to set before slicing and serving.
Grandma Willie Mae’s Buttermilk Pie
3 eggs, room temperature
1-¼ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 9-inch pie crust
Instructions: Bring all ingredients to room temperature to ensure the batter comes together properly.
Pie crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Poke holes in the pie crust to prevent bubbles. Be cautious not to make too many holes.
Pie filling: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until well combined. Add the all-purpose flour, melted unsalted butter, buttermilk, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix until the batter is smooth and well incorporated.
Baking: Pour the prepared pie filling into the pie crust. Place the pie tin on top of a sheet pan to catch any potential spills. Bake in the preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 45-50 minutes or until the center is set, and the top is golden brown.
Cooling: Allow the buttermilk pie to cool before slicing. This pie can be enjoyed warm or chilled.
Serve: Serve slices on their own or with a dollop of whipped cream for a delightful treat.
Growing up in the Deep South, Tyra Morrison, the creative force behind Tyra’s Table, cultivated a passion for crafting dishes embodying her childhood’s warmth and flavors. ‘Food’ is synonymous with “Fellowship” for Tyra; more than sustenance, it’s art, expression, and vulnerability. She finds pride in remixing her great-grandmothers’ recipes, paying homage to her roots and creating enchantment through every dish.
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