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Soul Food Desserts

Patty Pinner's childhood in Michigan was all the sweeter thanks to the soul her family baked into desserts. Try 9 of her recipes, including oatmeal cookies, sweet potato cheesecake, apple butter pie and bourbon balls.
Sister Chestermae Hayes’s Apple Butter Pie

Sister Chestermae Hayes’s Apple Butter Pie

Imagine a pumpkin pie made with jarred apple butter in place of the usual canned pumpkin. It’s the perfect home-baked treat to cap off a cozy autumn supper. Patty suggests sprinkling pecan pieces over the whipped cream or ice cream before serving. We opted for grated fresh nutmeg. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweety Pies (tauntonstore.com).

Sister Chestermae Hayes’s Apple Butter Pie

Aint Sug’s Punkin’ Puddin’

Baked in a casserole dish, this unusual dessert channels the spirit of marshmallow-topped sweet potato, with the added spice of pumpkin pie. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweets (crownpublishing.com).

Aint Sug’s Punkin’ Puddin’

My My’s Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Patty’s grandmother sifted together the flour and baking powder three times before adding them to the batter. We had good results just whisking them together. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweets (crownpublishing.com).

My My’s Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Vertamae Grosvenor’s Coconut Custard Meringue Pie

A cloud of toasty meringue tops creamy coconut pudding in a recipe from Patty’s friend and fellow soul-food queen. Though not difficult, the filling for this pie does require attentive cooking. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweety Pies (tauntonstore.com).

Vertamae Grosvenor’s Coconut Custard Meringue Pie

Aint Helen’s Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Besides tinting the cake a lovely pale orange, sweet potatoes lend a pleasant texture to the rich, creamy filling. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweets (crownpublishing.com).

Aint Helen’s Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Miss LaLou’s Bourbon Balls

Vanilla wafers, cocoa powder and pecans form the base of these boozy, no-bake bonbons that keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweets (crownpublishing.com).

Miss LaLou’s Bourbon Balls

Redemption Hazelnut Pie

This über-sweet pie is essentially a traditional pecan pie made with hazelnuts. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweety Pies (tauntonstore.com).

Redemption Hazelnut Pie

Apricot Jam Tart

Butter-rich pastry holds a four- ingredient filling of apricot jam, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. For best results, be sure to use cold butter and cream in the lemony pastry. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweety Pies (tauntonstore.com).

Apricot Jam Tart

Miss Rosa Lee’s Oatmeal Cookies

Nothing fancy here; this is the perfectly chewy lunchbox classic, pebbled with walnuts and plump raisins. A combination of vegetable oil and butter ensures a chewy texture and rich flavor. This recipe comes from Patty Pinner's cookbook Sweets (crownpublishing.com).

Miss Rosa Lee’s Oatmeal Cookies

Buy the books

Patty Pinner's family moved from Mississippi to Michigan in the 1940s as part of the Great Migration of African-Americans to work in the auto industry. In her memoirlike cookbooks—Sweets ($20, crownpublishing.com) and Sweety Pies ($23, tauntonstore.com)—you can hear the laughter of aunts and cousins around the kitchen table and smell the yam cake cooling in the window.

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