I was raised on Church Lady cake [and pies].  I knew people who could take one bite out of a slice of cake or pie and tell you in 2 – 3 chews whether it was made from scratch, a mix, or had a frozen crust with canned filling. As an adult I began noticing more and more box mix and/or warehouse cakes and pies for special occasions on bake sale tables even in churches with reputations for “good food.”  Quantity was taking precedent over quality.  Speed + convenience = profit and immediate gratification.

Where did those bakers I grew up with go? I realized the women and a few men who baked for me, my family and their families from scratch had either retired their bowls or joined the ancestors.  It was now up to a new generation of home bakers to be as generous as these women and men were to us. This is why I started “The Church Lady Cake” project.

The project is in two parts: The Church Lady Cake Diaries is a 60-minute documentary; and “The Church Lady Cake Project” an on-line digital media channel to collect and feature first person stories about women [and on occasion men] who were part of a divine tradition – making cakes from scratch.

“Church Lady Cake” is a standard, a standard for quality in the baking as well as the generosity of the home baker.  This standard also comes with a social contract: connection with community, family, friends, heritage that often came in the form of a gently aluminum foiled-wrapped care package.

Church Lady Cake has a roll call of perennial favorites: 2-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting, pound cake, coconut cake with pineapple and red velvet [alongside the sweet potato pies of course]. As home baking and tastes evolved, Church Lady Cake welcomed new innovations. The bottom line remaining: “It has to taste good.”

I’m glad to say cakes and pies from scratch are making a comeback maybe not in the church basement but with a new generation of home bakers who are doing it for love, for friends and family, farmers markets, cafes, bakeries, and on-line. For the box mix generation, “from scratch” can read as “keepin’ it real. ” But to reach “Church Lady Cake” standards some divine inspiration has to be involved and a lot of love.

For more information, email info[at]

Michon Boston


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