Almost every town in the South, large or small, has a designated "cake lady." And the title is no vanity-plate moniker—their communities depend on these women to come calling with cake for birthdays, covered-dish suppers, christenings, holidays, anniversaries, even funerals.
In her new cookbook Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Tradition, Jodi Rhoden profiles 17 women known for their kitchen wisdom and stellar cakes. No novice, Rhoden is a bakery owner herself, and has managed to collect not only 21 lush cake recipes, but also the stories behind them. Here are three to whet your appetite.