Slow Down and Taste The Good Life: A Sweet Profile of Savannah Baker, Cheryl Day

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By Andrea Goto

At Back in the Day Bakery, if the Nana Puddin’ browns or the bread doesn’t rise, you gotta hit the dance floor.

“We’re kind of loopy about food’s energy,” explains the Savannah bakeshop’s owner, Cheryl Day, a one-time Soul Train dancer turned baker. “Having bad energy around food—we think that’s poison.”

So Day is painting a dance floor in the kitchen for her employees to keep any bad juju at bay. She and her husband Griffith also get good karma flowing by filling out “pay it forward” forms when customers compliment the service, the food, or both, as is often the case. This shows her employees—“Sugarnauts” as she calls them—that their job matters. The form doesn’t have a checkbox for dissatisfied customers; it would likely go unused anyway.

Clearly, something different is going on here.

Since it’s opening in 2003, Back in the Day Bakery has risen from a struggling corner bakery in a once-forgotten historic downtown neighborhood, to a must-visit destination. Day’s cupcakes have received national attention and have been rated among the top 10 in the country by AOL.com and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And the sweet life continues to grow by the cupfuls: The bakery has launched a new website and blog, and Day is currently working on her first cookbook, in hopes of demystifying the process of cooking from scratch.

But even if you had the recipes for Day’s scrumptious Red Velvet or divine Chocolate Heaven cupcakes, you wouldn’t pass up the chance to drop by Back in the Day Bakery on a regular basis. While it’s hard to imagine anything better than made-from-scratch baked goods, decadent espresso, melty baked ciabatta sandwiches and crusty artesian breads, there’s a certain quality to a place that goes out of its way to care for its customers. Maybe it’s because you can help yourself to the creamer in the refrigerator, or maybe you like the bakery’s unpretentious retro chic aesthetic, which includes vintage cake toppers, Easy-Bake Ovens and a 1970s stereo that your parents once had. For many, it’s the timeless Southern tradition of having someone look you in the eye when they say, “Have a nice day,” and actually mean it.

Though Day is a Southern transplant born and raised in L.A., her Alabama roots stick like dough to an unfloured rolling pin. She spent her summers in the Deep South cooking with her grandmother. “She showed me her Southern style scratch cakes, and they weren’t just pretty to look at,” says Day. It’s a tradition she honors at the bakeshop: “Our deal is Southern homespun—that’s who we are.”

Day is also quick to point out that she and Griffith are “American bakers.” Unhindered by the high-falutin’ training of cooking school, Day doesn’t feel pressured to move outside of her culinary comfort zone. These self-proclaimed home bakers stick to family recipes that stand the test of taste and time, such as the bakeshop’s bestseller: Old Fashioned Cupcakes. Day runs quality control by personally making every cupcake.

Most of the goodies attractively displayed in the old-school bakery case come from recipes plucked straight from Day and Griffith’s family tree. Day may tweak the recipes some, but she resists shortcuts; she makes her homespun desserts with real butter and quality ingredients—the stuff that ignites what she calls an “F.O.,” or “food orgasm.”
Nearly every aspect of Back in the Day Bakery reflects its motto: “Slow down and taste the sweet life,” with the exception of Day and her husband who find little time to take it easy. Then again, when you love what you do, life feels like one big, happy sugar rush.

Old Fashioned Cupcakes

Yield: about 2 dozen depending on how you scoop

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, and cut into cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners
Combine in a bowl both flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until combined for about 3 minutes. Add in cubed butter (room temperature) mixing until just coated with flour.
Add eggs 1 at a time until combined. Slowly add milk and vanilla to batter until completely mixed scraping down the bowl as you mix.
Scoop batter into baking cups filling about 2/3 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
Cool and decorate with Old Fashioned Frosting.

Old-Fashioned Frosting:
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or other flavoring

Cream butter until light and fluffy and add 4 cups sugar, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Gradually add the rest of sugar to reach desired frosting consistency. Color with food coloring and decorate.

Food Editor’s Note: If traveling to Savannah, don’t forget to visit Back in the Day Bakery the first Friday of each month for “Cupcake Happy Hour,” from 5 – 8 p.m. Or drop by for Funk Saturdays to enjoy soulful tunes while you nibble on delectable desserts.

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

54321

I love Back in The Day Bakery gal Cheryl Day and Mr Griff , great sweet people just like their food

By Janice Dauksch on June 11, 2014

54321

dear paul deep day is wed janunanu 2 will you put your eamil mail on my eamil mail and i can eamil mail you nback and you can eamil mail me back to ok this is janie lov carter likje to talk to you on here ok

By janie lov carter on January 02, 2013

54321

dear paul deen day is monday october 22 this is janie and you sand me to my eamil mail jcarter 1 ptd nex will wight for your eamil mail to come my way one time toe me i have sugar in my floom so i dont have it no more im on go by the month sensa weight loss system you have to get time to work you put on all things you eat and loss wight my sugar go way from sensa you and get it will help you to will get you to get it ok you get month 1 get month 2 go up toup to month 6 here how you get it now book with it get dvv dvd in the box and get lot things to ok and im on food loves to see on tv tell you tell you to eat good thingd h help you you and eat all you want and loss wight eat time you get up stop one time go to bad get me a eamil mail like to see one you get the time love janie lov carter

By janie lov carter on October 22, 2012

54321

I HAVE NOT HAD THE PLEASURE TO VISIT THE BAKERY, BUT I DO HAVE THE COOK BOOK AND LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. I HAVE TRIEND MANY OF THE GOODIES AND IN- DEED THAT ARE GOOD. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR BOOD WITH THE REST OF US.

By ANNE LUTZ on May 14, 2012

14321

By Lysan Curiel on July 14, 2011

Oh I loved Cheryl and the bakery and those cup cakes are to die for, sooooooooo gooddddddddd

I want to go back down there as soon as possible which will more than likely be spring.

Best bakery ever and she needs to be on a tourist list of places to see in Savannah, Ga I told my tour guide that.

Janice

By Curtains In my Tree on October 29, 2010

Those cupcakes are featured on the Foody Tour, just like Paula’s fried chicken at the Lady and Sons.  Yum!

By Hollywood Ron on March 01, 2010

Let us try this recipe of cupcakes

By Darlene Thompson on February 14, 2010

Wow - Andrea’s article about the Back in the Day Bakery makes me want to rush back to visit Savannah…this place should be on the city’s hot “Tourist Attraction”! I can hardly wait to come again!

By Sue Stremler on February 10, 2010

If there’s one thing Cheryl and Griff taught me was to LOVE what you do, no matter what it is. Their passion shows in their product and if anyone has the opportunity to try Back in The Day Bakery, don’t miss it! It’s a taste of heaven. smile

By Aline Lopes on February 03, 2010

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm