The Sweetest Thing

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Cake photo courtesy Titan Pictures/ROXY

Tara Rocker reconnects with the joy of cooking in a new book of family recipes, including Grandma’s Chocolate Stack Cake

Written by COLLEEN ANN MCNALLY

TARA DELOACH ROCKER dreamed of writing a cookbook since she was in her young 20s. She felt a call to capture and record her core memories and family recipes, intrinsically linked and inseparable from one another.

As a daughter of former Savannah mayor Eddie DeLoach and a graduate of Savannah Country Day School, she wanted to authentically honor the foods she grew up on and the rich stories surrounding them. From an oyster roast where she scored her first job to the fish fry that made her fall in love with her husband to the holiday traditions she now passes on to her own children, these meals represented the defining moments of her life.

Family posing for a picture together behind a table full of Southern-style food
Cookbook author Tara DeLoach Rocker (third from left) and her family. / Courtesy Titan Pictures/ROXY

Two decades, a global pandemic and a season of depression later, Rocker finally realized the dream with the late 2023 publication of “My Sweet Home Georgia Cookbook.” 

She credits her husband’s support and her therapist, who gave her a “homework” assignment to write the book. Along with proper medicine and physical exercise, the creative project helped Rocker to overcome her struggles with her mental health and reconnect with the joy, comfort and community that are key ingredients in every dish.

Here, she offers a taste of the book’s inherently sweet charm. 

Old woman in a black shirt with white polka dots sitting in a white rocking chair on a porch
Tara Rocker’s grandmother, Virginia DeLoach, who passed down her recipe for Chocolate Stack Cake. / Courtesy Eddie DeLoach

Grandmother’s Chocolate Stack Cake

from Tara DeLoach Rocker’s “My Sweet Home Georgia Cookbook”

My Sweet Home Georgia Cookbook cover
Courtesy Titan Pictures/ROXY

“This is my favorite cake from my childhood and still today. The tiny cake layers with fudge-like icing make for a delicious dessert. My grandmother Virginia DeLoach would often make this cake for my birthday. One of my life goals was to learn how to make this cake so I could share it with my family. Now you can share it with yours!

I use three cake pans for my cake, each with a 9-inch diameter. I cook two batches of layers.

A note on the icing: be sure your icing is warm when you spread it on the layers coming out of the oven. It helps the cake to absorb all the chocolate goodness. Plus, it spreads beautifully.” 

ICING
3 cups of sugar
18 ounces of evaporated milk
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup powdered cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla

CAKE
3 cups of cake flour sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup of milk

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the icing: melt the sugar, evaporated milk, butter, cocoa, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 20 minutes. It will begin to bubble and slowly boil. Stir constantly to keep the icing from scorching and to bring the ingredients together. 

After 20 minutes, remove from heat and set aside to cool. 

To make the cake: sift the flour with the baking powder in a mixing bowl. 

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs and continue to mix well. Next, add the flour and sour cream alternately, mixing well until the batter is smooth. 

The cake is baked in six small layers, in three cake pans, used twice. First, grease three (9-inch) cake pans. (I use a spray of Baker’s Joy all around, including the edges.) Then, pour the batter to a 1⁄4-inch depth to cover the bottom of the pans. 

Bake the layers for 17 to 20 minutes. Multiple pans can bake at one time if the oven will accommodate them. Repeat until all six layers are baked. If you bake in batches, begin to ice the tops of the layers as they come from the oven. 

To ice, place the first layer on the cake plate. Using 2 – 3 tablespoons of icing, cover the top of that layer, and place an uniced layer atop of it. Repeat until all layers are iced. When the top layer is ready, add an abundance of icing to allow some to drip down the sides. If you like, smooth the icing around the side of the cake to cover. When fully iced, let it sit for 30 minutes before serving.


This story and much more in the January/February issue of Savannah magazine. Get your copy today!