We can almost smell the aroma of warm sweet treats wafting from the pages of Classic Southern Desserts. Lemon Tea Bread, Spiced Caramel-Apple Pudding, Sand Dollar Cookies, Four-Layer Coconut Cake, Key Lime Pie—these timeless favorites and many, many more have been fine-tuned in the Southern Living test kitchens over the past forty years and now appear in one usable cookbook that combines knowledge and experience (think helpful hints and tips) with amazing photography.

When we think of Southern desserts (pie anyone?), a few come to mind: Bourbon Balls, Pound Cake Banana Pudding, Raspberry-Almond-Pear Tart, and Fresh Georgia Peach Pie. They are all included in Classic Southern Desserts; in fact, we learned that the recipe for Pound Cake Banana Pudding was inspired by the pudding served at the famous Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room in Savannah (the Wilkes House was originally a boarding house). Of course, we zeroed in on the few nods to Texas while thumbing through this cookbook.

First, we stumbled across a recipe for Texas Sheet Cake, moist chocolate goodness comparable to brownies. Foodies can’t decide on its origins (some say that Lady Bird Johnson concocted Texas Sheet Cake), but most agree that it is similar to German Chocolate Cake. A good tip? Make the frosting right before taking the cake out of the oven.

Next up was Jam Kolache. Oh, how we love all varieties of this Czech pastry (cream cheese is toward the top). This recipe calls for only four ingredients—softened butter, softened cream cheese, all-purpose flour, and strawberry jam—but the ensuing combination makes for a delightfully delicious treat.

And last was a recipe for Grapefruit Tart, using Ruby Reds, a variety that is sweeter and larger than most. We learned how to choose the best grapefruits: Select those that are “firm, thin-skinned, and heavy for their size.” Even better? Photographs and captions explaining exactly how to section a grapefruit.

This cookbook has a little bit of everything for novices and veteran at-home pastry chefs alike. We especially approve of the last chapter, “Test Kitchens’ Guide to Successful Baking.” In it we found definitions for essential baking equipment, insider tips for turning out the perfect pound cake, metric equivalents, and guidelines for great pies and cakes (“If your piecrust tears, dampen the torn edges, and gently press them back together. Problem solved.”) We’re looking forward to tasting some of these Southern specialties and can’t wait to get in the kitchen and get started.