Heyyyyy y’all! Juneteenth is here. Let the BBQ sauce flow. Let the red soda pop chill. And let the celebration of remembrance begin!!
Today I am going to talk about Juneteenth desserts and all the delicious food that accompany those sweet treats during Juneteenth.
But first, let’s take a moment to remember why this holiday is so important not only to the African American community but to all Americans.
Until the last 20 or so years, Juneteenth was a relatively unknown holiday in many places. It has largely been viewed as a holiday celebrated by African American Texans commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. According to Juneteenth.com, “in 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.”
What is not always immediately noted is that the this news came two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared on January 1, 1863. Thus true freedom for all was not established until June 19.
Upon hearing the news, some would stay and work to make a new life as free members of society along side their formers masters.
Others would leave heading north, east and west looking for a new life beyond the plantations they had lived all their lives.
No matter whether they stayed or left, they would soon discover being granted freedom and being able to exercise your rights as a free person would require more than a proclamation. It would require action.
As I write this article, Congress has just passed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Nearly a 156 years after the day Major General Granger came to Glaveston, Texas to deliver the news of freedom, over 50 years after the civil rights act, 41 years after Texas officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday and one year after the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed, the United States has come together to recognize a critical moment in our history.
The recognition that all lives matters and are created equal.
This moment has only come because of the actions and sacrifices of many people. Action not only on the political front but also in the economic and social spaces. At every turn of resistance from those who sought to maintain the oppression of African Americans, we have overcome.
A Celebration of Food
Now that we understand why we celebrate Juneteenth, it’s time to talk Juneteenth desserts with food on the side.
There are many desserts that are made and consumed for Juneteenth. However there are two desserts that are revered as THE desserts of Juneteenth – Tea Cakes and Red Velvet Cupcakes.
Tea cakes, a dessert that dates back 200 years ago to slavery, is a light almond flavored cookie resembling the traditional sugar cookie.
These precious cookies resembled the tea cookies served by slave cooks to the guest of their masters. Slaves would make these same cookies as a treat for their families often swapping molasses for sugar and lard for butter. Ingredients that were more common in their living environment.
A great recipe for these light tasty delights can be found at Lana’s Cooking.
The tea cakes rose to prominence at Juneteenth events and can be often found next to its Juneteenth dessert sibling Red Velvet Cake.
Red is the dominant color for Juneteenth. Representing the blood shed for freedom, this color shows up most commonly in the food, the drinks and the desserts.
Red Velvet Cake, for all intents and purposes, is often considered a chocolate cake with red coloring topped with a cream cheese frosting. However there is more to this dessert.
According to Vintage Bakehouse, this moist cake originally called simple a Velvet Cake. The “Red” was added because of the red color that would develop as a result of the chemical reaction from the buttermilk, brown sugar and vinegar mixture. The addition of red food coloring came along sometime in the 50’s or 60’s.
For Juneteenth, the Red Velvet Cake is my go to dessert every time.
This year I did a special Juneteenth celebration with my Sunday School students (yes I’m a blogger, podcaster, fundraiser and a Sunday School teacher – yes I am pretty amazing) that included eating delicious red velvet cupcakes from my favorite bakery Twist Cupcakery.
Now making a Red Velvet Cake is not something that every novice baker can do without a good recipe. I highly recommend Jocelyn Delk Adams beautiful Red Velvet Cake with Blackberry Cream Cheese Frosting.
While there are many recipes out there, Juneteenth is not the holiday to experiment with desserts. Only tried and trusted recipes need be used. This is one of those recipes.
Other suggested desserts are: Fresh Strawberry Cobbler (Divas Can Cook), Golden Pineapple Pound Cake (Dash of Jazz), Easy Berry Fruit Salad (for those who to celebrate on a light tip) (Domestic Dee) and Watermelon and Feta Salad (watermelon is the unofficial fruit of Juneteenth)(Chef and Steward).
Thanks to The Hangry Woman for a list of awesome Juneteenth recipes.
Now that we have dessert covered, let’s talk main courses and side dishes.
For Juneteenth, ribs, chicken and anything you can cover in BBQ sauce is perfect and expected for Juneteenth. Side dishes need not be red. Macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, greens, and cornbread easily round out any meal. And don’t forget to grab a red soda or watermelon juice to wash all the delicious food down.
While I could share recipes for all of this, I would rather direct you check out the Juneteenth Menu on Food Network. They are featuring new and up to date Juneteenth delights. It also features a series of videos sharing more about Juneteenth and its food roots.
With over 25 delicious, make your mouth water recipes from “we know how to throw down in the kitchen” food bloggers, you are bound to find something old, something new, something borrowed and something red for this holiday!
In Dayton Ohio there are celebrations happening on Saturday at Riverscape, the Oregon District, the Levitt Pavilion, Liberation Park and at the YMCA in Springboro Ohio.
So go make some tea cookies or tackle the delicious Red Velvet Cake, gather your family and celebrate this holiday of remembrance and celebration.