Back in the Day Bakery Savannah Georgia


Back in the Day Bakery Makes Life Delicious in Savannah

Categories: Food,
March 3, 2020,

By Anthea Gerrie

Leafing through Cheryl and Griffith Day’s Back in the Day Bakery cookbooks is like stepping into the charming Savannah, Georgia, cafe itself. Voted the most popular restaurant in Georgia, it may only be a breakfast and lunch joint, but this divine-smelling bakery could also be the most joyous place in the world to kick-start the morning.

Back in the Day Bakery is located in the neighborhood of Starland, once considered a no-go area of Savannah, which has seen a recent revival.

“Now Starland is hip and happening, but we were getting a breakfast crowd long before that happened,” says Cheryl Day, a warm and colorful California native whose family history led her back to her Southern roots. She’s the very personification of her surroundings. Her vintage aprons and bows complement the daily array of fresh-from-the-oven goodies that have been described as looking “straight from a community bake sale sixty years ago.” She admits her mission is to evoke edibles and surroundings which speak of “a sweeter, simpler time”—the days when she baked with her mother and Alabama-based grandmother.

For those who don’t already know, Back in the Day was established by Cheryl and her husband, Griff, in 2002, and they published their first cookbook ten years later. Like its predecessor, the sequel, Made With Love, became a national hit. The demand for the James Beard-nominated couple’s mouthwatering recipes (many of them family treasures) meant the books spawned offspring, delightful pocket-size volumes encompassing breakfast items, party cakes, and sweet treats. Cheryl and Griff are each self-taught, getting their training from years in their own kitchens and those of beloved family members. Griff is the bread expert, enticed into baking by memories of his mother’s “magical” sourdough starter. The couple even got married in the bakery, and a recipe for their wedding cake was included in their first New York Times best-selling cookbook.


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The book designer and photographer deserve as much credit as the bakers for creating such an immersive experience. The moment you open the cover of Made With Love, on which a cut-out invites further exploration as it frames the couple’s portrait, you segue to a large photograph of the airy, brick-backed bakery space at the foot of Savannah’s Bull Street. Back in the Day Bakery features mismatched tables, unlikely chandeliers, and displays of the most tempting baked goods known to man. Dozens of happy customers were tucking in on the day I visited. “A gathering place with a sense of community is what Griff and I set out to create,” says Cheryl, taking a rare few minutes to perch on a barstool for a chat. She laughs as she reveals that her days as a Soul Train dancer have helped give her the stamina for long days on her feet.

Paula Deen may have “discovered” Cheryl and introduced her to America’s foodies, but the couple’s recipes speak for themselves. Sure, there are all the cakes, pies, biscuits, and cookies you would expect, but some rarefied creations of their own besides. Who wouldn’t want to try eggnog French toast or be intrigued by a breakfast bread pudding? How about Coca-Cola cake with a liberal dose of the soda that made Atlanta in the frosting as well as the crumb, the whiskey-laced Alabama Lane Cake mentioned multiple times in To Kill A Mockingbird, or, perfectly befitting Georgia, a coffee cake crammed with fresh peaches?

You don’t need a sweet tooth to love this book, which also fields such savory delights as a bean-and-bacon cornbread cobbler, tomato pie, and deviled eggs (Cheryl calls them “devil-ish”); you knew she was bound to have recipes for these Southern classics.

Back in the Day Bakery Savannah Georgia

There are even non-edibles in the book to tempt the craft brigade. Readers can turn their hands to assembling a marshmallow chandelier or a little girl’s party hat that emulates the “petite cakes” for which the bakery has earned a reputation.

This cookbook is truly the gift that keeps on giving because just when you think it must be all over, it isn’t. Final chapters include recipes for such treats as green tomato and Vidalia onion marmalades and homemade fruit syrups. What I loved best was Cheryl’s message to Griff on the last page, facing a final picture of them laughing in their sky-blue aprons as they sign a pile of books. “We are one of the great American love stories,” she writes. “Thank you for being my partner in business and in life—and telling me that I make beautiful dough.”

Back in the Day Bakery: Made With Love is published by Artisan, $24.95. You can also find Baking For Breakfast, Party Cakes, and Sweets & Treats for $12.95 each.

Visit to learn more, shop cookbooks, or plan your visit.

Cheryl’s personal favorite is the first recipe she baked with her grandmother—“one chocolate cake which will change your life”—and she graciously shares it with us here:

Back in the Day Bakery Savannah Georgia

Photo by Squire Fox

Chocolate Heaven with Chocolate Buttercream

By Cheryl Day
Serves 10 to 12 people
Time: 30 minutes prep, 50 minutes cooking (100 minutes total)

“This cake was the first thing I learned to bake with my grandmother,” says Cheryl Day. “It was, and still is, the best cake I have ever tasted. The Scharffen Berger chocolate we use at the bakery puts a new spin on a nostalgic cake, and a hint of strong coffee adds another flavor dimension. Topped with a decadent buttercream frosting, this cake is everything you want a chocolate cake to be, and a sweet finale for any occasion.”

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate (see Tip), finely chopped
2 cups hot freshly brewed coffee
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 recipe Chocolate Buttercream (recipe follows)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter three nine-by-two-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment and butter it as well. Lightly dust the pans with flour, tapping the pans on the counter to shake out the excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Let the mixer run on low speed for two to three minutes to aerate the flour.

Meanwhile, put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour in the hot coffee and vanilla. Let stand for about two minutes to melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth.

In another medium bowl, whisk the eggs and oil together until thick, satiny, and light in color. Whisk in the sour cream, being careful not to overmix; leave some visible streaks of white. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate–sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients in thirds, mixing on medium speed until well blended.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Tap the pans firmly on the countertop to remove any air bubbles from the batter.

Bake for forty to fifty minutes, until the center of the cake springs back a little when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. The cakes will be a deep, dark chocolate brown with slight cracks on top. Let the cakes cool for twenty minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

To assemble the cake: Level the tops of two of the cake layers with a serrated knife, so they’re flat. Place one layer cut side down on a flat serving plate (you can keep the edges of the plate clean by sliding strips of parchment under the cake while you frost it). Using an offset spatula, spread the top with a big dollop of frosting. Place the second cake layer cut side down and spread the top with another big dollop of frosting. Place the final layer on top, right side up, and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting, making big luscious swirls with the spatula. The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Chocolate Buttercream

Makes about seven cups

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a simmering saucepan of water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) and occasionally stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Set the chocolate aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the milk, mixing until completely blended. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until completely incorporated, two to three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the vanilla and beat just until mixed. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add two-and-a-half cups confectioners’ sugar and continue beating, adding more sugar as needed, until you reach a creamy, silky frosting consistency. The frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Tip: When a recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, we recommend using one with 99% cocoa content, such as Scharffen Berger, for its intense flavor and dark color.

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