by Sybil PrattFebruary, 2001
How sweet it isRobbin Gourley paints sweet, charming watercolors with a happy wash of tone and tint that conjure up spring sunlight. She also cooks, and her tried-and-true (and sometimes improved-upon) classic Southern desserts are sweet and charming, too. Gourley has collected 65 of her family favorites in Sugar Pie ∧ Jelly Roll: Sweets From a Southern Kitchen, adorned the recipes for these divine, down-home desserts with her illustrations and wrapped them in loving reminiscences of her large, sweet-toothed North Carolina family. There are pies and puddings, crisps, crumbles, custards, candies, cookies and cakes, even some spirited desserts and significant sauces. Most of them are not only easy to make but can stand proud next to variations that have been gussied-up and priced high in fancy, big city bakeries. Muzz's Lemon Chess Pie, a vibrant, citrussy variation on the never-fail, crowd-pleasing, made-in-a-"skinny-minute" Southern staple, is just as elegant as a Tarte Citron from the famed Dean ∧ DeLuca and a lot less expensive. Mom's Cherry Pudding, which can be popped into the oven while the main course is served, is a lovely rural relative of the now popular French clafouti. Warm Chocolate Cake, dusted with confectioner's sugar and surrounded by Raspberry Sauce, a chocolate-lover's dream come true, would be a sensation on the menu of any multi-starred restaurant. These irresistible indulgences and more are the sweet stuff of Robbin Gourley's happy memories and dessert repertoire. Now they can easily become of part of yours.