A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE

This post was originally published on our Journal in January 2014. We reshare it today, on Juneteenth, as an expression of our support for Black Lives Matter and honor to the heroines and heroes that came before those who are fighting for justice and equality today.

Georgia Gilmore (about whom we have written before), is an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights struggle. Georgia was a big lady with a big personality—frankly put, she didn’t take any bull from anybody. She worked as a midwife, as well as a cook at the National Lunch Company, in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to leave her seat on a bus in Montgomery in December of 1955, a group of black ministers, community leaders, and ordinary citizens formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA)—and, in their meetings around the city,  initiated and sustained what would become the 13 month long Montgomery Bus Boycott. As soon as Georgia heard of Rosa Parks’ arrest on the radio, she joined the MIA, determined to aid the effort in any way she could.

Image source: Meet The Fearless Cook Who Secretly Fed — And Funded — The Civil Rights Movement; NPR

Outspoken and feisty, Georgia let her disapproval of the discriminatory bus drivers be known—an action that got her fired from her job at the National Lunch Company. When that happened, the community helped her set up a restaurant in her home kitchen. Well-known around town for her fried chicken, pork chops, and stuffed bell peppers, Georgia often served these and other dishes to Dr. King and fellow supporters of the bus boycott. Her kitchen even hosted secret MIA meetings over those long months.

Georgia’s love (and talent) for cooking as well as her passion for racial equality and change led her to start a club with a few of her friends. The ladies in the club, most of them laboring as maids and cooks, sold homemade pies and cakes (and even Georgia’s chicken dinners) to supporters of the Movement to raise money for the boycott. Calling themselves the “Club from Nowhere,” the women often set up shop in beauty parlors, laundromats, and on street corners in downtown Montgomery to sell their goods. They also arranged for both black and white supporters of the boycott to contribute anonymously. The Club from Nowhere used the money to buy gas and station wagons, used to transport people to and from work during the boycott. When asked, Georgia and the other women always said that the money came “from nowhere.”

Although, like many foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement, her contributions have been largely overlooked, Georgia Gilmore undoubtedly fueled the movement with her commitment, talent, and fundraising efforts. She was a real woman with a strong voice, and she did what she needed to do to make change happen in her community and beyond.

We need that same creativity and commitment today. And so as a tribute and an inspiration, we baked a pound cake for Georgia and all of the other real women who made a difference by doing what they could how they could—one baked good at a time.

Find out more about Georgia and The Club from Nowhere in this beautiful narrative from The Kitchen Sisters and NPR and from John T. Edge’s book, The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.

ALABAMA-CHANIN-A-CAKE-FOR-GEORIGA-GILMORE

COLD OVEN POUND CAKE

3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after every addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and mix until just combined. Pour in the milk and vanilla with the paddle going and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the milk completely. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Place the pan in a cold oven and set oven to 225 degrees. Set a timer for 20 minutes and let bake. Increase temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature again to 325 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cake sit in pan for 10 minutes. Unmold and let cool on a wire rack.

*Baking a pound cake in a cold oven works for a specific reason: Preheating an oven gives cakes the rush of hot air needed to rise, but pound cakes are usually so dense that they don’t rise very much anyway. Therefore, preheating the oven isn’t necessary.

We topped our pound cake with a caramel sauce (recipe below), but this cake would also be delicious topped with powdered sugar or a simple lemon glaze.

ALABAMA-CHANIN-A-CAKE-FOR-GEORIGA-GILMORE

CARAMEL SAUCE
Yield 2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes

Combine the water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and place over high heat. Cook on high, without stirring, until the syrup turns medium amber. Turn the heat down and stir in the salt and the heavy cream; the syrup will bubble up a lot, so be careful. Stir to combine. Let cool and drizzle over the cake once the cake has been cooled.

9 comments on “A CAKE FOR GEORGIA GILMORE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to read 9 comments
  1. jamie

    what a fantastic story and a part of history that highlights this Georgia Gilmore. will need to bake in honor as well. thank you for this recipe.and fabulous history~

    Reply
  2. charlottelst

    Just pulled the cake out of the oven. The story inspired me to bake one in her honor and to remember that every effort not matter how small it seems makes a difference. Thank you for the recipe and the story.

    Reply
  3. Joyce Day

    I loved this post and shared it today with my dear friend, Dr. Charles Smith. He is a wonderful outsider artist who will be honored with a Freedom Flame award in March at the Selma Jubilee. Dr. Smith plans to create a sculpture to honor Georgia Gilmore and display it in Selma during the event. Thanks for sharing this story!

    Reply
    1. madison hoffman-gilmore

      thank you so much. that warmed my heart that you talked about her as a strong person. she is my hero and im glad people still remember her like this

      Reply
  4. Kay O

    Just when you think you’ve read/heard all there is about that time…I find this story of the remarkable Ms. Georgia Gilmore!!! What a beautiful, smart and no nonsense women she was…her contributions and efforts will forever be cemented within me.

    Reply
    1. Alabama Chanin

      So glad that you enjoyed it, Marcela! You can read more about inspiring women by searching the hashtag #womenwhoinspire on the Journal.

      Reply