Kwanzaa Culinarians

Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora

Ms. Ginny is My Grandmother

Tribute Cake by Alaiyo Kiasi-Barnes

My maternal grandmother, Mrs. Earcie Bodiford Ginwright, a life-long Alabamian, taught me more about African values than my African study and Swahili language classes taught me. I moved from Alabama to Washington D.C. nearly 30 years ago to work and to learn more about African and Pan-African culture, only to realize that much of my grandmother’s creativity and folkways were holdovers from her West-African ancestory–and mine. 

Ms. Ginny, as we called her, showed sustainable purpose in her gardening, her quilting and crocheting, in her tending to our small aches with her herbal preparations, and in her cooking and baking. She wasted nothing. She once made a room divider from plastic six-pack-soda-can holders, which she made lovely by crocheting around and among the rings with brilliant-colored yarn. Her children’s and grandchildren’s old clothes became quilts. Gallon-sized milk jugs were halved and became planters. My grandmother, who lived a century, was not unique among American women of her time. These women used their sense of conservation, their culinary ingenuity, and their faith that the modest ingredients of their larders would allow them to prepare and present meals that were, for their families, edible wealth. No one felt poor among such abundance.

My favorite and most memorable treat of Ms. Ginny’s is her lemon pound cake. This unassuming cake was hidden among the red velvet and carrot cakes (with real carrots, thank you) and stood out for it’s rich texture and sweet lemony flavor. I never asked her for the recipe. I didn’t know that I would one day write recipes. I didn’t think I would miss her lemon pound cake so much once she passed on. So here is a recipe fashioned from a flavor memory and from my determination to replicate the love and sweetness that was Ms. Ginny.

Mrs. Earcie’s Tribute Cake for Kwanzaa
Adapted from Easy Lemon Cake,

1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup unbleached (natural) sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk
Sparkling White Sugar Sprinkles
Lemon Glaze
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar


  1. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until sugar dissolves. Add eggs, lemon juice, and zest to butter and sugar. Mix well and pour into dry ingredients.
  3. Add 1/2 cup milk and mix lightly until milk is absorbed. Add an additional two tablespoons if the mix is too dry.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Bake cake for one hour and pierce with toothpicks to check for doneness. The toothpick should come out clean.
  6. Cool cake to warm. Mix lemon juice and sugar. Pour glaze over cake a little at a time, allowing some of the glaze to soak into the cake.
  7. Scatter top of cake with sugar sprinkles.

Alaiyo Kiasi-Barnes is an educator and food blogger in Maryland. She writes and photographs for her blog, Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @A_Kiasi and Pinterest.

About Sanura

Art Director/Senior Graphic Designer at Food Writer at

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Learn more about Kwanzaa

The word "Kwanzaa" comes from the phrase, "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first-fruits." Kwanzaa's extra "a" evolved as a result of a particular history of the Organization Us. It was clone as an expression of African values in order to inspire the creativity of our children. In the early days of Us, there were seven children who each wanted to represent a letter of Kwanzaa. Since kwanza (first) has only six letters, we added an extra "a" to make it seven, thus creating "Kwanzaa." To learn more about Kwanzaa, visit the Official Kwanzaa Website.

%d bloggers like this: