Mother’s Day Desserts Celebrated by 12 Women in History
Life’s big hustle and bustle can make us unintentionally take important people in our lives for granted. We often forget to cherish moments with people that are always there for us and inspire us to push boundaries, all the while knowing we have a safe haven to fall back on. And it’s days like Mother’s Day that were created to give those mothers and mother figures the appreciation they deserve (not just to sell cards)! Join Dessert Advisor as we explore the meaningful stories behind the favourite treats of some inspiring women. We are celebrating women in history who gave girls all over the world someone to look up to and created a safer space for all of us. If you’re looking for extra special Mother’s Day desserts this year, why not get your mom, or honorary mom, one of her idols’ faves!
Anna Jarvis: The Mother of all Mothers for Mother’s Day
Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honour her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, marking the first official observance of Mother’s Day. On top of maintaining her position as the founder of Mother’s Day, Jarvis struggled against the commercialization (confection, floral, greeting cards) that overshadowed her original intent.
Regardless of her efforts to keep the real meaning of Mother’s Day, companies continue to profit off the holiday while she received no compensation in her lifetime. She spent her later years in the company of her sister Lillie, since Jarvis didn’t have any children. In 1943, she took it upon herself to organise a petition against Mother’s Day and abolish the holiday as a whole. Anna’s work is an important reminder to keep the spirit of the essence of Mother’s Day.
12 Mother’s Day Desserts from Strong Women In History
Take a look at several women who embody the leadership, strength and beauty that Anna encouraged appreciation for (and see which desserts they like!).
1. Rosa Parks: Featherlite Peanut Butter Pancakes
On Dec. 1st 1955, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks became a historic figure, known as the mother of the civil rights movement. She refused to give up her seat for an influx of white passengers on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and was arrested. Rosa was found guilty, but her court date began The Montgomery Boycott, lasting 381 days. With the help of many influential figures and American heroes, the boycott ended when the Supreme Court finally ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. It was removed in Montgomery in 1956.
Rosa Parks advocated for racial equality well before and beyond her stand in Montgomery. And she was awarded many medals, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and over two dozen honorary doctorates. She never had children of her own and she was very close to her nieces and nephews. She was incredibly important to them, and after Rosa Parks’ death in 2005, her family published Our Auntie Rosa. It was a cookbook commemorating their mother figure with her favourite recipes. Among them was her beloved featherlite peanut butter pancakes.
This recipe actually made national headlines when Rosa Parks passed away and her letters, photos, and writings were posthumously discovered in her Detroit home. Her pancake recipe was amongst postcards she received from figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An iconic dessert in every sense of the word! Many people have tried to recreate these pancakes with overwhelming success. It is the perfect breakfast to start off your Mother’s Day desserts!
2. Roberta Bondar: Dream Cake
Dr. Roberta Bondar was the head of NASA’s medical research team for over ten years, and Canada’s first female astronaut. She was also the first neurologist in space.
On Roberta’s mission STS-42 in space on the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery in 1992, she conducted numerous experiments on eggs and bacteria. Her work on the effects of weightlessness on living organisms has been used to allow for longer space flights and the prevention of neurological diseases. Her flight lasted 8 days, and she was later inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Roberta was passionate about science from a young age. Her mother would make “dream cakes” to help her feel closer to her dream of being an astronaut. When Roberta was going to space, her mother made her a dream cake made of NASA approved ingredients. Roberta was able to bring it on the mission with her. We don’t know the exact type of cake it was, but a colleague mistook it as their birthday cake before the launch and almost ate it! It’s safe to say that you can make any cake your dream cake, as long as you have a dream!
3. Hedy Lamarr: Cheesecake
Hedy Lamarr was an Old Hollywood actress who was known as “the most beautiful woman alive”. In recent years, she is starting to be known more for her role in the invention of wifi!
Hedy was born Hedwig Kiesler in Austria in 1914. Among her interests in acting and theatre, she had a curiosity for science and mechanics. Her father would take her on long walks when she was young and they talked about how things worked. Once Hedy made her way to Hollywood, she had an illustrious career, and her interest in science always stayed with her. She even had an “invention table” in her trailer to work in between film takes.
During WWII, she and her friend, pianist George Anthei, patented frequency hopping spread spectrum to help the war effort. Their invention was an attempt at preventing the jamming and detection of war torpedoes. A few people theorised parallel ideas, including Nicolas Tesla, and these ideas collectively were the building blocks for cellular phones and wifi. Although their invention was not used at the time, in 2014 she and George were inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
Hedy has a myriad of delightful and sassy quotes to her name. Our favourite is the one regarding her favourite dessert, which is an important one to live by in every situation. “Just because you don’t live near a bakery doesn’t mean you have to go without cheesecake.” We most certainly agree.
4. Amelia Earhart: Chocolate and Hot cocoa
Amelia Earhart was an author, advocate for pilot gender equality, and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Amelia received celebrity status in 1928 on her first Transatlantic flight when she accompanied Wilmer Stultz, an aviator who made the first non-stop flight between New York City and Havana, Cuba. This allowed her to begin her advocacy for women aviation, write her first book The Fun of It, and give numerous lectures. She also joined the Ninety-Nines, an organisation advocating for the education of young female pilots. During this time she also became the first woman to fly solo across North America. It was in 1932 when she embarked on her most famous flight: her own nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. She was the first of any women in history to achieve this daring journey.
Amelia once stated that she was often asked what food sustained pilots on long haul flights like the ones she was so fond of. Her answer? Warm drinks and pieces of chocolate. A pilot’s hands are pretty full on flights, but they need something that warms them up and doesn’t cause drowsiness. Hot chocolate let Amelia drink something warm and energising, and then she was able to nibble on pieces of chocolate if she needed a boost. If you happen to be looking for Mother’s Day desserts to bring to someone on the go, hot cocoa is the perfect option for you!
5. Dolly Parton: Banana Pudding
Dolly Parton is an iconic country music star, actor, and philanthropist, known for bridging the gap between country and pop music, and most of all, for having a big golden heart. She is the founder of the Dollywood Foundation and the Imagination Library, a program that provides books to children every month from birth to their first day of school.
Dolly Parton grew up in Tennessee and her upbringing is often depicted in her narrative-rich music. Of the 3,000 songs she has written, she may be most well known for one of her first hits, Jolene. Over her career, Dolly has been nominated for over 50 Grammys, 2 Academy Awards, 3 Emmy Awards, and even holds 2 Guinness World Records. Throughout every award, song, and movie appearance, her ability to give back has been foundational. These pursuits include (but are not limited to): The Imagination Library, The Buddy Program (aimed at decreasing the dropout rate in highschools), her decision to pay for Dollywood Employees’ college tuition, and her donations to the research of the COVID vaccine. Dolly did not have children herself, but she was the fourth born of twelve children in her family and she and her husband, Carl, lovingly helped raise her younger siblings. They naturally became close with her nieces and nephews as well, and garnered the nicknames “Aunt Granny” and “Uncle Peepaw”. That’s where the name of Dollywood’s Aunt Granny restaurant comes from!
Dolly speaks fondly of how loving her family was growing up, and the things her mother would make for her and her siblings. In her 2006 cookbook, Dolly’s Dixie Fixin, Dolly recalled her mother’s famous Banana Pudding. Her mother had a wonderful way of creating special moments despite their restricted budget. Apparently one of their neighbours would let the Partons know when bananas went on sale in town, just so they could make this delicious dessert. Dolly remembers it as a special kind of day when they’d get Banana Pudding. And even just looking at it, we can’t blame her!
6. Maya Angelou: Buttermilk Biscuit
Maya Angelou was a prolific poet, civil rights activist, and storyteller. She has an immense amount of accolades to her name, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Springard Medal, and even 3 Grammys.
Maya Angelou worked as a professional dancer and actor in the early phases of her career. She combined her passions for art and civil rights, working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was instantly recognized as an important piece of literature. It has been on the New York Times’ Best Seller List for a combined total of 2 years. She even passed on her spirit of activism and art to her son, Guy Johnson, who was an activist and poet as well. Maya wrote many more books, poems, and screenplays centering Black women and the strength of the human spirit. To this day, she is celebrated and respected for her literary works and activism.
Maya Angelou often spoke about how cooking gave her a sense of purpose and calm. She even wrote a combined cookbook and memoir called Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes. In it, she recalled memories of her childhood in Arkansas and later worldwide travels, and the recipes she associated with them. Since the release of the book, her buttermilk biscuits have become incredibly popular. The addition of buttermilk gives a tanginess that takes biscuits to the next level!
7. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Frozen Lime Souffle
Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked her entire life to break down barriers for women and advocate for equality. In 1993 she became the first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court in the USA, and the second woman in history.
From the time Ruth was hazed for taking a man’s spot in Harvard Law, to the end of her 27 years on the Supreme Court, she fought against gender discrimination and for equality. Ruth became well known as an advocate for marginalised groups and even volunteered as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. Ruth had two children who cared deeply for her. And her daughter, Jane’s graduation from Colombia, making them the first mother and daughter in the US to serve on the same law faculty. In Ruth’s lifelong quest for human equality, she spearheaded countless constitutional changes and even became the first Justice to officiate a same sex marriage. She did not back down from inspiring others with her opinions, and she made a profound impact with her life.
When Ruth passed away in 2020, Long Beach Creamery and Intertrend created an ice cream to honour her and raise money for ACLU SoCal. They found her favourite dessert was a frozen lime soufflé her husband had created and made for her on countless occasions. Although this was a limited time treat, having any iteration of a frozen lime soufflé is a delicious Mother’s Day dessert to honour this incredible woman.
8. Frida Kahlo: Coconut Stuffed Limes
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her autobiographical self portraits and vibrant use of colour, metaphor, and Mexican folk art.
Frida showed an interest in painting from a young age. When she was bedridden at only 18 following an accident, her mother made her a hanging easel so she could continue painting. Frida said the isolation made her paint the subject she was closest to: herself. Although Frida did see recognition for her work in her lifetime, her popularity skyrocketed 20 years after her death. Frida was championed by feminist scholars as an example of influential artists who were left out of textbooks on account of their gender and race. Her art and the story of her life has resonated deeply with people, and she has increasingly been receiving the recognition she always deserved.
One of Frida Kahlo’s favourite desserts was coconut stuffed limes. These sweets are a beloved candy in many parts of Mexico. They’re made by wrapping candied lime peels around boiled lime pulp, coconut, and sugar. Even the lime peel is edible! Frida loved magical realism, and this dessert is the perfect way to commemorate her this Mother’s Day.
9. Marsha P. Johnson: Crystallised flowers
Marsha P. Johnson was an LGBTQ+ and AIDS and HIV activist, known for her prominent role in the Stonewall riots.
Marsha was an iconic drag queen in New York and was often affectionately referred to as “The Mayor of Christopher Street”. When the uprising at Stonewall began on June 28, 1969, it started a new era in the fight for LGBTQ+ activism. On that first night, Marsha heard the commotion and grabbed her close friend, Sylvia Rivera, to join the demonstration. Over the years, Marsha has become a historic figure for the Stonewall riots. In an effort to protect her safety at the time, there are not many concrete stories of her actions that night. But what can be agreed on is that she was a force to be reckoned with. For her entire life, Marsha advocated for trans rights, and with Sylvia even created STAR, a shelter for trans and gender non conforming teens.
Marsha never stated her favourite dessert, but she is an important person to include in our list of strong women in history. We’ve chosen to recommend an honorary dessert of crystallised flowers. Marsha was known in New York for her fresh flower crowns. Sometimes, she would be given flowers when she slept overnight at establishments in the Flower District of Manhattan. Crystallised flowers are essentially sugared edible flowers, and we’ve chosen them to mirror Marsha’s unwavering optimism and tenacity.
10. Malala Yousufzai: Cupcakes
Malala Yousafazai is a Pakistani activist known for advocating women’s educational rights at the bright age of eleven years old. Although Malala is by far the youngest woman on this list, born in 1997, she has already made a mark on women in history.
Being born in Mingora, Pakistan, a traditionalist country, it wasn’t easy for Malala to grow up in a dominant patriarchal society. Her father stood his ground and made sure Malala received equal opportunities given to male children. At a young age, she recognized the disparities of the quality of life between men and women, and started advocating for women’s rights. In a country where the Taliban is active, her outspokenness and determination almost cost her life. However, it did not stop her. At the age of seventeen, Malala was the youngest person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, recognizing her activism and work with the Malala Fund.
After moving to England to escape from Taliban threats, Malala grew accustomed to her new life. The lifestyle was different: the clothes, the food… basically everything! While she was recovering from facial therapy sessions, she wrote in her autobiography that she grew to love cupcakes. In a new city with a different culture, sweet cupcakes were a staple to help push through the cold English nights. By the way, we want to wish Malala congratulations for her recent marriage. May she inspire generations to come to stand for their basic rights!
11. Junko Tabei: Birthday Cake
Junko Tabei was the first woman to summit Everest and ascend the highest peak on every continent, called “the Seven Summits”. She also led projects to keep Everest clean after climbers littered the mountain.
Junko fell in love with climbing when she was just 10 years old. At the time, women were not permitted in mountaineering clubs, so she made it her mission to climb every mountain she could around her home of Fukushima, Japan. She eventually even established the Joshi-Tohan Club, a mountaineering club exclusively for women. In the beginning, there were 15 women in Junko’s historic climb of Everest. They all felt excluded from mountaineering, but they were so passionate that they worked together to make the climb a reality. Through a series of setbacks on Everest, they ended up nominating Junko to be the one to finish the summit for them. She went on to climb all the Seven Summits, became an author, and an advocate for environmentalism.
When Junko was on Everest, there were many delays on their trip and she realised she was going to miss her daughter’s 3rd birthday. Before she summited, when she was at High Camp, she drew a picture of a birthday cake for her and sent it to her back home. Proving even if you cannot be there in person, you can still find ways to send love and gratitude to your loved ones.
12. Diana Frances Spencer, Princess of Wales: Bread and Butter Pudding
Princess Diana was an international icon, philanthropist, activist, and member of the royal family.
Diana grew up in nobility, but was still known as “the people’s princess” for her authenticity, glamour and unwavering activism. She played an unusually active role in her sons, William and Harry’s lives, even bringing them to and from school when advised not to. Diana would often describe William as “my little wise old man” and Harry as “naughty, just like me”.
Diana became involved in causes and charities well beyond what the royal family usually did. She became a member and patron for more than 100 organizations, banning the use of landmines, battling poverty and homelessness, various cancer trusts and many more. She had a vested interest in helping people who had been shunned by society such as the LGBTQ+ community, the houseless community, and people with disabilities. She used her fame to right misinformation surrounding ignorant exaggeration of communicable diseases such as HIV, AIDS, and leprosy.
Chef Darren McGrady made a cookbook called Eating Royally where he recalled his time with the Royal Family and as Princess Diana’s personal chef. Diana was absolutely enchanted with Darren’s bread and butter pudding, saying it was her favourite dessert and the best in the world. Darren described Diana’s dessert as a cross between bread pudding and creme brûlée. Make your mom feel like royalty this Mother’s Day with a vanilla, amaretto dessert!
Mother’s day shouldn’t be the only day to celebrate the love and care our mothers and mother figures give us. But it’s definitely a good excuse to indulge in some sweet Mother’s Day desserts! It’s wonderful to see how meaningful desserts can be to such larger than life individuals. Give thanks to the strong women in your life by offering them some of the delicious desserts loved by significant women in history. Happy Mothers’ Day!