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Martin Luther King and Southern Food: Montgomery’s “Club from No Where”

Martin Luther King and Southern Food: Montgomery’s “Club from No Where”

Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project, Circa 1964

Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project, Circa 1964

Let's continue the discussion I started earlier on MLK, “The Club from Nowhere,” (TCN) and the 1955 bus boycott. MLK served as the voice of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the women of the TCN baked the sweet potato pies and coconut layers cakes that provided the essential funds purchase cars, gas, and pay for the picket signs in support of the boycott. At the time of the offerings, the presidents of TCN clubs members on each side of the city would in a friendly competitive spirit announce at the regular mass meetings held at Holt Street Baptist Church how much their respective clubs earned and gave to the MIA leading to loud applauses, praise, and jubilation. TCN donations made from the sale of baked goods would vary from $125 to $200 dollars a week during the 385 day boycott. In addition, Georgia Gilmore, the Clubs founder, fed members of the MIA who spent extra time walking to work and thus had little time for cooking. We will pick that part of the story up tomorrow. Today’s recipe is for what I call a “black folk’s church cake,” a coconut layer cake. This is one of my favorite types of cakes and one I imagine in my mind that you could purchase a slice of from one of the women of the TCN.

Coconut Layer Cake Recipe



Wax paper

2 large eggs at room temperature or substitute

3large egg yolks at room temperature or substitute

½ cup buttermilk or substitute

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups cake flour

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened or substitute

1/3 cup almond oil

Cake Method:

Cake: place oven shelf at the top of the lower third and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 2 round cake pan with Pam; shortening will work too. Note: mixing all the fat with the dry ingredients greases the proteins, which prevents the gluten formation and makes for a very tender cake. Mix eggs, yolks, buttermilk, and vanilla extract in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a cake mixer on low to moisten dry ingredients. Then increased speed to medium and mix for 1.5minutes. Next introduce the egg mix and beat for 20 minutes. Again until all of the egg mixture is incorporated. Pour into the cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for approximately 10 minutes. Loosen the sides then turn upside down onto wax paper and then a cooling rack; be sure the cake is cool before icing.


1 ½ cups of sugar

16 ounces of sour cream or substitute

18 ounces flacked sweetened frozen coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Icing Method:

30 minutes before icing the cake, stir together the sugar, sour cream, coconut, vanilla, keeping 3tablespoons coconut to garnish the cake. Refrigerate mix for 30 minutes. While the cake is still warm, cut horizontally into three layers. Using a tooth pick, poke holes approximately 1-inch apart until entire cake has been poked. Spread 1/3 of filling mixture on cake layer. Top with second layer, repeat process. Top with last layer and repeat process again. (As you stack layers together stick them with toothpicks to prevent cake from shifting). Garnish the entire cake with remaining coconut flakes. Refrigerate for about 2 hours before serving or over night for best results and serve cold.

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