If I were to name one cake that epitomizes southern desserts my pick would be carrot cake. Chess pie could be said to hold the spot for the pie category, and peach cobbler for something in between the two.
You may consider a different cake to fit the textbook definition of southern, but for me carrot cake was always a family favorite. Throughout my life (and throughout most celebratory tables) a carrot cake was alway present.
Such an old recipe has a debatable origin. It is not debated that it origins began it another country and eventually grew and changed in the States. Traditionally the sponge includes shredded carrots and nuts and smeared with a creamed cheese icing.
With such a traditional cake, it is hard to find a unique or delicious variation on the classic version. I find keeping the modification simple will result in the best results. An easy variation on the tradition is the use of honey to sweeten the cake. Of course, I prefer local honey since Savannah has such good procurers like Capital Bee Company.
To push the variation a bit more, I added orange zest and a bit of orange juice to the cream cheese icing. The citrus brightens up the soulful cake.