Mama Reed’s Vanilla Wafer Cake



Sometimes I post things and it actually worries me that you might live your life without trying a particular recipe. Like my Chicken Stew, Apple Dapple Cake, or Banana Pudding. Well today I’m adding Vanilla Wafer Cake to that list. This cake is the kissing cousin of my Apple Dapple Cake. They come from a different branch of the family but chances are if you have the good sense to like one of them, you’ll like the other as well.

My mother got this recipe from her grandmother, Mama Reed. Mama Reed had an expansive array of recipes but this cake was my mother’s favorite by far. When she married my father, this was the first recipe she asked for to use in her own kitchen.

Mama Reed was known for her cakes and her large scale baking. Of course back then they didn’t think of it that way, she had ten kids so small scale baking was certainly out of the question. During the winter when family was expected to visit, Mama Reed would start baking cakes a few days ahead of time and due to space constraints in the house, she’d set them out on tables on the screened in porch covered in towels to keep for the few days until company arrived. This cake is sturdy but very moist and would no doubt have been carefully set out along with the best of them. My mother says this is a great cake to take places as it is more stable than others so it travels very well. It can also sit under a cake dome for a week and still be moist. Trust me, the only way we know this is from the times Mama made more than one!

My parents have a large house on the Tennessee river with one of the best views you’ve ever seen. They often have friends come to visit for the weekend and this is the cake she makes every time. Its great to have on hand as a dessert, quick coffee treat, or filling snack. I love desserts that are filling and not too sweet but sweet enough.

Okay so basically, I am assigning this cake as homework because I just know you’re are going to love it. Now y’all know I have a teaching degree (Home Ec) that I’ve never got to put to good use so I’m gonna get my fork ready and my red pen out and wait on your to turn in your assignments!


You’ll need: eggs, coconut, milk, vanilla wafers, sugar, and nuts

(we use pecans -pronounced puh-kahns)


Place vanilla wafers in a large sealable bag and crush them with the rolling pin or any other stress relieving device.

Mama and I think this rolling pin was the one which belonged to my great grandmother, Lela. There is a funny story about that.

You see, Lela had this rolling pin (perhaps the one above) which she had used for years, as long as my mother and her sister could remember. After Lela passed away, both my mother and my aunt asked my grandmother about possibly having “Granny’s” rolling pin. My Grandmother is uniquely practical (sometimes in rather humorous ways) and not wanting to disappoint, she went to an antique store and bought another one just like it, thereby having a rolling pin to give to each daughter.

They didn’t realize this until years later when Mama mentioned something about having Granny’s rolling pin and her sister looked quite confused as she said that she was the one who actually had Granny’s rolling pin. Upon talking to my Grandmama she said “Weeeeellllll now, I hated for one of you to have it and not the other so I just bought an extry”.

Gotta love my family…


Crush your vanilla wafers like this.


Beat up your eggs well and coarsely chop your pecans, then toss all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until well blended, about two minutes should be more than enough.


Until it looks like this.

Now if y’all don’t dip a spoon in that and take a bite then something is wrong with you!


Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.

(I just dip a paper towel into some shortening and smear it all over the insides of my pan, then put a few tablespoons of flour in and turn my pan while patting it a bit until the flour has coated the inside. Then I hold it over the trash can upside down and pat it until the excess falls out)

Bake at 350 for one hour.


Oh my goodness gracious, don’t we all just love Mama Reed now?


Serve to  happy people! (If they weren’t happy before, they will be now!)

This is AWESOME with coffee….or a Diet Dr Pepper…or a glass of tea…..or water…..or…well, you get my point.

Mama Reed’s Vanilla Wafer Cake
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 3.5 oz can of coconut (if you use bagged sweetened flaked coconut, just use 1 cup - don't use frozen)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 12 ounce box vanilla wafers (Mama says don't use generic ~eyeroll~ I'll do a "no comment" on that one coz y'all know what I do...)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 C chopped nuts (we use pecans)
  1. Beat eggs well. Crush vanilla wafers. Mix wafers and all other ingredients into eggs. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


For more stories about Mama Reed, please visit some of her other recipes below

(views of the Tennessee from my mother’s house can be seen on the Rice Pudding post)

Mama Reed’s Southern Style Rice Pudding

Mama Reed’s Tea Cakes


Dear friends,

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your wonderful comments. Comments are everything to me when it comes to Southern Plate, absolutely everything. When you comment, you give me a chance to “meet” you, to know you’re out there. You turn this into a conversation for me rather than just me talking to the wind and I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. For each of you who take the time to read Southern Plate, thank you so very much. For each of you who take the time to comment, that thanks goes double!! I just love y’all, I really do!


Christy :)

“I really don’t think God wanted me to be skinny!” ~Thea Pappalardo

“God made too many good foods and too many good cooks!” ~Colleen Sowa

Conversation eavesdropped between two members of Just a Pinch recipe club. Permission to quote obtained by moi…(Debbie Strum)

Thank you for submitting this on our Give A Penny Page, Debbie Strum!


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  1. Eve says

    Eek. Has anyone else noticed that a box of Nilla wafers is now 11 ounces, instead of 12? I didn’t notice that until I got home. Any ideas of how to tweak the recipe to make it work with the new, lighter box of wafers?

  2. Rose says

    I just love your recipes and blog. My dad was from Kentucky and I have such fond memories of summer vacations there. Your southern stories make me feel like I’m reliving my own childhood – thanks for everything!

  3. Maggie White says

    This takes me back to my Mama’s kitchen when I was a little girl and the smell of this cake baking made me and my brother be extra good so we each could have a piece as soon as it came out of the oven. I’m 71 now and not many family members left but many memories linger. I love it when you say you are including all of us in the Southern Plate family. It’s nice to feel that you have a place to enjoy memories and think about your own stories of fun family times!

    • says

      I remember trying to be extra good when this cake was cooking too Maggie!! It is always good, but was extra special fresh out of the oven!! I love having you here as part of the family and always look forward to your kind comments!!!

  4. Janet says

    OK, I’m sooooo EXCITED to see this recipe!! My Momma made this cake when I was growing up and I LOVED it!!! Another thing that I’m EXCITED about is I have gotten a new phone (whoohoo, coming on up in this world!!) and I have downloaded the Ziplist App!! Now I have the recipes at my finger tips when I go to the store!! Yes!! Whoohoo!! Can ya tell I’m just a wee bit excited/happy!! You made my day, Christy!! :~)

  5. Erin R. says

    Oh, wow, that actually makes me tear up a little bit that your grandma bought the extra rolling pin. That’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.

    And yes, I would definitely take a taste of that gorgeous cake batter. It reminds me of the insides of a pecan pie. I’ll have to give it a try some time as I’m quite intrigued by the idea of a cake’s structure being made up of cookies instead of flour. Thanks!

  6. karen says

    Just ate my first slice of Mama Reed’s Vanilla Wafer Cake–yum! This is definitely a keeper recipe. I can’t help but wonder: How does someone look at a box of Vanilla Wafers and say, “I think I will make a cake out of this box of Vanilla Wafers.”????

  7. Erika says

    Hi Christy,

    I wanted to try this cake for a while now and tonight It finally did. I can out very tasty, but did not rise very much. Is it suppose to be a stumpy cake or did I do something wrong? I did not use name brand vanilla wafers because of the high fructose corn syrup. I use a ‘healthier’ version of wafer (don’t laugh). Yours looks so pretty in the picture, so I’m jealous. I want a wafer cake like that :)

  8. Haylie says

    This is one of my favorite recipes and so easy to make. I made a version once where I added in a few over-ripe bananas (because I love finding ways to cook with bananas) and called it a Banana Pudding Cake. It was delicious if I may say so myself. I’m going to attempt to make your apple fritters soon.

  9. monet says

    I love vanilla wafer cake, my mom got the recipe from a cousin but it calls for 2 sticks of butter and a pound box of vanilla wafers and it always turned out great but i am curious to try it without the butter and see how that goes. I remember when the vanilla wafers came in a pound box too, so once they started selling smaller boxes( first 12 oz now 10 oz) we would just buy two boxes and add enough to make a pound for the recipe. I guess it may not matter as long as it turns out good, thanks!

  10. ashley says

    I had the same question as another reader…I tried this cake tonight to take to a friend at church who has been sick. But the cake did not rise very much and it is a bit on the short and stumpy side…Now don’t get me wrong–it tastes delicious! :) Just wondering if I did something wrong. i used the off brand wafers just like you did–please don;t tell your mama! ;) Thanks Christy!

    • Lisa A says

      This is an old question but I was just reading how eggs should be at room temperature or it makes more dense cake. I wonder if this is why your cake turned out as it did. I have just put mine in the oven and I used cold eggs :( I’ll let you know if you still tune in here.

  11. Kay Overman says

    Christy: Saw a Trisha Yearwood show yesterday (Sunday 8/19) and she made this cake from her grandmother but they called it a Coconut cake. They made a type of glaze with coconut in it and poured it over the cake while still warm. I think your would be better for us. The coconut glaze would make it way too sweet. Thanks for the recipes and stories.

  12. Judy Ashcraft says

    Your family sounds a lot like mine! A little crazy and a little nutty and I’m proud to say the nut don’t fall too far from the tree. We might be nutty and a little crazy but we have good hearts and can be practical when we need to be. We have two grandsons and I am guilty of buying duplicates of things that I believe our grandsons might want to have someday after we kick the bucket. Like pocket knives or pocket watches. I carry a small knife in my jeans pocket, Always! I switch off between the two of them and someday the boys will each have one of Gramma;s pocket knives. I absolutely love your recipes but I think I love your stories even more! Hugs and thanks. Your adopted cousin, Judy

  13. Denise says

    OH MY!!!!! I watched the episode of Paula Deen where Christy appeared with this cake and thought to myself how easy and yummie this cake looked…..IT WAS SO EASY AND WAY WAY YUMMIE!!!! Thank you for sharing your family’s love!!!

  14. Lois Lloyd says

    I would like to try this but in South Africa our wafers don’t look like yours would I use butter type cookies rather than our wafers (wafers are like italian wafers served with ice cream)? Can this cake be made in a sandwich tin without the hole in the middle? Look forward to your reply. Thx

  15. Diane Wilson says

    This cake is simply so easy and so amazing. I thought it might be too sweet but it really isn’t. I’m about to make this again and in the bottom of the pan I’m going to sprinkle a tad bit of cinnamon and sugar …=) I also mix all my stuff in the food processor…works perfect! So glad I have fresh pecans today!

  16. Samantha Reed Hathorn says

    So amazing… My great grandmother was also Mama Reed. (Her full name was Lena Humphries Reed) She lived in Columbia, SC until she died in the 1980s at the age of 94. So interesting to find out that others had a Mama Reed, too!! Will certainly try this recipe!

  17. Charlotte Brush says

    My Mother made this as I was growing up and it was delicious. She always had to have one made for her brother when he came to visit and then one for him to take back home with him. I love to make this, can feel my Mother there with me and I use her old pan and I know that is what makes it so good because it is still filled with love. Thanks for all the great recipes. God Bless.

  18. Pat says

    My Mom (& now me) make a no-bake version called Wafer Ice Box Cake
    1-7oz box of vanilla wafers (that’s how old the recipe is!) finely crushed
    1-can sweetened condensed milk
    1- 31/2 oz can flaked coconut
    1 cup chopped pecans
    Mix well & lightly pack into the wax paper liner bag of the empty wafer box. (I use a ‘tupperware’ container) Refrigerate. It is more like a dense candy bar than cake, but it’s been a family favorite of ours for 50 years.

    Although I was born & raised in H’ville & my people are from north Ala. I haven’t lived there since 1979. I enjoy your blog for both the recipes & the touch of home. Thanks for the smiles Christy.

  19. Bevky says

    My family keeps telling me of a vanilla wafer cake that my grandmother used to make. While I remember my grandmother very well and miss her dearly ( she passed 13 years ago), I cannot, for the life of me, remember her vanilla wafer cake that everyone keeps talking about. No one has the recipe either! Im gonna share this with a few family members and see if its the same as my grandmothers. Thanks for the recipe!!

  20. Lisa A says

    I buy some generic brands but I will say I have tried off brand nilla wafers and your mom is right, don’t waste your time the flavor is totally different. This is one food that is worth the extra dough. Pun intended.

    • Lisa A says

      Just made this and it is hot out of the oven. Sadly mine is one that stuck to the pan. I put lots of Crisco and flour. It also looked wet inside and not cake like. The toothpick did come out clean though. The taste is great. I think I will try putting in some butter next time. I’m so disappointed I made sure mine would not, I even took a butter knife around the edges to loosen.

  21. Charlene says

    I’ve been makiing this for years and it’s a family favorite. But I have a question. I have 2 mini bundt pans that have 6 molds in each. I tried once to make this cake in those pans but the cook time surely needed to me adjusted which I did. But it still didn’t come out. Has anyone tried this and succeeded? Does the recipe ingredients change? Cook time?
    Thanks for any suggestions.

  22. Ron says

    Just found this site from facebook today. After looking around i know that im going to enjoy delving into many of the recipes here along with reading the wonderful stories and thoughts with each one. I see myself and my children having a look tonight and trying several things over the weekend.

  23. Karen says

    This was one of our favorite cakes that my momma would make. Daddy would have her make it for him to carry to share with the men he worked with at the Carbon Black plant. That plant has been closed for over 20 years and my daddy has been gone for almost 15 years and momma 5 years. I ran into one of the men that worked with daddy last year and he started talking about that Vanilla Wafer cake that momma would send to them and how good it would be to have another. What did I do, but go to the house and bake him one. Wish you could have seen the expression on his face when I gave it too him. Priceless!!!

  24. Caroline says

    So happy you have the recipe here. My mom (now 80) makes this every winter and it is always served on Christmas Eve along with her cookies. She has always called it Wainscot Cake–has anyone ever heard of it referred to as that?

  25. Caroline Thomas says

    Thank you for putting this recipe here. My mom (now 80) makes this every winter and it is always put out with her Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve. She has always called it Wainscot cake–has anyone ever heard of it called that?

    • says

      We use bagged or canned coconut. As I’m typing this, I am actually munching on some coconut from a bag. I looked to read the ingredients and they are “coconut”. That’s it. So not all of them have preservatives. But if you think about it, Jams, jellies, things we home can, all of them have preservative agents in them. Whether it be vinegar, sugar, whatever. So the word in and of itself is not a bad thing. Just like “processed” isn’t really a bad word. I have to process my garden tomatoes in order to put them up. Did I make them inherently bad? Course not. But I did process them :). Home canned foods are all processed foods by definition. Tangent, sorry…
      If you would rather use frozen coconut that is fine. Just know that if there are any differences in that and the bagged or canned (I don’t believe they are) you’ll need to accommodate for them. I’m just telling you what we do when I share a recipe. Hope this helps!


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