Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes tackling English toffee, channeling summer with sunflower cheesecakes, sharing people-pleasin' pizza dip and green soup, cajoling recipes from athletes and studying up on food holidays.
There is a grace in the harmony of simple flavors and taking the time and care to introduce them to one another. I like to think it’s embodied in a perfect pound cake.
Take a moment to get to know the grand dame of Southern desserts.
And you can dress it up for a party if you really want. My favorite variation is popping blueberries into the batter and drizzling the cake with lemon glaze.
My mother’s famous pound cake is a show of gratitude: for the little things, for a thoughtful Christmas gift and for being a friend. If you’re getting a pound cake from my mother, delivered with care by my father, you’ve done something to set off her generous gene.
It takes time – starting out with a cold oven, mixing all of the ingredients together, and then waiting the agonizing hour and fifteen minutes until the cake comes out of the oven. Then you have to keep your hands off of it long enough for the cake to cool, or it will fall apart.
But it reciprocates by filling your home with a warm, sweet aroma that can only be described as an aromatic hug. The end result, a little crispy on the bottom while the soft and buttery inside, will make you weep with joy.
Pound cakes are a tradition in my family, and among our friends. As recently as last week, homemade buttery cakes of all shapes and sizes dotted our counter.
Some come from Aunt Edna, who shared the recipe with my mother via the beloved Augusta Junior League cookbook, “Tea-Time at the Masters.” Others come from friends and neighbors when my father does an odd job for them – and they send him home toting a cake baked with their appreciation.
And as long as I can remember, no matter where I have been in life, one of my mother’s fluted bundt pan-shaped cakes has followed me there.
I brought countless bags, distended by the shaped cake inside, to my friends and teachers in high school.
My first time away from home, I went through a rough patch. By the comforting aroma drifting from the cardboard box I picked up from my dorm's mail room, I knew it was one of my mother’s cakes. My friends and I ate from it all week, like a sustaining manna.
Throughout my college days, cakes showed up on my apartment kitchen counter – and even managed to feed 21 people who showed up for an impromptu welcome back party.
And this time of year, I consider it a birthday cake. Keep your icings, glazes and sweet curd fillings. I would rather have this simple cake, thick with the honeyed memories of home in the spring.
One of the best rewards of making a pound cake is that you’ve got more than enough (or sometimes only just enough) to share. Keep the gracious tradition alive, invite a friend over for a slice and just enjoy not knowing the time.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
Published with permission from the Junior League of Augusta
Printed in “Tea-Time at the Masters,” originally submitted by The Augusta National Golf Club
My aunt and my mother have added their own variations to this recipe, including these tips:
Cream the butter, then add the sugar. My aunt also used 3 cups of sugar. She used the traditional method of adding the flour and sour cream alternately, beginning and ending with flour.