There is a recipe in mother's recipe book, called Grandmother's Pound Cake, that she's had ever since I can remember. My mother's recipe book is a three-ring binder filled to bursting with hand-written recipes, pages from magazines, and recipes cut out from food packages; and this recipe is one of the most used. Having recently lost my grandma, I was moved to look to the simple things that give me comfort. This pound cake recipe is one of them, and the idea that it is a family recipe makes it all the more special. The ingredient list is simple, and the taste is heavenly. But I can't help but wonder who developed this magical, wonderful pound cake. Which of my mother's grandmothers could be the one for which this recipe is named?
It could be Martha's. Martha was my mother's mother's mother, and she was reportedly a vivacious and generous woman. I only remember one picture of her that was always hanging in my grandma's house--the warmth of Martha's face was striking and will always stay with me. She and my great-grandfather were quite lively and would act in local theatrical shows. Unfortunately, she died young, leaving behind her husband and three little girls.
The recipe could be Irene's. Irene was Martha's cousin. As Martha lay dying, her death wish (back then, my Polish ancestors believed very strongly that a wish made on the deathbed had to be fulfilled) was that her cousin Irene move to America, marry my great-grandfather, and raise their three girls as her own. Moving to a new country is a daunting task. Marrying a stranger and becoming an instant mother would have to be unthinkably difficult. To do them both would have to be difficult beyond my wildest imagination. But Irene did it without complaint. She came to America, married my great-grandfather, became a mother to his three girls, and eventually had two more boys of her own. She was a strong and determined woman.
The recipe could be Amelia's, my mother's father's mother. My grandfather's family was apparently an interesting group (my great uncle Ted even joined the circus for a while), and Amelia was loved by all who knew her. When my mother took a summer job at the same thermometer factory where Amelia had worked, she was treated like a superstar simply because she was Amelia's granddaughter.
I like to imagine one of these woman wearing a home-sewn apron pulling a loaf of her special pound cake out of the oven to a chorus of family "ooh"s and "ah"s. I imagine it like something out of a Hallmark movie. In a quaint kitchen with old-fashioned lace curtains, a loving family eagerly awaits warm slices of delicious pound cake. They're all smiling and laughing, taking their pound cake with coffee, tea or milk, not even realizing that this recipe would be beloved for generations.
Grandmother's Pound Cake is one of those recipes where simplicity is key. There is no lemon flavor, no chocolate chips, and no sugar glaze. It is perfectly wonderful just the way it is. Even though we sometimes serve it with fruit and whipped cream, making it a delightful dessert, there is nothing like this pound cake without any adornment. I love how the crust becomes golden brown and slightly crispy while the inside is so moist it melts in your mouth. Whenever I have it I think of all those times in my childhood when my mother would have a pound cake wrapped in wax paper on the counter. I would spot it as soon as I got home from school and help myself to a large uneven slice. I remember sitting at the table at night before bed, having pound cake for dessert. After having inhaled my slice, I would sit with my mom while she daintily ate hers with a cup of tea. It was pure happiness. It still is.
Upon asking my mother a day ago exactly which of my great-grandmothers is to thank for this recipe, she told me she got it from her friend, Nancy. So, as it turns out, none of my great-grandmothers had anything to do with this recipe. Grandmother's Pound Cake was a creation of someone else's grandmother.
Nevertheless, this wonderful pound cake certainly is a family recipe now. My mother passed it down to me and, hopefully, when I pass it along to my kids, someday, it will be Grammy Suz's Pound Cake. Even though it wasn't Martha's, Irene's or Amelia's, it is definitely worthy of them, and I'm sure they would have loved it. Some recipes are too good to be kept a family secret, and so I give to you one of my most cherished recipes, and I hope you pass it along as well.
Grandmother's Pound Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cake flour (In the past, I've used all-purpose flour in a pinch and it works out fine.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grease and flour one 9 x 5 or two smaller loaf pans. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Fold in cake flour and salt.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours for large pan and 1 1/4 hours for small pans.