Pound Cake Poultice.
Anyone who knows me or reads my blog realizes I’m a pie queen. I make lots of pies both sweet and savory. But my friends, my really good, close friends know I’m a slut for cake. Any cake. At my old job co-workers never ceased to enjoy making fun of me for my cake whoring. Birthdays in the office? Better tell Jenée. Cause there will be cake. To this day, I have old co-workers who have since become friends who post to my Facebook wall around 3 (the time I crave it most) asking, “So, what kind of cake are you inhaling right now?”
My mother loved cake too. Her favorite was lemon pound cake, sweet and buttery with a tart and sweet glaze. She was known for it, even getting her recipe published in the local paper. You’ll find it below.
Growing up she made it often, and on every holiday, changed the shape to reflect the celebration. Heart-shaped for Valentine’s, bunny-shaped for Easter. It was my job to make the paper ears every year for the bunny cake, a job I abhorred. Flecking the bunny with coconut, putting jelly beans in for eyes. But the eating was extraordinary.
Pound cake holidays included birthdays. A buttercream pound cake from Belle Bakery in Richmond topped with a plastic ballerina. I associated pound cake with birthday cake so closely once when I went to a birthday party at a friend’s house and her mother served yellow sheet cake, I proclaimed to whomever would listen, “THAT’S not birthday cake!” Yeah, I was a smartass little shit even then and boy, did I get it when Mom got me home.
My mother passed away from cancer 12 years ago today. This was after suffering 10 years as a brain trauma victim from a horrific car accident. The one thing people don’t tell you about losing a loved one is you never, ever forget it. The first few years were the hardest. March 27th was a day to be endured, hidden from by calling in sick to work, sleeping all day or drinking too much wine. Gradually as the years passed, the day was still hard, but almost bearable. Almost. I wouldn’t tell anyone, pretend to be happy, and just breathe, trying my best to get to March 28th.
A few years ago I made the half-hearted attempt to at least do things I enjoyed on that day. Getting myself an extra indulgent latte, maybe some shopping or watching a favorite movie. It helped but not much. I still remembered the sadness of those early morning hours when we lost her. The scared look in her eyes. The sound of birds at dawn. Her slow breathing. What it felt like to drive through the pitch black wee hours of the morning to make sure I was at her side. That’s what’s the hardest. The remembering.
This year though I’m trying something different. Maybe it’s my meditation practice or the whole with age comes wisdom thing but the thought occurred to me. Instead of trying to forget, maybe I should remember. Let the memories come today as they will, like a flooding tide. I mean hell, you can’t hold back the ocean.
So today I’m going to do something Nan enjoyed. Baking. And while I bake I’ll let the memories flood in. She’s the reason I bake today. Because in addition to teaching me to make bunny ears Momma also taught me how to bake a cake. How flouring a pan was so important. How you could use the wrapper for the butter to grease your cake pan first to save money. How to trim the top of the cake down after it cools so the two layers will meet correctly.
But of course with pound cake there’s no trimming involved. You just mix well, dump, and bake. With a fully greased and floured loaf pan of course. Like I said, it was her favorite cake to make and I think I know why. Because raising two kids while working three jobs to make sure we had a good Christmas is hard work. You have no time for trimming, but you sure as shit want a slam bam delicious cake to put on your table. Pound cake is the tastiest, most time saving bang for your buck. If you’ve got flour, sugar, butter and some eggs you’re set. You don’t even need that fancy schmancy lemon glaze if you don’t want. But even that is a snap. I mean how hard is it to whisk together lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar and pour it over a cake? Two minutes tops. But it looks like you slaved all day.
My Momma knew this. So she made a lot of pound cakes. And thank the lord she taught me too. So now I can wow all my friends and family with a cake that took longer to bake than it did to mix.
As I mix today, I’m sure all those memories will come flooding back: cutting the bunny ears, flouring cake pans, sitting at the dining room table watching as she whipped together yet another outstanding Saturday meal, Frank Sinatra on the stereo. Us fighting, screaming, even throwing things at each other because we dare not admit how much alike we were. I’m sure I’ll have to stop what I’m doing every so often to go cry. And you know what? That’s all right. Rather than expending all this energy to hold back, I’ll just let them come. I’ll move through each memory. I’ll move through them all. And acquire a new tradition for this day which is anything but a holiday but deserves a cake nevertheless.
I’m sure I won’t ever really look forward to March 27th. But I will look forward to the cake. I think Momma would like that.
p.s. I’ve included three pound cake recipes I found. The chocolate is my grandmother’s recipe, the other two are Nan’s. Oddly enough, not a one includes lemon glaze.