My grandmother Mary (I’m named for my two grandmothers Mary and Christine), made the most amazing pound cake I have ever tasted. Buttery-sweet and perfectly crusty on top. I’m pretty sure that she made the pound cake at various times during the year, but I have a very strong association with it around the holidays.
My grandmother passed away in June 2010. While helping clean out her apartment I ran across a cookbook with a number of handwritten notes throughout it. There was a card taped inside the front cover labeled Pound Cake Kathryn (her lifelong best friend, from whom she got the recipe). This “recipe” was basically a list of ingredients and what I determined to be instructions to bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. There also appeared to be a reference to the year she obtained the receipe, 1950.
Last Christmas, armed with these rudimentary instructions and the cake pan I found in her kitchen, I sat out to make my grandmother’s pound cake. I mixed all the ingredients together, poured them into the pan and baked at the recommended temperature for the recommended time. The cake rose like a soufle and then promptly fell upon removal from the oven. I wrapped up a bit of this sad-looking, sunken cake and took it to my parent’s house. My mom proclaimed that the taste was just right, even though it (obviously) looked quite different. We had a nice laugh. More importantly, we remembered my grandmother and the fact that she likely would have laughed as well and then sweetly told me exactly how to make the cake correctly.
In this, a new tradition was born for me; the tradition of making my grandmother’s pound cake for Christmas – no matter the outcome. The tradition of remembering.
So today, I made the cake. This time I consulted Christopher Kimball’s (The Dessert Bible) master recipe for help with the general process of making a pound cake. I followed his instructions, using my grandmother’s ingredients and guessing where she included things he did not. I also heeded his strict warning that the butter and eggs be at room temperature.
The cake (pictured above) is cooling and shows no signs of collapsing. But even if it does, the important thing is that my whole house smells of butter-y, sugar-y loveliness and I took time today to do something that my grandmother did for at least 60 years. The tradition is in the trying and the remembering. Not in the outcome.