The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: The power of a pound cake

Southern women especially I think know how to talk cookery.

Take the pound cake. Three times in the past week I have been involved in conversations about pound cakes.

And that's not to ignore the chats about tomatoes fresh from the vine, or about new potatoes, or about running beans in early summer.

There is hardly a shortage of recipes for pound cake. Church cookbooks and community cookbooks always offer several. The variety stemming perhaps from women using ingredients they had on hand.

The real mystery – if not the magic – of pound cake is that all the recipes are somewhat different, yet the cakes turn out almost the same.

Plus, they are always well received. There is no occasion where a pound cake is not appropriate. No date they won't mark.

They celebrate.

They express sympathy.

They have been a staple under the dome of the cake plate for generations and church dinners still can't happen without them.

Neither can family reunions, retirement parties, or Thanksgiving.

The dessert table at Christmas may as well stay empty without at least one pound cake to balance out the host of meringue pies, layered coconut cake, divinity, peanut butter balls, and fudge.

Pound cakes are why people enter cake walks.

They travel well.

You can mail them.

Just the mention of their crust and velvety texture rouse memories.

Which could be why we make them still – letting our hands go through the same motions as our grandmothers – creaming sugar with butter, adding eggs...lots of eggs, one by one, allowing time between each for their yellows to disappear.

"You have to add the flour and milk alternately," one conversation went.

"Do you prefer using cream cheese?"

"Have you ever made lemon?"

"Chocolate is divine."

"Do you use sweet milk or buttermilk?"

"Should you start with a cold oven...or preheat?"

We all shared our thoughts and quizzed one another, though bound all the while in the ways of those who taught us.

In the right hand of the Southern cook there may indeed be a cast iron skillet. But in the crook of her left arm, held tight against her heart is an aluminum pound cake pan, passed down and forever treasured.

Amanda Walker is a columnist and contributor with, The Birmingham News, Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at or at



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