Southern Pound Cakes are the standard bearer of civilized Southern Society. You can hold your head up high if there is a pound cake in the house, especially if you have perfected pound cakes made by your ancestors. It is considered treasonous to proclaim another person’s pound cake is better than your momma’s. The Southern obsession with good manners, genteel living and our thinly disguised ancestor worship may be summed up in the humble Southern Pound Cake. ‘This pound cake was mah momma’s recipe and her muhtha before her- why mah family’s been making pound cakes for at least 7 generations. If ah’m not badly mistaken it was one of her ancestors who brought the first pound cake over on the Mayflower or they surely would’ve starved to death!’ We can say that without shame or the benefit of DNA testing – because we know who we think we are! We know our pound cakes are the best if our mommas made it- the crumb must be microscopically fine, the texture must be moist, tender, baked to perfection and long lasting, just look at the texture-
Southern Pound Cakes are high in fat content- the term ‘livin’ high on the hog’– means you have an all butter Southern Pound Cake in the house! The Southern standard of excellence in pound cake baking is to carry on the all-important tradition of being able to entertain at a moment’s notice. To have a pound cake in the freezer or to send a pound cake to any and all joyous occasions and a Southern Pound Cake for uplifting sustenance during bereavement is an inherited skill. Bake a pound cake and you’re ready for anything life throws your way.
Bake a pound cake and you will hear– ‘Mah ancestral muh-thas were known to have beaus swarming from all the surroundin’ counties just to get one taste of those delectable pound cakes! Make a pound cake and men will flock around like a murder of crows!’ So, one of our closely guarded secrets is out– Men love pound cakes and will worship the women who bake them. Southern Pound Cake bakers don’t need dating advice or ancestry sites- we just need to have a third or fourth generation recipe for a Southern Pound cake! And…if you have several variations of that recipe- let’s just say…it’s very effective. Well before a Southern lady was rulin’ the world rockin’ the cradle, she was wielding a silver handled cake knife over an array of pound cakes!
‘Now you know I think your pound cake is the best in the world but I was just wondering if you evah make a chocolate pound cake? I was actually dreamin’ of one that had a chocolate glaze on top!’ The answer was quick and sure, ‘Why yes, GiGi made chocolate pound cakes for special occasions and always gilded the lily with a chocolate glaze!’ Because of his sincerity and genteel request, Ah’ve re-named this one- Deke’s Decadent Pound Cake– that boy was proud as punch of the chocolate pound cake of his dreams!
Chocolate Pound Cake is one of my grandmother’s variations- another variation was:
- GiGi’s Coconut Pound cake. Grated Coconut was added to the batter- and always flavored with Almond Extract. After the tube pan was greased, instead of flouring the pan- the tube pan was coated heavily with finely grated coconut. This outstanding version came out of the oven with Toasty Coconut on the sides and bottom. GiGi’s Coconut Pound cake was wonderful during the Holidays alongside Southern Orange Ambrosia.
- Another variation to the plain Southern Pound Cake is the substitution of Lemon Extract, then finished with a Thick White Lemon Glaze; sip a glass of lemonade or a long tall iced tea with Heavenly Lemon Glazed Pound Cake
- Still another variation was a family favorite that I’ve never found in any Southern cookbook. The batter is GiGi’s plain pound cake- along with vanilla extract, then for the killer variation- Bourbon is added to flavor the batter. Grease and flour as usual except for the bottom of the tube pan- at least a half stick of melted Salted Butter is p0ured in along with 2 cups of pecans. Don’t get any ideas that this variation is like those Yankee Sticky Buns- this is a Southern Salted Pecan Pound Cake. A man will lay down his life for just one slice of the Salted Pecan, so ladies please don’t trifle with a man’s affections if you aren’t serious.
I must tell you that in civilized gatherings Strawberry Shortcake is made with Plain Southern Pound Cake, topped with lightly sugared fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream, that’s the right way to make it. Do not use those dried out grocery store shells or Cat Head biscuits. To use a Cat Head biscuit with sugar on top for Strawberry Shortcake is just plain laziness.
Gigi’s Plain Pound Cake has 3 sticks of salted butter creamed with 3 cups of sugar, 8 large eggs added one at a time, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and at least ½ teaspoon of almond extract. Sift together at least three times- 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour and 1 ½ cups of cake flour, then fold the flour into the butter, sugar and egg mixture- do this as lightly as you can. Do not use a mixer to do this step.The batter will be thick. Prepare a tube pan with parchment paper on the bottom, then the sides and bottom are greased with butter, then floured. Scoop the thick batter in, smooth the batter out lightly and evenly before baking in a 325ºoven.Bake for one hour, test with a toothpick, just know that the pound cake will most likely need to be baked another 15 minutes. Let cool until cake pulls away from the sides on it’s own. Do not force the pound cake from the pan. Run a knife carefully around the tube. Remove the pound cake with the top side up. Cool completely on a wire rack.
It is tempting to eat a piece of hot pound cake- please note this is uncivilized, even uncouth; though eating a slice of pound cake for breakfast is an exceptional luxury. Now, you may have noticed that there is not one drop of Milk in GiGi’s recipe- butter is the only dairy product included. My grandmother collected recipes for Sour Cream Pound Cake and Cream Cheese Pound Cake but she never veered from her own perfect Southern Pound Cake. She believed that milk or cream in any form- made a pound cake tough which tended to make the cake dry out quicker. Also, I know she suspected that a Cream Cheese Pound Cake was made by some woman who had made an unholy alliance sometime during or after that unpleasant conflict with the Yankees. Since it is a well known fact that Philadelphia is the home of American Cream Cheese…do I have to spell it out for you? Though some women insisted that their Cream Cheese came from Philadelphia Mississippi, still we aren’t going to mess with GiGi’s ancestral pound cake recipe! Though I do have to admit that I have had cream cheese and sour cream pound cakes that are exceptionally good! By now, I am sure you are completely convinced that we are crazy in Alabama- well we are crazy, we’re crazy ’bout Southern Pound Cakes in all of their glory and variations!
Love y’all, Camellia
*photographs are obviously mine! A big thank you to Deke for letting me photograph a slice of Deke’s Decadent Chocolate Pound Cake!
47 thoughts on “Southern Pound Cakes…”
Sweetheart, bless your heart, everyone knows you make the best pound cakes in all of St. Clair County, but you can’t hold a candle to my mom’s pound cakes they were legendary.
After she retired she developed her pound cake ministry. If you were sick you got a pound cake, if you had a tragedy in your life you got a pound cake, if you had a baby you got a pound cake, if you were the UPS man and delivered a package you got a pound cake. One of the funny things that happen; I bought her a ridding lawn mower/tractor. When I would have mine serviced, I would get them to go pick hers up and service it too. One year when they brought the tractor back, the guy who delivered it talked for a while and just wasn’t leaving when she thought he had done everything he was supposed to do. She finally asked is there something else I need to sign or do. He said, “Ms. Barnett the guys at the shop told me if I didn’t bring one of your pound cakes back with me they were going to beat me up.” She smiled and went inside and gave him one fresh out of the oven.
She made 76 of them one year for our church youth to sell to raise money for their youth trip. They were all frozen and put in friend’s freezers all over Sycamore.
At one point her cakes weren’t turning out “right”! She was so upset and went on a mission to find out what it was. She finally realized it was the butter she was using. She called the company and told them her problems and it had to be something they had done with their butter. The representative told her they had recently make some changes in their production procedure but if she would use another of their brands it used the old method. She did, and the cakes were perfect again. And all was right with her world.
Oh my God, you dreaded the days that sugar went on sale. We all had to go buy the limit of the sale at multiple stores. I am sure every grocery store in Talladega County ran out of sugar that week. I was always concerned that the ABC people were going to find out about how much sugar she was getting and send her to jail for making moon shine.
My son, Michael wanted to learn how to make them, so during a school break at Auburn (yes, he is the bad son that went to Auburn, the good one went to Alabama). My mother just listened to the mixer and would know it was time to add the next ingredient. Michael knew that would never work for him, so he put his scientific mind to work and started timing the steps. On three days she was within 5 seconds of the time she would tell him to stop. Michael says you can take her recipe and make a “Mama Dean” like pound cake but she was the only one who could make a “Mama Dean Pound Cake”.
My business partner in Tuscaloosa Jennifer loved for me to bring her a pound cake. She would always call my mother or send her a note telling her how much she appreciated her pound cake, which of course just insured that she got more of them. I found out at some point she never shared them with her husband or three girls. She said they just didn’t “fully appreciate” them. The girls were happy with store bought cookies and her husband wasn’t much of a desert eater, so she just kept them for herself.
About a year after Jean and I married we where working on cleaning out our freezer. Of course, you know pound cakes freeze well. You wrap them in three layers of wide plastic wrap. The good thick stuff and not that narrow stuff you normally see. Then two layers of aluminum foil. They keep for almost ever. Well in the process of cleaning out the freezer we found a cake that was in Carole’s hand writing, so I knew it had to be one of mother’s cakes. Jean was about to throw it away and I said not no but “Hell NO”. We thawed it and Jean looked at me and said this is the best pound cake I have ever had. (For those who don’t know me, Carole and I were married for 44 years before she died of cancer, Jean and I were married about a year and half later.)
My sister has taken up my mom’s ministry and has got extremely good at making them. Almost to my mom’s level but Jean had eaten my sister’s cakes before and recognized the difference between her cake and my mom’s cake.
As long as my mom was alive my breakfast every morning was a “chunk” of pound cake. A chunk is about three slices. Of course, sometimes it became two slices. My mother would cut a paper-thin slice of cake out of every cake she cooked to make sure the texture was perfect before she would give it to anyone. She was not going to send out a cake with a sad streak in it, although I don’t know why they tasted great to me and my brother in law. After she pulled that slice out she would put the cake back together and you would never know it was missing a slice. I used to tell her she cut those slices so thin they didn’t have but one side. My sister does the same thing with her cakes too. I guess it is in the genetics.
Your blog brought back fond memories of my mom. I can still remember walking in the back door smelling a fresh pound cake. Cutting a big “chunk” and eating it with a cold glass of whole milk. My mom didn’t believe in that % crap.
Someday I will have to tell you about her biscuits. I don’t think I ever ate less than eight or ten when she made them.
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Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories! To set the record straight, like Michael, I will never be able to duplicate Mimi’s Pound Cakes ! And Mama Dean is now one of my heroes! One purpose of this blog is to evoke memories like you’ve shared! I hope to memorialize these Sweet Southern Memories of good folks, the kindness and generosity of our people and the wonderful tradition we have of truly good food! So kind friend- We’ve been blessed with good children, good spouses, good fun, family and community! Always enjoy your fond memories! I hereby crown Mama Dean an honorary Camellia! She’s a Queen!
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I just love Bob’s stories about his mom’s pound cakes.
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Bob is terrific to read this crazy blog! His mother must have been an amazing baker and outstanding person! I love his stories too!
Oh I just love this post! That chocolate pound cake sounds out-of-this-world delicious! Actually, they all do.
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Oh my! Thank you! Mimi didn’t make many desserts, but her variations on Pound Cake was amazing! I work at it, but will never be able to duplicate them exactly! Fun post to write! 😘