On my Dad’s side, other than my grandparents themselves, most of the family are farmers. I’m a couple of generations removed from that life, but my biggest memory from the life of Great-Aunt E is pulling into the shade of an enormous tree beside their cavernous farmhouse and looking over fields and fields of crops. I remember the shady rooms of the house and sitting at a picnic table outside for meals during family reunions when I was so small and everyone seemed to be so much older than I was. I don’t remember specific sweets, but the one thing I do remember is the pound cake.
In my quest to make the desserts I have been bestowed without rounding out entirely, I noticed that the recipe easily could be done as a 1/3 batch – I had a small loaf pan that would make this manageable quantity of cake in a reasonable quantity of time. I did it on a beautiful afternoon, as I seem to often do, when Husband was out on the porch reading a new book I’d wanted him to try for a while. If you haven’t read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart yet, you really should. The good-hearted adventurers and harrowing odds helped me get outside my own obsessions last year during the wedding planning process, and I will always be grateful to have found that book during such a season. It sucked Husband in so thoroughly that the 2 hour cook time for the cake breezed by and when it was almost done he sauntered into the kitchen and said, “what are you making?”
I will warn you that this cake is not frilly, no sauces or frosting or cream. I cut the first piece when it came out and thought “what do I have that I could put on this?” and realized that anything at all would take away from this experience. The only thing I could think of, which I didn’t have in the house for the same reason I was making a tiny cake, was butter pecan ice cream. My grandfather’s favorite treat is a scoop of butter pecan ice cream right before bed, and so the many times I’ve had a thick slice of this pound cake at my grandmother or great aunt’s house, it was accompanied by a pooling puddle of sweet cream and pecans.
My great-aunt E couldn’t attend the wedding; she sent her regrets in loopy script and mentioned how she’d been caring for family members and there simply wasn’t a way to get up to see us all. She put a little P.S. on the card that nearly broke my heart, asking if, on the off chance that someone could relieve her, could she come up with a friend for the day? She didn’t even want a meal reserved for her. I reserved one anyway, because when you are planning a party for a hundred people, what’s a few extra places anyway? She could not make it, but her desire to come wish us well, in spite of her commitment to caring for loved ones, was one of the sweetest memories I have of the planning process.
Unlike many of the recipes I’ve tried, this one worked perfectly, like a charm. The crumb of the cake settled down into neat, non-crumbling slices and the crust caramelized into crusty edges that were brown but not burnt, melty bits mostly composed of the butter and sugar the recipe starts with. We ate piece after piece, with pretty much every meal until the small cake was gone 48 hours later. If there was a perfect form of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, it would be this: something about cream cheese just makes every morsel taste like more than itself. Maybe that is why we call food rich: because it feels like it should be more, have more, than the volume it takes up in space.
E’s Creamed Cheese Pound Cake (we cut it to 1/3 of the following ingredients)
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
8 oz. creamed cheese
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
Cream butter with creamed cheese and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and incorporate. Slowly add flour and end with the vanilla. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours.