I’m going to get cut out of the will. I’m posting my grandmother’s claim-to-fame cake recipe. Not only am I posting it, I stole it. Yes–stole it from her while she wasn’t looking. See, the last time I went to visit, her recipe book was out on the counter and while she wasn’t looking, I lifted the green plastic spiral notebook, its yellowed pages covered with flour and fingerprints, quickly flipped to the recipe and took a picture of it with my phone. This is worth getting in trouble for, folks.
In traditional, laid back communities in the deep south, food is currency. Always has been, probably always will be. My grandfather and his brother were master gardeners–they grew squash plants so large we little ones played hide and seek in them, and watermelons that were the epitome of pink. But, their pièce de résistance were their heirloom tomatoes, usually a Brandywine varietal, and just as large and juicy as they could be. Made the stuff in the grocery store look plastic. He paid all of his debts in vegetables. Needed help installing a new part in the tractor? “No sir, you can’t pay me, but I will take some tomatoes,” the mechanic would say. Pastor helped your family pray through a tough situation? Send over a basket of squash. Holiday gifts for the lady at the bank? Canned tomatoes. Those are the little things in this here our modern life that I think we take for granted-the ability to do real work with our hands that we can be proud of.
Not to be outdone, any lady or homemaker had her prize-winning accomplishments in culinary form, ready to be brought forth at church picnics, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and holidays. That’s where this cake comes in.
I’ve seen this cake appear more times than I’ve seen my own toes appear from the holes in my socks.
It’s something that my grandmother’s children would bid against each other for at the church auction, often paying upwards of $300 for a cake their own mother would likely make them if she asked, just to be guaranteed it. It’s brought smiles to many of her friends’ faces when they were sick. And, each year, the kindly gentleman who cooks an extra portion of hog at Christmastime remembers my grandmother, now a widower, and provides meat for her table, turning down all offers of money, asking only for her to “cook” him this cake.
I tweaked it with the addition of vanilla, because I honestly believe she left it off the written recipe. When I baked it for the first time, it tasted differently. When I baked it a second time with the tweak, it was perfect.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
by Jason Osborne, from his grandmother and great-grandmother
yields one 9″ cake
3 cups of cake flour, sifted
scant 2 3/4 cups of white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup solid shortening (non-butter flavor)
8 oz regular sour cream (full fat)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9″ tube pan with the wrapper from the butter and cut a parchment or waxed paper round to line the bottom, lubricating it as well for “proper pan prep” as our hero Alton Brown would say.
Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside. In the work bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, shortening, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at at time, beating to incorporate each one. Add the vanilla with the addition of the last egg. Add the flour and sour cream alternately, stopping to scrape the sides after each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, which will become the bottom when the finished cake is inverted. Drop the pan from a few inches’ height to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for one hour and twenty five minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and pull the tube from the pan and allow the cake to rest on the tube on a rack until it is at room temperature. Invert onto a nice cake plate and serve.