I have more good things in my life than a man probably deserves. Somewhere at the top of the list is my mom’s chocolate pound cake with chocolate frosting. To receive one is to live a blessed life.
She bakes chocolate cake for most birthdays around our family complex. Mine was the most recent. Ultimately.
At some point in the early years of her marriage – that is, around the time of my birth or shortly before – mom cut two pound cake recipes from the Charlotte Observer. One is lemon. The other is chocolate.
Its lemon pound cake alone is legendary. They arrived with less frequency during her long teaching career. For about two decades, however, she’s kept a lemon pound cake on her table about 90 percent of the time.
It has been a slight issue for my waistline, especially since last year when the pandemic started. For those days when I have to work from home, I moved into my father’s old office at her house. He has developed a routine that involves me starting the work day with coffee and a piece of lemon cake.
“Don’t you want a piece of cake?” Mom will ask if I sit without it.
“Well, I’ve eaten a bowl of cereal before,” I might say.
I finally have the cake, always. I could even make a second slice as an appetizer before lunch.
Mom’s lemon pound cake is as reliable as the spring rain. She never does a bad one. But when they’re cool and still hot, everyone else looks good, too.
Every now and then I walk through the door to discover the distinct aroma of a freshly baked chocolate pound cake. “It’s for (insert name of brother or grandchild),” she will announce quickly. The birthday could be in a few days. She’ll put the cake in the freezer and thaw it the day she makes the frosting.
I’m not sure where she got the recipe for her chocolate frosting, but when it comes out right – which is most of the time – it’s a magical, wonderful candy-box quality that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in my life.
Making the frosting can be a taxing experience, both for the maker and the frosting.
“You have to beat it and beat it and beat it,” says mom, “in order to get the right consistency.”
If the icing comes out hard instead of creamy, it’s a sure sign that the weather is awry. “I can’t get this icing to thicken,” Mom will say. “It must be the humidity.”
The frosting will also be good, but you can’t roll it into little fudge balls like my older sister and I used to do when we were kids.
Another thing we did as kids was lick the blender blades, spoon, and pan after the frosting was applied to the cake.
“What kind of cake do you want for your birthday?” Mom asked about a week in advance. She’s been asking me for most of my 60s, and the answer is always the same. Maybe she’s secretly hoping that I finally get some lemon and that she doesn’t have to spend an hour beating the frosting.
The day before my big day, she had just spread the icing when I walked in. She handed me the pot and the spoon – and I was still 10 years old.
Contact Mark Rutledge at [email protected].