I inherited a full house... it was chock full from front door to back with everything that anyone related to me (and some from folks who weren't related to me) had wished to store for the last 40 or so years.
We spent a lot of time, sorting and re-storing. And really, with very, very few exceptions, have lived life with the furniture that we found here.
One of the favorite things that I found when plundering all the stuff was recipes. Some were handwritten. Some were fragile newspaper clippings. Some were in musty, old books. And while there were a few adventures... (I mean exactly what does constitute a 'slow' oven with today's modern thermostats?), by far and away, all of the recipes that I've tried have become favorites. Solid and sturdy, made of common ingredients, a lot of these recipes are 'ground work' recipes. Staples of this and many southern homes, they're recipes you build upon.
One of my most used, often requested and 'never fail' recipes is this one for cream cheese pound cake. It's perfect as it is, still warm from the oven. It's even more perfect with a finely diced fresh peach and a spoonful or two of whipped cream. It's the worlds most comforting breakfast when you slather a slice with butter (yeah... that's overkill for sure) and toast it in the oven. You can make a trifle with it that'll disappear long before anything else on the dessert table at the covered dish dinner.
And you always have the ingredients in the house, so when disaster befalls your friends and neighbors and when you need to comfort hearts and hold hands and there are no words to say to make it better, you throw one in the oven and put it on your granny's best old plate when it's done and carry it right on over.
If you really want to gild the lily, you can frost it with peaks of buttercream icing or you can glaze it with cream and powdered sugar, but there's really no need for that at all. This plainest and simplest of cakes is a 'go to' recipe that everyone should have in their repertoire.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake
1 - cup of margarine (softened)*
1/2 - cup of butter (softened) * *Do not substitute or change this ratio. Just don't.
1 - 8 ounce package of softened cream cheese (I often use neufchatel which is lower fat.)
3 cups of granulated sugar
6 fresh eggs
3 cups of sifted cake flour (In a pinch, you can use all purpose flour)
2 teaspoons of REAL vanilla extract (Honestly, I don't measure the vanilla, I pour and I'm sure it's more than 2 teaspoons. Not so much as to make it soupy, but probably more like a tablespoon. )
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine the first three ingredients, mixing well. Gradually add the sugar and beat about 5 minutes until fluffy (this is 5 minutes by hand, if you have one of the handy stand mixers, it's more like 2 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time. Add your flour about a half cup at time and beat well. Add the vanilla last.
Pour the batter into a well greased and floured 10 inch tube pan.
Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the cake tests done.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, remove to a plate and cool.
This cake is delicate in flavor and texture. You can tweak it, to be sure, but the above recipe, followed precisely, yields the classic cake that I describe above.
This recipe seems to be from the 1920's. Margarine, which has a very strange history, was used more during the first world war than any time from it's inception in the late 1800's. This recipe uses less of the 'harder to come by' butter. I've tried swapping the margarine out for butter and it doesn't make the same cake... simply doesn't work.
Invest in a solid, heavy cake pan. Even if it's the only cake pan you will have. You can't beat a tube pan for versatility and you don't want the frustration of owning a cheap one and turning out cakes that are too brown and dry. Go ahead and get a good one... you're only going to need that one for the rest of your life and you can will it to your children.
And last, but not least. Make your own vanilla extract. Get some nice fresh vanilla beans. I like to use three. Run a good sharp knife down the length of them and drop them in a pretty bottle. Top it off with your choice of an excellent grade drinking alcohol. I use Jim Beam whiskey. I also keep some made up with rum. And I like to 'season' it about 6 months before I use it. And I like to have a stock of it in the cabinet (and at least another bottle hidden away for emergency baking).
Happy baking... not much beats this pound cake.
There are fresh peaches on my dining room table just begging.