To loaf or not to loaf: that is the question

The weeks before spring break we all get a little antsy around the house. It may have to do with the fact that the kids go nearly a full four months without a major holiday break.

The English guy who coined the phrase “Beware the ides of March” had three kids of his own, and while I’m sure his famous play “Julius Caesar” was based in part on the Roman emperor, he probably got the details and intrigues directly from his clan at home.

I’d venture to guess that he patterned Mr. Caesar after his oldest and the assassins and soothsayers were the younger siblings. The death of Caesar in the first act might have been played out right in the middle of Mr. Shakespeare’s drawing room, when the kids were literally at each other’s throats.

And I’ll bet that Mrs. Shakespeare smoothed things over, like I did recently, with a fresh from the fire pound cake. The Brits invented the moist cake in the 17th century.

It works. This soft cake that has a pound of everything, butter, sugar, flour and eggs calmed the motley crew in my drawing room and in the middle of March, no less.

I thought of baking one only because I read a wonderful article by Diane Roberts in the Oxford American. In the article she said, “I come from a family of cake fundamentalists.”

I’ve met people like her right here in Rockdale. They know who they are. They’re the type of people who turn up their noses to box cake mixes. The kind of bakers who suffer for their cake because it builds character, as Roberts put it.

Roberts’ family pound cake recipe was deceptively simple. The only thing I didn’t do was bake this British invention in a bundt pan like I’m assuming Mrs. Shakespeare did. I opted instead for loafing it. I used its lighter cousin the loaf pan.

Betty Gilbert Roberts’

Sour Cream Pound Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 3 cups white sugar 8 eggs, separated 1 cup sour cream 3 cups cake flour 1 /2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 1 /2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and sugar the edges. Cream the butter and two cups sugar until fluffy. While that’s beating, use a hand-mixer to whip the egg whites. Add the third cup of sugar into the egg whites and continue whipping until they form stiff peaks.

Add egg yolks, one at a time, to the butter and sugar. Beat well. Sift flour, salt and soda together. Add, alternating wet and dry ingredients, the flour mix and the sour cream. Mix well.

Add the vanilla, and then fold the egg whites into the mixture. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake sixty to ninety minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cool 10 to 15 minutes and turn out on a plate.

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2010-04-01 digital edition

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