Homage to Gran's Cornmeal Poundcake

Posted by Tracey Vowell on

I remember going to Tennessee to be with family for the Holidays. There would be a big meal, and lots of relatives around, but well before supper even started, there would be quiet mentions of Gran’s poundcake. Would she still make it?

My great grandmother was something of the matriarch of the Vowell family when I was a kid, and by the time I was approaching high school, she was getting up there. Still, she made the best poundcake anyone had ever eaten, and would not tell a soul her recipe, so the low buzz of anxiety about the poundcake became increasingly palpable with each holiday gathering. Of course, the fateful day did come, and there was the Christmas that everybody was gathered, and when Gran got there, her hands were empty.  Asked about it, she simply replied, “What poundcake?” And just like that, a masterful recipe was lost.

I don’t pretend to have her gift, or to know her secret, but I do have a poundcake recipe that I make and like. I mean, how can I have guests for Sunday supper, if I cannot even produce a decent poundcake?

I will tell you that the cake is good out of the oven, but that is not actually how it is eaten. Allowed to cool completely, like until tomorrow, and sliced, then returned to a skillet, just brushed with butter, and toasted lightly, then topped with a cool pat to melt in. There is something so completely satisfying about such a straightforward loaf of rich toasty goodness. I heartily suggest it, straight up, toasted, with butter. Of course, I wouldn’t judge a dollop of creme fraiche, or some really good ice cream. I choose to make cornmeal poundcake using our fine grind. It changes the flavor and texture a bit, and I like the light flavor change from the corn.

  • 1 loose cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup fine Three Sisters Corn meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or whole, but buttermilk is better)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 stick butter

Turn the oven on to 350, place the half stick of butter in a well seasoned or coated loaf pan, and set into the oven to just melt.

In a medium bowl, measure out and mix the dry ingredients. Careful not to compress the flour when measuring.

Make a little well in the dry ingredients, and crack in the two eggs.  Whisk gently over the dry mix to lightly scramble the eggs.

Add the dairy and vanilla, and whisk well to thoroughly mix.

Pour the melted butter from the loaf pan into the cake batter and mix to incorporate.

Using a pastry brush, or small square of paper towel, use the residual butter in the pan to thoroughly grease the sides of the pan.

Pour in the cake batter, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl, and place in the center of the oven, setting the timer for 1 hour.

Check carefully with a skewer, being sure that it comes out clean and thoroughly hot.

Crack open the oven door a few inches and turn off the oven. Set the timer for half an hour.

Turn out your poundcake onto a plate, and allow to cool completely before covering.

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