Though ten years ago I’d never have admitted it, the similarity between my mother and me is sometimes breathtakingly apparent. We are both opinionated and perhaps a touch bossy; our tempers are quick to fire and equally quick to cool; we’re the same height and have the same unruly hair. We are, at times, painfully stubborn. Most striking, however (at least, we’ve been told), are the eyes; our eyes are the exact same color, an identical shade of blue that has been sported by generations of women in our family. That’s right: the same golden blue that could laser the truth out of me when I was 14 was turned similarly upon my mother when she was a child, courtesy of my grandmother, Alice.
The color of our eyes was not the only thing Alice passed down. It’s from her that I got my artistic tendencies; she was a painter, and did many beautiful renderings of my grandfather Harold’s beloved orchids. It’s from her that I also got my hypochondria (though hers was, admittedly, a more pronounced case that I hope is not my legacy) and, I suspect, my love for the sound of the German language. She had a penchant for fuchsia lipstick and blue jewelry that has recently made itself apparent in my own tastes, and an enthusiasm for cooking with sour cream that is replicating itself in my ever-growing obsession with Greek yogurt. While some of her sour cream experiments were…well…a bit on the more esoteric side (bacon-wrapped sour cream chicken, anyone?), she had one recipe that remains, to my way of thinking, the entire POINT of sour cream–an elegant, chewy, divine citrusy pound cake.
The cake really is something else–it’s delicious fresh out of the oven, and even better after a couple of days in the refrigerator. It’s wonderful with whipped cream, and is at its finest about ten minutes before it starts to go stale. But there’s so much more to it, too. Yes, it is delicious, and yes it has a truly tremendous shelf life, but that’s not why I choose to make it. I make this cake because it reminds me of my family, particularly my grandmother; I vividly remember eating this in her yellow and brown kitchen in the house that always smelled like eucalyptus, and greedily jumping at the chance to bring home the leftovers–to be squabbled over good-naturedly with my mother at the end of a long day. Not that anyone ever has enough of these memories, but as I get older and feel further from my family (with the exception of my sister, everyone is really, really bloody far away), the more memories I want, and need, to carry me through those moments of homesickness, of missing the fierce and fabulous women who have helped me become who I am today. I make the cake so I can add more threads to the tapestry, so I can add more memories to the pile.
And so, this is for Alice and all the ladies: thank you for my personality, my eyes, my gifts, your patience, and everything else that has made me who I am. And I’m sorry for being such a pain in the ass all these years. I love you all.
Sunny citrus pound cake
2 ¾ C. sugar
1 C. butter
3 C. flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 C. Greek yogurt (sour cream will also work)
½ tsp lemon extract
½ tsp orange extrace
½ tsp vanilla
zest of 2 lemons
For the glaze:
1/2c confectioner’s sugar
juice of two lemons
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well.
- Add yogurt/sour cream.
- Sift flour, salt and soda together and add to creamed mixture.
- Beat well.
- Add extracts and vanilla.
- Pour into oiled 10” tube or bundt pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until cake tests done (Test with toothpick or fork tine)
- Cool 15 minutes then turn out onto a cake rack.
- While it’s cooling, make the glaze by whisking the sugar and lemon juice together briskly; spoon over the top of the cake. Finish by sprinkling any remaining lemon zest before the glaze sets too much.
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