The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Old Fashioned Cakes

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1999

Issue: January, 1999

Pound cake got its name from days of old when ingredients were measured in colonial kitchens on scales. Pound cakes had a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, a pound of eggs and a pound of milk mixed together and baked in a hot brick oven.

Some ovens in colonial houses had heavy cast iron doors and were built in the bricks beside the big walk-in fireplaces. Other ovens were built into a brick wall and fires were lit directly in the oven itself. When the wood fire had heated the bricks inside the oven, the burnt pieces of wood and ashes were raked out of the oven and food placed inside it to bake.

Colonial day pound cakes must have been eaten plain, but some were soaked in rum, while others had sauces dripped over them such as "burnt sugar" (caramel) or honey or even different types of fruit preserves. Occasionally they would probably contain dried fruit such as raisins or dried rind of lemon or oranges. Some household gardens grew citron and candied them for cakes. Sometimes blossoms of such flowers as roses and violets were candied and sugared in the summer and saved for cake decorations.

An early American custom was to "pound" young married couples or new preachers. In this custom, people of the neighborhood showed up in a surprise visit by bringing presents by the pound. The presents were just about always food of some sort. It was also supposed to be good luck to "pound" a preacher.

Modern day pound cakes are a far cry from their colonial ancestors. No longer do we measure ingredients by the pound, but by cups and spoonfuls.

Most pound cake "connoisseur" like a pound cake to be very heavy and made with enough real butter to squeeze grease out of each slice.

Many believe a truly good pound cake should be "sad". A sad cake is one that falls when it is baking. One old timer I knew said pound cake should be "sad" enough to bring just one tear to each eye!

Have you ever tried a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top of a slice of pound cake? The flavors are delicious together. Many old fashioned cooks would bring out a jar of canned peaches and whipped cream to top a slice of pound cake.

Below are listed several tried and true pound cake recipes. We hope they will become your favorites too.


3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup Crisco
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups plain flour
1 cup sweet milk ( Make this by using 2/3 cup of canned milk and filling to cup with warm water.)

Cream sugar with Crisco and butter. Add other ingredients one at a time. Mix until smooth. Bake one hour and 20 minutes at 350 degrees.


(If you think this recipe isn't old, it calls for 5 cent candy bars! This cake is like a great big brownie.)

8 plain Hershey bars
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
2 1/2 cups sifted plain flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate syrup

Soften candy is double boiler, let cool. Cream butter, add sugar, add eggs. Put candy in. Add soda to buttermilk. Combine nuts, salt and flour. Add alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla and chocolate syrup. Line bottom of pan with greased and floured brown paper. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. When cool, drizzle more chocolate on top or ice with your favorite chocolate icing. It's unbelievably rich and more like a giant brownie than a cake.