Earlier this summer, my sisters and I headed home for a long weekend in North Carolina.
We each had an itinerary of must-eat hometown foods, including plenty of barbecue, country ham and biscuits. But nothing compared with the simple pound cake our mother whipped up.
My mother had gone to the nearby strawberry farm and bought a couple of gallon buckets of the reddest, ripest, most fragrant strawberries either of us could remember. To feature those luscious berries, she baked a so-called economy pound cake, rich and flavorful.
The recipe my mother used is from a cookbook my grandmother used to use "Recipes From Old Virginia Cookbook" published in 1958 by the Virginia Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs.
The authors called this recipe an "economy" pound cake because it's a riff on classic versions of this dessert, which traditionally called for exactly what it sounds like a pound each of flour, butter, sugar and eggs. This version calls for just half a pound of butter, two cups of sugar and four eggs.
While many pound cakes are oily, the crumb of the economy pound cake is light and moist, yet dry to the touch. And the best part is the slight spiciness and flavor it gets from the addition of mace and nutmeg.
We've tinkered with the recipe, adding vanilla extract and doubling the spices. It astounded me how much those little changes raised the flavor profile.
We ate slices of the pound cake with the vibrant red strawberries that oozed tart, sweet summer flavors. I macerated them in a little bit of sugar, a pinch of salt, lemon zest and a splash of Grand Marnier, just enough to bring out the best in the fruit, but not enough to mask it.
Economy pound cake
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 1 hour
Recipe adapted from "Recipes From Old Virginia Cookbook" published in 1958 by the Virginia Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups superfine sugar
4 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
Powdered sugar, to dust
Fresh berries, to serve
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a Bundt pan with a baking spray that is a blend of oil and flour.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat until fully incorporated. Set aside.
In a second bowl, sift together the salt, mace, nutmeg, baking powder and flour. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the vanilla and milk.
With the mixer on medium, add a bit of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing well. Add a bit of the milk, mixing again. Alternate adding the flour and milk until all ingredients are well mixed. As needed, use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are mixed. The batter should be smooth and silky.
Using a clean bowl and clean beaters, whip the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Overturn the cake onto a serving plate, then dust with powdered sugar just before serving. If desired, top and surround the cake with fresh berries.
Per serving: 380 calories; 160 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 18 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 105 mg cholesterol; 53 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 1 g fiber; 210 mg sodium.