Edith White’s Pound Cake

There are few cakes as unpretentious, as pleasing, or as sturdy as a pound cake. Designed with even proportions so that it can be made by memory, and to be amenable to any topping that comes its way, a pound cake recipe should be in everyone’s entertaining emergency file. Edith White, my great-grandmother, always seemed to have one baked and at the ready should a relative stop in for a surprise visit. She was a practical cook who made bread-and-butter pickles and strawberry jam every summer and kept these preserves in an attic accessed with a fold-down ladder. (I remember her going up and down that ladder, precariously gripping Ball jars in both hands, never holding on to a rail.) Dinner might be a pot roast. Potatoes were mashed. Snacks at her house were homemade bread and butter, which I preferred to eat under the table. She wasn’t a layer cake maker, and I don’t think tarts ever crossed her mind. A sweet, fragrant, mixed-byhand pound cake was more her speed. Her pound cake contains almond extract and is enriched with sour cream—two details that make it stand out. She wouldn’t add toppings that cried for attention; she let the cake’s goodness speak for itself.