“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” Susan Lieberman
Having grown up in a family where all women, mothers, sisters, godmothers, aunties, cousins, nieces and so on…, created home-made old-fashioned, real cakes, I had everything at hand to become a talented, true kitchen-fairy. Even when baking the simplest cakes one can showcase traditional magic, handed down from generations of fairy queens. Mixing up batters that use no leavening what so ever, make a cake rise from the volume of air that is beat into it, face it, is enchanted, old-fashioned magic . My grandmother indeed had some really good arm muscles, a perfect ability to measure and weigh with a blink of an eye, she new recipes in her heart to build up layers of sweetness and tastiness, but well before the invention of electricity or electric mixers, done by hand, what she really did well was: the magic.
My mother, my grandmothers and my aunties taught me how to make the first cakes that young girls have traditionally learned to make, and given all the memories, love, roots and traditions these cakes carry, recipes are easy to remember. Traditional baking is not fancy. It is tasty. It is not pretty, it is charming. It is not fashionable, it is hearty. Traditional baking creates more than cakes. It creates smells, connections, feelings. Traditional baking creates a home.
“Cultures, along with the religions that shape and nurture them, are value systems, sets of traditions and habits clustered around one or several languages, producing meaning: for the self, for the here and now, for the community, for life.” Tariq Ramadan
This is no modernized bliss, there is no shiny bling, there is no trendy colour-explosion around a hearty pound cake. It is “just” a cake the way cake was originally meant to be. With a mug-full of everything, butter, eggs, sugar and flour, a pinch of salt, dash of lemon juice and lemon zest, and there it is: magic.
180 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
180 g butter, softened at room temperature
180 g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
60 ml lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a loaf pan and line it with parchment or waxed paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream the butter. Add sugar and mix. With the mixer running at low-speed, add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon zest. Working in alternating batches, and mixing after each addition, add the dry ingredients and lemon juice to the butter mixture. Mix until just smooth. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until raised in the center and a tester inserted into the center comes out dry and almost clean, 65 to 75 minutes. When the cake is done, let cool in the pan 15 minutes . Run a knife around the sides of the pan. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan and turn the cake out onto the rack. Peel off the waxed paper.
Option One: Meanwhile, make a glaze in a small bowl, stirring together the remaining 60 g sugar and the 20 ml lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. Using a pastry brush, spread glaze all over the top and sides of the cake when it is still hot and let soak in. Repeat until the entire glaze is used up, including any glaze that has dripped through onto the sheet pan. Let cool at room temperature.
“Your traditions change from when you a child to when you become an adult.” Katharine McPhee