My sisters and I kicked off the summer this year by heading home for a long weekend in North Carolina.
Of course we each had an itinerary of must-eat hometown foods, including plenty of barbecue and country ham and biscuits. And while those foods were wonderful, nothing compared to the simple pound cake and strawberry dessert 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 then baked up a so-called economy pound cake, a rich, flavorful cake so much better than the shortcakes you'll find at the grocer.
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 butter, sugar and eggs. But this version calls for just 1/2 pound of butter, 2 cups of sugar and 4 eggs.
While many pound cakes are greasy, 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 upped the flavor of the cake, turning a good cake into a great cake. These small tweaks made the economy pound cake into the best pound cake that my sisters and I have ever eaten and one that we will make for years to come.