Pound Cake

The things I could write about pound cake. I could go on and on and bore you to death, but I won’t.

After my father died, I remember visiting a Methodist church with my boyhood friend, and he was introducing me to people. He was raised Methodist, I was not. My people were Baptist.

The Methodists were cheerful. My people didn’t believe in cheer. Our pastor preached hard against alcoholism, promiscuity, and narcotics because these things could lead to cigarette smoking.

My friend pointed to one lady in the congregation. She was slight, with gray hair, and a blue skirt suit.

There are some people you don’t forget. She was one of those people.

She had a heavenly glow. People smiled when they passed by her like she was unique.

“Who’s that woman?” I asked.

“That is the Pound Cake Lady,” my pal said in reverence.

After the Methodist service, my friend led me to a downstairs fellowship hall. The Methodists put out a bigger spread than any I’d ever seen. There was even a special table dedicated to cornbread and biscuits.

It was too much. Overwhelming. I even saw people standing outside the fellowship hall, smoking cigarettes after their meal. It was as though they were unwinding after sin.

The woman in the blue skirt suit placed something on the end of the table. It was golden, fat, hulking, sacred pound cake.

“Hurry and get some,” said my friend, “before it’s all gone.”

He was right. The cake didn’t last four seconds among those chain-smoking Methodists. But when it disappeared, the old woman replaced it with another.

People blessed her name forevermore. Hallelujah. And so did I.

So every church has a pound cake lady. They are young, middle-aged, or elderly, and they are holy. These ladies are messengers, sent to humanity as proof that God is not gluten-free. He loves white flour, sugar, and butter, no matter what diet books say.

If you have doubts whether your congregation has a pound cake lady, just ask your church secretary. She knows their phone number by heart.

Years later, I met a young woman at a similar potluck. She was brunette, Baptist, with brown eyes. She and I became friendly and spent time together.

One summer, she invited me to go with her family on their annual vacation.

Her family rented a house in Indian Pass, Florida, on the Gulf. When I arrived, I found the place filled with people. They were crammed in that little house, eating raw oysters, laughing, and carrying on. There were so many that some had to sleep on coffee tables and in bathtubs. I felt out of place.

The girl’s mother showed me to my bedroom, which was down the hall from the brunette’s room.

The woman said, “This is where you sleep. I’m right across the hall. And remember, I can hear whenever your door opens.”

And I knew that if I tried to exit my room past curfew—even to visit the little boys’ room—I would wake up graveyard dead.

I fell asleep that night wondering why I was there, on vacation with a happy family. I didn’t belong to these people. I’d never belonged anywhere. Ever since boyhood, I had a hard time fitting in.

My family was nothing like this family. We were broken, and about as unstable as rickety stool.

The next morning I awoke to a pleasant smell that flooded the house. It was a familiar aroma. I followed it down stairs.

There, I found everyone awake. A big man dressed in seersucker, a woman wearing pearls, a lady with a big sun hat, and several others. They were all singing, “In the Garden.”

They asked me to join the singing, so we all sang together and I wondered if these people were fugitives from the Searcy nuthouse.

Then some lady said, “We’re so glad to have you here, Sean.”

Everyone agreed with her. And I don’t know why, but I nearly cried.

And that smell. It was so strong. It smelled like being hugged. Like vanilla. Like prayer meetings on warm Saturday evenings. Like looking at a midnight sky over the Gulf of Mexico.

From the kitchen came the brunette. Young. Smiling. She carried a plate. On the dish was the source of the smell. A slice of warm, yellow, dense pound cake.

Everyone stopped singing. They behaved reverently when she passed by. Boys removed their hats and held them over their hearts.

And the family watched me take my first bite. A bite that would change my life forever.

I told you, I could go on and on about pound cake and bore you to death. But I won’t.

I just wanted to tell you how I came to marry the Pound Cake Lady.

53 comments

  1. Christina - May 3, 2020 6:31 am

    You are such a lucky man, Sean! Every time I hear you talk about food, it’s always filled with sweet memories and wrapped in your wife’s love. Btw, just listened to your podcast and I loved it! Your mother Mary is definitely a treasure and your quarantine song should be on SNL 😂! Also, whoever played the piano, it was amazing! It was such a treat enjoying the hymns, songs, and all things missed.

    Reply
  2. Tammy S. - May 3, 2020 6:36 am

    I married a man whose Mom was the pound cake lady. Now I have her recipe. Nothing like a home filled with the wonderful aroma of a baking pound cake. Your story is just as sweet as a slice of pound cake fresh out of the oven!
    Once again, you made me smile. ❤️

    Reply
  3. Cathi Russell - May 3, 2020 8:32 am

    I really love how you love Jamie. Big smiles & a big hug to you both!

    Reply
  4. Mary - May 3, 2020 9:16 am

    Made me smile – and miss good pound cake. My great Aunt Suzie used to make the most heavenly pound cake. It was so heavy (should’ve been called ten-pound cake) and it was amazing. She was a southern gal from Georgia, but my whole life she lived at Jax beach. When I visited her as an adult, she always had a fresh pound cake just for me. When I was growing up, she was the sweetest adult in our family and always supportive with encouragement, no matter what. Even after growing up, she always made me feel special. Aunt Suzie was just divine and her pound cake was an extra bonus. Nobody else compares, nor does any pound cake. ❤️

    Reply
  5. Bkr - May 3, 2020 9:35 am

    You made me smile and tear up at the same time. I love how you adore Jamie. Thanks for the happiness!

    Reply
  6. Meredith Smith - May 3, 2020 10:05 am

    Oooh Sean. Its 6am, my first cup of coffee is brewing plus my stomach is growling. That punchline about Jamie couldn’t get any better. I’m so happy you have her to feed you love and happiness.

    Reply
  7. Jenny Irons - May 3, 2020 11:24 am

    This made me cry.. and reminded me of every person’s need: to belong. It is a sweet gift that you found your wife when you needed her- AND found her family too! It is also a reminder to me to let everyone I come in contact with to help them know they are valued by their creator & me!

    Reply
  8. Jean - May 3, 2020 12:13 pm

    Wise decision…Sean. Sending you hugs

    Reply
  9. Peggy Thompson - May 3, 2020 12:17 pm

    Love it! Pound Cake husband!
    Great love story!

    Reply
  10. Ricky Mills - May 3, 2020 12:22 pm

    My wife inherited her mother’s pound cake recipe. She has become a pound cake lady!

    Reply
  11. Paul Click - May 3, 2020 12:33 pm

    Yea! Verily! Even the churches of Christ have pound cake ladies! What a blessing!

    Reply
  12. Connie Havard Ryland - May 3, 2020 12:43 pm

    As always, you made me smile and cry at the same time. Love and hugs to you and your sweet Jamie.

    Reply
  13. Teresa Tindle - May 3, 2020 1:11 pm

    There is nothing as good as a pound cake. My Aunt Nell is our pound cake Lady. She is 97. She still makes the best Pound Cake I’ve ever eaten. She has gave me her recipe years ago. Mine is very good, but there is something Godly about hers. It is sweet, buttery, and the most heavenly vanilla aroma. I’m sure that just like Jamie’s it could not get any better.

    Reply
  14. Terri - May 3, 2020 1:12 pm

    My Mama was a pound cake lady, bless her soul. Love you much Sean.

    Reply
  15. Berryman Mary M - May 3, 2020 1:19 pm

    Dear Sean, your story brought smiles and tears. I have prided myself on my pound cake baking. When I met you and Jamie last August in Columbiana, I told you that I had wanted to bring you some of “my” pound cake. Then I had the great pleasure of meeting Jamie and discussing pound cake with her. Pride goeth before the fall as we are told and after talking on the subject with Jamie, I knew “my” pound cake was not even a close second to hers. Congratulations of you magnificent choice for a life partner and a lifetime supply of pound cake!

    Reply
  16. Bobbie E - May 3, 2020 1:23 pm

    Guess you could call me a pound cake lady. Been making them for many years now after getting a “no fail” recipe from a friend. Love your analogies about them. I can’t tell you how happy I am for you Sean. Not everyone finds someone like you did, your beautiful soul mate, Jamie. God smiled on you when He brought you together!
    Your columns so appreciated every day, especially during these unusual and strange times we’re living in. Btw, I used to sell real estate in Indian Pass and all around Cape San Blas. No prettier place this side of Heaven!! I also have wonderful memories from there. Love and blessings to you and yours❤️🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  17. Melanie - May 3, 2020 1:24 pm

    For real?? I did not see that one coming!! 😄

    Reply
  18. Nell Richardson - May 3, 2020 1:37 pm

    My husband is the “pound cake man” in Leeds.He makes the Million Dollar Pound Cake, published in Southern Livin’. He also makes better pralines (Please don’t say “pray-leans!) than you can buy in New Orleans. No brag, just fact.

    Reply
  19. Sharon Brock - May 3, 2020 2:01 pm

    Smart man Sean. Your Mama raised a smart man.

    I had a friend in high school who was invited to our house numerous times. Her parents were out of town on her 16th birthday. My Mother was not having that so we fixed her favorite dinner and made her a cake. We had 8 chairs but the piano bench was pressed into service for guests. I sat on the piano bench so she could have a chair. Years later, my friend told my parents that the only time she ever felt part of a family was at our house. She said the happiest day of her life was when she got to sit on the piano bench. That meant she belonged. Our piano bench was I guess a stand in for pound cake.

    Reply
  20. Sylvia from Florida - May 3, 2020 2:15 pm

    Where is your podcast??

    Reply
  21. Barbara Pope - May 3, 2020 2:29 pm

    Doesn’t get much better than Indian Pass, pound cake, a beautiful gourmet cook and a fun family! You’re sipping from your saucer….

    Reply
  22. Phil S. - May 3, 2020 2:40 pm

    What a deal you were graced with. You hit the trifecta, my friend: a new, loving, happy family to add to your own, the beautiful brunette, AND her scrumptious pound cake.

    Reply
  23. Joyce Jennings - May 3, 2020 2:46 pm

    Thank you for putting a smile on my face this morning. Precious memories!

    Reply
  24. Ginger - May 3, 2020 3:06 pm

    I don’t know which of you….Sean or Jamie…is the blessed-est (that wasn’t a word but it is now)…so I suppose it’s a perfect tie. It is crazy how much your writing adds to my life and the lives of everyone I have told about you. Have the blessed-est day ever.

    Reply
  25. John Skelton - May 3, 2020 3:11 pm

    I loved pound cake, too, but didn’t know about how good it was until I started working as a busboy at a coffee shop in a hotel. The first time I had it was there, and they lightly toasted it. Why? So the scoop of vanilla ice cream would melt down into it.

    Yum!

    Reply
  26. Anne Arthur - May 3, 2020 3:33 pm

    Yes! Sweet and lovely like a pound cake. You chose well…or, I rather believe she chose you. Happy cake day!

    Reply
  27. Blake Whitley - May 3, 2020 4:04 pm

    Such a great, tender story.

    Reply
  28. George - May 3, 2020 4:34 pm

    Pound cake is proof of both Providence and Love.

    Reply
  29. Linda Moon - May 3, 2020 4:46 pm

    It’s okay if you bore me, but don’t kill me. I’m not easily bored, so I’m not worried eminent death. I know why some lady was glad to have you with the family one summer, and I nearly cried, too. I’m especially glad the Pound Cake Lady agreed to the marriage that came to be! I’m still not bored nor dead here at the end of this story you told. My Aunt Kat and Aunt Polly …. two of the great Pound Cake Ladies….are both smiling down from above while blessing your pound cakes and marriage!

    Reply
  30. Linda Moon - May 3, 2020 4:48 pm

    Correction: not worried ABOUT eminent death (I’m still not bored or dead yet!)

    Reply
  31. Brenda Posey - May 3, 2020 5:40 pm

    Wonderful story….and, except for the longing I have for a bite of that cake, I feel like I was in the room! Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Kathy - May 3, 2020 6:36 pm

    Sean your story about the poundcake lady brought sweet memories to my heart. My mom was a “poundcake lady“ and she learned from her mom, who learned from her mom. About two months before my mom unexpectedly passed away I needed to take a dessert to a church function and my mom offered to make me a poundcake to take. I said mom why don’t you teach me how to make the poundcake and she did! I’m so glad I asked her that day as I am the only daughter Who learned how to make her poundcake. The others try, but theirs never turn out the same as mom’s. When my mom passed away my 10-year-old nephew said, “ I guess I’ll never get to eat grandma’s poundcake ever again. She made the best poundcake ever!“ Well I told Charles not to worry that she had taught Aunt Kathy how to make it. Fast forward 10 years and he had flown home to Valparaiso Florida, for a family reunion. The day he was to return home I handed him a shoebox to take on the plane with him. It was filled with individually wrapped slices of poundcake I made from Grandma Dunn’s recipe. I can still see the big smile on his face. It came in handy as he had a five hour layover in Atlanta before he was to journey home to Newport News, Virginia.
    Hugs from a
    Blessed 3rd Generation Pound Cake Lady

    Reply
  33. Lita - May 3, 2020 8:02 pm

    Your story and the comments that followed. I want to hug you all.

    I’ve never eaten, never even seen a poundcake…

    Reply
  34. Terry - May 3, 2020 8:08 pm

    A recipe would be wonderful

    Reply
  35. Robert Chiles - May 3, 2020 8:40 pm

    It’s all in picking (or being picked by) the right one. Today’s my 45th. wedding anniversary. I hope you and Jamie have that many and more. Blessings!

    Reply
  36. Kimber - May 3, 2020 9:17 pm

    Same here Bkr! And, right about now, happiness
    means SO much!

    Reply
  37. Martha - May 3, 2020 9:48 pm

    Our UMC has a pound cake lady, her name is Billie Clinton and she makes the best in the town. My Mother-in-law made a Sour Cream Pound cake that could make you want to die and go on to Heaven where she is there and no doubt making a pound cake for all the angels.

    Reply
  38. Ala Red Clay Girl - May 3, 2020 10:12 pm

    My grandmother always had a poundcake sitting on her kitchen table. The problem for me was that it was so dry that I couldn’t eat it. I figured I just didn’t like poundcake. Many years later my mother starting making a very moist poundcake that had apricot brandy and several flavorings in it. It was delicious. Then my mother-in-law starting making a lemon poundcake that was delicious. So, much later in life did I discover the wonders of poundcake, but I have both of their recipes and can make them anytime. Blessings to the both of you!

    Reply
  39. James P. Levister - May 3, 2020 10:36 pm

    My mom is gone now. She was a strong believer, but she was not a consistent church goer. She served God through serving others. She openly credited God for all she had, and followed the admonition to help others. And,she made and gave.pound cake.I used her recipe two weeks ago. This COVID crisis causes one to draw near to loved ones gone and those we’re lucky enough to have with us now. Yes, maybe there’s something BLESSED about pound cake. I sure feel her nearby with every slice.

    Reply
  40. Don Gardner, Jr - May 3, 2020 10:42 pm

    Sean,

    My parents grew up in Covington County, Alabama. My maternal grandmother was the “pound cake lady” at her home congregation, Cedar Grove Church of Christ. Yes, us church of Christ folks ate pound cake just like the Baptists and the Methodist.

    She ran a small cafe on the Brewton Highway called the “Little KItchen”. As a young boy, I used to spend part of my spring and summer breaks working in her cafe. I shelled peas and butter beans in the morning and then ran the cash register during lunch.

    One day, I saw her swap a couple of her pound cakes for some peas and butterbeans from a local farmer. She explained that the farmer had a house full of youngun’s to feed and needed more than just the vegetables he he raised. My grandmother and that farmer worked out a bartering system. He got pound cakes for youngun’s and she got vegetables for her customers.

    Don Gardner, Jr
    Madison, AL

    Reply
  41. Sharon Barcinski - May 4, 2020 2:23 am

    I know what he was talking about! I am a baker& have a Christmas pound cake I make in an ornate bundt pan. Got that recipe from one of my favorite sources of recipes. I also have some other pound cake ones as my family LOVES pound cske!

    Reply
  42. muthahun - May 4, 2020 3:34 am

    Awww… I was hoping that’s where you were headed! And please note that even gluten-free pound cake isn’t so bad these days. The wonders of science.

    Reply
  43. Dawn Bratcher - May 4, 2020 7:26 am

    Oh, you are such a lucky man! Out of the ashes came your beauty!

    Reply
  44. T.C. - May 4, 2020 2:15 pm

    my grandmother, and my mom, ALWAYS had a pound cake, and a pot of coffee ready, for whenever a guest would drop by.I guess beings no one ever drops by for a visits anymore, probably hard to find pound cakes waiting on them.Sad.

    Reply
  45. Anne Swinson Godwin - May 4, 2020 3:29 pm

    Your love story reminded me of one of my very best friends. Tootsie made THE BEST brownies. People at church functions knew to put one on your plate before you got your “real” food. Other wise, they’d be gone. This morning, I’m thankful for your view of life. If your readers don’t know how to make a pound cake, they can google Two-Step Pound Cake by myrecipes.com. I have several favorite pound cake recipes. That one is delicious and easy to make. Stay safe. Keep writing the good stuff.

    Reply
  46. Donna McPherson - June 12, 2020 10:43 pm

    Sean, I understand what certain smells can do for a person. My life as a kid was altogether wrong, kind of like yours. To explain how much I get your not belonging let me tell you this: Just before I was eight years old my mom tried to kill herself in front of me. For this she spent about a year in the “Searcy nuthouse”. I didn’t belong around normal families yet was often in the company of a family of what my daddy called “Holy Rollers”. These were fine church going, God fearing people.They were the family down the road. The Havens’ watched over me a lot. The smell that was heavenly for me wasn’t pound cake, it was Kentucky fried chicken. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I ate Colonel Sanders’ finest at their kitchen table after church on Sunday. But I can tell you now that it is one scent that fills me with joy even though I don’t eat it very often anymore. God may bring up pound cake church ladies but he also brings up chicken (and love) sharing saints.

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  47. gwendolyn21667 - June 13, 2020 12:13 am

    Pleased that you found your Pound Cake Lady! What a delightful way to live your life.. I am pretty sure that you are riding on a two way street!

    Reply
  48. unkle kenny - June 13, 2020 2:36 am

    If you were on a diet …forget it let there be pound cake !

    Reply
  49. Jeanette Walker - June 13, 2020 8:53 am

    I am not receiving your posts like I used to. I am going to sign up again to have them sent to me. I love everything I have ever read that you have written.

    Reply
  50. Laura - June 13, 2020 12:24 pm

    Loved reading this! As others mentioned, it made me tear up, but in a warm and fuzzy way. My mother was a pound lady. She used to bake one every Sunday for our family meal. When I was about 12 my bad mother baked a poundcake and left to go to the store or somewhere. When she came home I had a slice the entire crunchy top off and eat it! She was not happy with me!
    When I was about 12 my mother baked a poundcake and left it cooling while she ran out to do a quick errand. When she came home I had a sliced the entire warm, crunchy top off and ate it! She was not happy with me! But it was worth it.
    After we were adults and moved out of the house, my Mom would call up and say, “Why don’t ya’ll ride out today? I have lunch, and a pound cake in the oven” She knew what to say to entice us to visit. My brother and I would race out to her house on Sundays to see who could get the first piece of the poundcake!
    When Mom passed, I got her old tube pan. I don’t use it for my pound cakes though. It’s too sacred. I just have it in my pantry to look at and remember. But I do make her pound cake recipe quite often. I guess I’m the pound cake lady of our family now. I hope my family has warm vanilla scented thoughts of me when I’m gone too!

    Reply
  51. Laura - June 13, 2020 12:26 pm

    Obviously she wasn’t my “bad” mother! I hate when voice dictation adds odd words! I should have proofread better. I don’t see how to correct it now ☹️

    Reply
  52. Toni - September 20, 2020 8:57 pm

    This wonderful life and love story is one of the first I read of yours Sean and I loved it so so much. i just now have re-read it in late September 2020 in Tasmania, Australia. I decided the first time that I would learn to make pound cake. And now it is time to do that, I think. My darling mum was a great baker of cakes.
    God bless you all.

    Reply
  53. Toni - September 20, 2020 9:00 pm

    Dear Laura, yours is a great story, never mind the computor’s misjudgement! Happens to nearly all of us I would think. xx

    Reply

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