Poundcake

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.

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.

63 comments

  1. Sallie alston - April 9, 2019 6:47 am

    I absolutely love Presbyterian lb cake. I love this cake so much that I use part of it as my security pass code, phone code and password. I could write a recipe book on pound cakes🍰. Thanks for the cute memories with lb cakes.

    Reply
  2. Sandi in FL. - April 9, 2019 6:56 am

    As I was reading this delightful post, I did wonder if your Jamie was that young pound cake lady at the beach house!

    Reply
  3. Susan Hammett Poole - April 9, 2019 7:55 am

    Ummm, I am breathing in the fragrance of that rich, warm piece of pound cake even now. What a delicious story you’ve written, Sean.

    Reply
  4. Betty Miller - April 9, 2019 8:38 am

    Your story is deliciously delightful!

    Reply
  5. Cathi - April 9, 2019 9:45 am

    I knew Jamie was the reason for the story! Poundcake ladies are a gift from the Good Lord, aren’t they? Smilling like a Chessy cat (how my grandmamma said it) at 4:30am! Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth - April 9, 2019 10:18 am

    “These ladies are messengers, sent to humanity as proof that God is not gluten-free.” You had me at pound cake!!!! Love it and this post!

    Reply
  7. Jean - April 9, 2019 10:58 am

    A lucky man you are Sean…not everybody can bake a melt in your mouth pound cake!

    Reply
  8. Debbie - April 9, 2019 11:04 am

    HA! I’m heading to my kitchen right now to lay out the butter to soften…..there’s gonna be a pound cake today!!

    Reply
  9. Jamie Byers - April 9, 2019 11:08 am

    Sean, if your dear wife ever feels the need to provide a lovely pound cake for this hungry diabetic, please give her my regards. Reading your story has caused a Pavlovian response and I am drooling! God bless you, your wife, and her pound cake!

    Reply
  10. Pecos Kate - April 9, 2019 11:17 am

    This story warms my heart.

    Reply
  11. Rogene martin - April 9, 2019 11:26 am

    Awsome column. Loving family. Blessings.

    Reply
  12. Sherry - April 9, 2019 11:49 am

    😃👍🏻

    Reply
  13. Grace Murdock - April 9, 2019 11:57 am

    I’m a pound cake lady. Send me your address. 🙂

    Reply
  14. Terri - April 9, 2019 12:18 pm

    Love you much Sean!

    Reply
  15. Edna B. - April 9, 2019 12:26 pm

    Aren’t you the lucky guy! She bakes a perfect pound cake and she loves you. Doesn’t get any better than that!! Such a happy story, I loved it. You have a wonderful day, Sean. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  16. Sara Johnston - April 9, 2019 12:35 pm

    Yu are so descriptive !!!!!

    Reply
  17. robert - April 9, 2019 12:43 pm

    chocolate pound cake, lemon pound cake, sour cream pound cake…Speaking of cake, I really miss the old Deacons Cake Bake days at First Baptist of Sylacauga. I remember Mr. Erskine Penton telling about his plum cake. He said he did not know if it would be “plum good, or plum bad”.

    Reply
    • Ginger Clifton - April 9, 2019 1:05 pm

      Those were good days at FBC. Now this guy knows because he knows desserts. My Mama’s pound cake was so-o-o good! Pound cakes are baked with love, not a recipe.

      Reply
  18. flkatmom - April 9, 2019 1:28 pm

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  19. Carol - April 9, 2019 1:38 pm

    🤦‍♀️I saw it coming!!❤️Loved this story❤️
    Love ya!

    Reply
  20. Arthur Portas - April 9, 2019 1:57 pm

    Beautiful! So happy to hear this 🙂

    Reply
  21. Floyd - April 9, 2019 2:20 pm

    Gotta love it!

    Reply
  22. Mary - April 9, 2019 2:29 pm

    LOVE those pound cake ladies! My mom was one…I miss her terribly…and her pound cake.

    Reply
  23. Heidi - April 9, 2019 2:31 pm

    Ahhhh, I loved this story. Jamie’s pound cake and fried chicken…..I think it’s called “ bait food”. You are one lucky man. She’s a special lady.

    Reply
  24. Shelton A. - April 9, 2019 2:32 pm

    Great story…pretty cool how pound cake (I salivate at the very words) helped bring you and Jamie together. Also sounds like you have some good folks for in-laws.

    Reply
  25. Bobbie Curry - April 9, 2019 3:22 pm

    How sweet! Seam you have the knack of waking up every memory one has buried. Good and Bad. Makes me want to go make a pound cake and try to replace the pound cake lady’s reputation with one of my own. Keep on keeping on sharing your experiences with us please

    Reply
  26. Betty F. - April 9, 2019 3:33 pm

    Sweet!

    Reply
  27. Sara Smith - April 9, 2019 4:16 pm

    Love this story! My mother taught me her
    Recipe and my whole family still enjoys this
    Slice of heaven.

    Reply
  28. Wanda Smith - April 9, 2019 4:46 pm

    I am so happy that I discovered your blog……….just forwarded the pound cake blog to our “Methodist pound cake lady”. Thank you for guaranteeing a smile (or a tear) after reading your postings.

    Reply
  29. Linda Chipman - April 9, 2019 5:02 pm

    Lucky You!!! Now I want to make my mother-in-law’s pound cake. Best I ever had.

    Reply
  30. Brenda Scruggs - April 9, 2019 5:41 pm

    Love this sweet story! My mother made the best poundcake, I always asked for one for my birthday. I make a pretty good one but not like hers.

    Reply
  31. Karen - April 9, 2019 5:53 pm

    I could eat a pound of it. This is a beautiful story. Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Cindy - April 9, 2019 6:04 pm

    A delightful tribute to pound cake!

    Reply
  33. Rosemary Thompson - April 9, 2019 6:07 pm

    Thank you for making me smile!!!!!!

    Reply
  34. Sharon Hand - April 9, 2019 6:11 pm

    Sean, You described Old Zion United Methodist, my church. Dinners are to die for and so are the pound cakes.

    Reply
  35. Darell Dunn - April 9, 2019 6:11 pm

    One of your BEST ! Didn’t see the Hook coming—Loved it !

    Reply
  36. Bill Wilhelm - April 9, 2019 6:13 pm

    Sean, I read and post your column on Face Book every day I am pretty danged sure that I’m your biggest fan. I am a worthless chubby redhead who is a wannabe writer. You and I think just alike …which is dangerous. I am an avid pound cake baker, and this is my Face Book column today…inspired by YOU.

    Bill M Wilhelm
    3 hrs ·
    The following words are about something that I had no earthly idea that I would ever expound upon.

    Please do not giggle, die laughing, nor even evoke a huge grin. I am serious. And I am very sensitive. Remember: my brother was an only child; I used to have red hair; and my mama made me wear deck pants. Quit laughing!

    Since the beginning of time, which was @ 328 years ago, men have exercised every macho, super manly, bearded, and muscular exercise that one could imagine …for a singular purpose…to impress women. Back in the early 1900’s, men would knuckle drag themselves from their caves, find an unsuspecting female petting her dinosaur, and crown her with a wooden club. Now that is impressive. Because of that, all dinosaurs died because they couldn’t use a club to impress a female.Besides, their arms were way too short to do any hugging.

    And then in the 1950’s, men had the bright idea of having duels to the death to impress the ladies. They challenged other idiots by slapping their faces with a frilly handkerchief. Duh! And then they turned their backs on one another and counted as high as they had learned in school and proceeded to shoot, stab, or cuss each other violently. It never worked. The damsel of their dreams always ran to the one who was dying, cried, and professed her everlasting love. Everlasting meant until he drew his last breath.

    In 1993, football was invented. Beautiful women cheered as Brahma bulls in uniforms fractured every bone and skull, destroyed every knee, pulled every ligament, and dulled every brain cell in order to impress. And those beautiful women married those damaged Brahmas. That is, until a new and more handsome Brahma bull came along

    Now, I’m about to divulge the secret. Put down your clubs, dueling pistols, knives, swords, and football pads. And pick up your apron, mixing bowls, King Arthur flour, eggs,butter, sugar, and vanilla and lemon flavoring. Pound cakes, men! Making pound cakes puts you at the top of the list, guys. Overwhelm them with sweetness. They will eyeball you in the supermarket baking section when you shop. They will think, “I can tell that this hunk is beautiful wearing an apron and has this magnificent magical touch…with a Kitchen Aid mixer.” They may even want to lick the cake batter off of your fingers.

    And this tip is for extra credit. Clean up your mess afterwards.

    Reply
  37. Luis - April 9, 2019 7:09 pm

    Love this story. What’s a Searcy nuthouse?

    Reply
  38. Pat - April 9, 2019 7:27 pm

    I’m also a pound cake lady…I have several (mostly men) that I bake pound cakes for. They make great gifts for thank you’s, congratulations, love ya’s, or any reason. NOTHING LIKE A POUND CAKE!

    Reply
  39. Ellen C. - April 9, 2019 8:13 pm

    My Mother was the pound cake lady in our church ! I am trying , but I am not to her level of perfection!

    Reply
  40. Jean E. Keenon - April 9, 2019 9:12 pm

    I was a pound cake lady in my younger years. My Methodist Mama was the home/made vegetable soup and cornbread lady. I still make soup and cornbread!

    Reply
  41. David Giles - April 9, 2019 10:16 pm

    Sean, I like to see a story on the repackaged Walmart Potato Salad lady. Every church has one.

    Reply
  42. Joan Kiger - April 10, 2019 12:17 am

    I make a few different flavors of pound cake. A friend encouraged me to enter a baked good into the North Georgia State Fair, so I entered my PECAN Sour Cream Pound cake.
    A couple of days later I had a friend post on FB that she and her Mom were at the fair and her mom had one a ribbon for a craft item. I asked if she would mind checking to see if I had placed at all. A few minutes later she sent me a photo of a slice of my cake with a blue ribbon attached! That was a very exciting moment! My Grandmother always had a pound cake on the counter. They were so yummy! I think she would have been very proud.
    See, I can write a book about pound cake, too!
    ( Though you do a much better job.)

    Reply
  43. Joan Kiger - April 10, 2019 12:19 am

    Won, not one!!!

    Reply
  44. Minnie Bourque - April 10, 2019 1:52 am

    Lucky you, Sean! I truly understand what you mean by your first taste of Pound Cake…nothing like it. All those eggs and sugar. Oh, my! What I’d give for a piece right at this moment! I refuse to deprive myself of this godly dessert! Yum! Continue to enjoy it made by your own personal baker….for many more years!

    Reply
  45. Janet Mary Lee - April 10, 2019 2:11 am

    This tale of yours is so yummy!!! I just laughed and smiled, (and drooled) thru it all! I knew it was Jamie of course!! While I have many favorite stories of yours, this one ranks way near the top of the best!! I am so happy for you both. I have tasted many a fine Pound Cake, but the first one I ever tasted was like pure Heaven. I did not get the recipe, and none have ever quite matched. At our church and home, one can almost get stabbed trying to get the browned butter crunchy parts that adorn the best home made ones. Bless you two!!

    Reply
  46. Charaleen Wright - April 10, 2019 4:52 am

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  47. Jack Darnell - April 10, 2019 4:55 am

    I married the ‘Butternut Pound Cake’ lady. She doesn’t bake them anymore. BUT I still have the memories!!!
    Good one dude!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  48. Lydia - April 10, 2019 11:57 am

    Love this one!

    Reply
  49. Mike Bone - April 10, 2019 8:23 pm

    Lucky man.

    Reply
  50. Mary Lee - April 10, 2019 11:18 pm

    Awwwww…I love this story…all your stories actually.

    Reply
  51. Estelle Sexton Davis - April 11, 2019 1:53 am

    You truly are a lucky man.

    Reply
  52. Jones - April 11, 2019 2:16 am

    👍👍😋

    Reply
  53. Fran Hopkins - April 11, 2019 3:07 pm

    Love The Pound Cake Lady- and your correct, every church has a “cake” lady they can turn to
    Love your articles!!

    Reply
  54. Kathi harper-hill - April 11, 2019 6:44 pm

    My mother was a pound cake lady. She got too frail to handle the mixer so we haven’t had one since. She’ll be 90 in August.

    Reply
  55. Ellen - April 11, 2019 8:05 pm

    I guessed where you were going with your cake lady story, right from the beginning. That’s what made the story just right.

    I cannot say I was ever a true pound cake lady. But although I grew up in a military family, I was always a Mississippi girl. And I married a Presbyterian preacher. Most true Southern women can make a pretty good poundcake, even if they aren’t The Poundcake Lady in their churches. That would be me. But the really important thing I learned by watching the older ladies of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. You can probably guess, but it was always to have a poundcake on the sideboard and iced tea in the refrigerator. You never know if someone would drop by. I will also say, everyone loved my iced tea. Or if they didn’t, they always asked for another glass. It was much the same when we moved down the road to the Thomson Presbyterian Church.

    The poundcake recipe was “Mrs. Bill Self’s Poundcake.” Her husband was the pastor of a big Baptist in Atlanta, and that recipe was fabulous even though my rendition was likely not as good as Mrs. Self’s. But something terrible happened one day when I was making that cake: it did not rise as much as it should, and it would not come out of the pan, no matter what I did. At last, I turned it over a coke bottle for days. Lots of friends suggested what might have gone wrong and what I should do next time. But next time, it was at least as bad as the time before. And I never made it again. It was a life crisis for sure. Fortunately, it was just after that we moved to a church in South Carolina where people rarely dropped in because they lived around Lake Murray.

    The funny thing is that I have been thinking about that cake and wondering if I could get up my nerve to try it again. Maybe a different pan would be better? I wish I’d called Mrs. Self while she could help me. What do you think I should do?

    On another subject, I haven’t thanked you for that column about good ole Lewis Grizzard. I hoped you would do that.

    Reply
  56. Suzanne - April 12, 2019 7:33 pm

    My best pound cake is Praline with rum and praline liqueur…can’t drive after eating it and certainly can’t serve it at the
    Baptist covered dish supper! 🤣

    Reply
  57. Tamarah - April 13, 2019 1:47 pm

    I so love this story! My favorite part was when they expressed they were genuinely glad you were there. Sometimes we don’t realize the true value we give to others just by being there!

    Reply
  58. Dalton S. In Tuscumbia, Ala. - May 1, 2019 5:30 pm

    Sean, I grew up in a Church of Christ household and still regularly attend. A few years back my wife and I were living in northeast Arkansas, the church we attended had a pound cake lady as well. Except it wasnt pound cake she made, it was rum cake.
    Every potluck we had, once the desserts were laid out, folks gathered to see if Miss Wilma had brought her rum cake. Once found tears of joy would form in eyes, smiles the size of a banana graced the faces of the disciples of Miss Wilma’s rum cake.
    A line would form beside it as we waited for one of the deacons to say grace. You see, getting a slice of Miss Wilma’s rum cake was more important than green beans, hash brown casserole or a crispy breast from the Colonel.
    The cake was soft, spongy almost, and in my mind I can almost hear the cake swish as I pressed my fork on it. “It was real rum in it,” someone behind me once said. As if on cue the rest of us, who were waiting for this slice of heaven, just nodded our head and said “Amen.”
    A few years later, Miss Wilma announced she was moving to Little Rock to be closer to a daughter. As if by divine providence, there was a scheduled potluck on her last Sunday with us.
    I gave her hug goodbye and told her I would miss her, which I was sincere about, and i would miss her rum cake, which I was very sincere about.
    As I savored that last piece of rum cake on that Sunday afternoon about eight years ago, I was thinking this is it, never again.
    But God is good and loves to surprise us.
    The next day, about 10a, Miss Wilma stopped by my office at the newspaper. I was surprised to see her and got up and gave her another hug (Church of Christ folks like to hug.) I said I was surprised to see her as I thought she would already be on the road.
    She said she had something for me, and with that, she opened her purse and pulled out a weathered piece of paper. “This is for you, ” she told me smiling. “This is my rum cake recipe. Make sure Marilyn makes it for you.”
    I was stunned and didn’t know what to say, so I hugged her again.
    This past weekend Marilyn made a rum cake. It was glorious. From now until the day I die, when I eat my wife’s rum cake, I will always think of Miss Wilma.

    Reply
  59. Gale Smith - May 10, 2019 12:08 pm

    5-Flavor pound cake, sour cream, cream cheese, old-fashioned, all are good, but my Mom made the best. The smell of lb cake makes me remember my Mother and Grandmothers.

    Reply
  60. Margaret - May 10, 2019 3:10 pm

    our church lady made a caramel cake. The cake was delicious but the icing was even better. People went through the dessert line first to get a piece of Agnes’ cake. She is gone now but I can almost taste it just thinking about it.

    Reply
  61. Shannon McGee - May 10, 2019 7:22 pm

    I am a Cheerful Methodist and I KNOW THE POUND CAKE LADY 🙌 ❤️🙌 and Indian Pass is my FAVORITE ❤️❤️❤️ my daughter caught her 1st shark fishing from the beach there and we cleaned it and grilled him up the same day 😋 I SO LOVE your familiar stories 💝

    Reply
  62. Tina Harman - May 12, 2019 8:02 pm

    I so love this story! It is great! It’s an honor to be a pound cake lady.

    Reply

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