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How to Bake a Cake

by | Jan 22, 2024

Fresh out of college and living in the Washington, DC area, my three roommates and I decided to have a birthday party for my boyfriend (BF) of only a few months. There was only one dish that we knew how to prepare – Beef Stroganoff, and it wasn’t a gourmet recipe – so that would be our meal. With salad. And bread.

Of course, a birthday party demands a cake. Since I’d heard the old saw “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” I would bake the cake. BF’s favorite was chocolate pound cake and since he was from Georgia and since one of my roommates had a Rome, Georgia Junior League Cookbook, my cake would be just like the ones his mother used to make. Maybe.

I did not know how to cook. At. All. But I did know how to read. We had all the ingredients except Crisco™, but we had corn oil, so I was set. I started baking early so that the oven would be free for the entrée at mealtime. I combined eggs, sugar, corn oil, etc. Into the oven it went. About an hour later, I took out the pan, expecting to see a beautifully risen pound cake. No! It was a bubbling mess. Obviously, I needed that missing item. Hurriedly, I put on a coat (it was a cold January day) and went next door to the 7-Eleven, bought the Crisco™, and came home to start again – eggs, etc., into the oven, set timer, take cake out of the oven.

Oh, no!! Again, it was a boiling mess. I double-checked the recipe and saw that I had followed the directions perfectly. Unfortunately, time was almost up, and guests were about to arrive. BF was earliest, and I confessed to him that I’d spent my afternoon trying to bake a surprise for him. Would his mother be willing to share her recipe? He thought she would be happy to, so he phoned her. She asked him to read the cookbook recipe to her. That’s when she asked the important question: How much flour does it call for? Welllllllll, the Rome, Georgia Junior League Cookbook recipe did not call for flour. How was I, a novice cook, supposed to know flour went into a cake??

Quickly, I assembled Cake #3, whisked it into the oven, and ran to shower and dress for the party. Unfortunately, about the time I got out of the shower, it was time to put the Beef Stroganoff into the oven, so the cake, ready or not, had to come out. It looked good. I took it out of the pan, left it on the counter to cool, and added blue birthday candles to the top. How I wish I had saved the photo of that dessert! I had given no thought to the cake still being very warm, so imagine my surprise when a few minutes later I came back into the kitchen to find that, not only had the cake fallen, the wax candles had melted all over the top. The cake looked like a miniature, blue volcano.

There were no candles to blow out, but there was uproarious laughter when the cake was presented. So, it must not true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. BF and I have been married almost 52 years now, and this year I’m baking one birthday cake and it will have flour. See recipe below.

Grandma’s Chocolate Pound Cake
Recipe by Ruth Clifton

Preheat oven to 300˚.


  • ½ pound butter (2 sticks)
  • ½ cup Crisco
  • 3 cup sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1¼ cup milk
  • 3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Sift all dry ingredients together.
  • Cream butter, sugar, and Crisco.
  • Slowly add other ingredients, along with milk.
  • Beat in 1 egg at a time.
  • Mix well, until smooth and creamy
  • Bake 1 hour and 25 minutes (85 minutes) at 300˚.
  • Let cool in pan on cooling rack for 10 minutes
  • Remove from pan and let cool on rack before transferring to cake plate

Jennie Clifton

Jennie Clifton, a Concord native, taught high school Latin in Georgia, where she was a Tar Heel in exile until she and her husband Cecil, a Davidson graduate, retired here in 2011. They are now enjoying life at The Pines.

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