Ryan Shepard
About Author
March 31, 2020
 in 
BS+B Recipes

Nostalgia Tastes Like This Buttery Cast Iron Pound Cake

Not very many people have been lucky enough to get to know their great-grandmother but I was. Even though she’s been gone for almost 15 years, if I close my eyes right now, I can still hear the way she use to say my name.

Her name was Rita Mae Murphy. At some point in the late 1930s/early 1940s she, along with my great-grandfather, fled Louisiana along with millions of other African Americans during the Great Migration.

My name out of her mouth had a bit of a country twang to it. “Ryeeeeennn” she’d call out whenever I walked into her house, “want to go to the garden?” Of course I always said yes. Though her home was in Compton—which during my childhood was considered the hood—the land her house sat on was massive. Back when she bought in the neighborhood, the area was all farmland.  

I remember that she had a pecan tree, avocado tree, rows and rows of collard greens, chickens and a horse or two on what my family lovingly referred to as “The Ranch.”

Now that I’ve returned to the South and live a few hours away from the Louisiana border, I often think about her.

What was her life when she was living in Ringgold, Louisiana in the early 1900s? My biggest regret now is that though she didn’t pass until I was 18, I never took the time to really get to know her. It never occured to me to ask her questions about marriage and raising children or even cooking. Now I wish I knew what her childhood was like. I wish I could hear her laughing when I asked who gave her her first kiss.  

I know that I inherited my capacity to love my family and my ability to nourish them with my hands from her. To watch her in the kitchen was to watch a master at work. Her house always smelled like good food and was reliably full of aunts, uncles and cousins ducking in and out of different doors and spaces.

When she passed, members of my family selected a few things of hers that we wanted to keep. Of course I didn’t know at the time that I would make my living in the food world, but it makes me smile that of all her possessions, I chose a cast-iron skillet, a punch bowl and a yellow casserole dish that I use all the time (like for my Cheater’s Bread Pudding).

Of all the fancy shit in my kitchen, her old skillet is the thing I reach for the most. It’s perfect for frying chicken, searing pork chops, making steaks, roasting veggies and even making a damn good blackberry cobbler.

Me playing with my mom, LaDonna Hughley and my grandfather Kenneth Murphy

Recently I found out that her skillet likely belonged to her mother, Sarah Ida Glover, and was made by the Griswold company sometime between 1909 and 1929. I’m so humbled to know that every time I’ve ever cooked a meal in my trusty cast-iron skillet, I’ve tapped into 100 years or so of family history.

That pan has traveled from Louisiana, to Los Angeles and back down South passing from my great-great grandmother’s kitchen, to my great-grandmother’s to mine.

Me in Ringgold, LA visiting my great-great grandmother’s gravesite in 2018.

One of my absolute favorite things to cook in my skillet is a crumbly pound cake. Buttery, delicately sweet and undeniably Southern, it’s a call back to the many women who are a part of my DNA.

This foolproof recipe is pantry-friendly and only requires butter, sugar, flour and a few pours of rich heavy cream.

Sadly this isn’t my great-grandmother’s recipe (I don’t have it), but this dessert tastes just like hers. .

If your grandparents are still around, I’d challenge you to ask them about their lives while you still have them. If there is a recipe of theirs that you love, ask them for it!

I hope you get to make happy memories in your own homes with this timeless classic.

Recipe adapted from Anne Byrn.

Cast Iron Pound Cake
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Cast Iron Pound Cake

Yield: 12-16 people
Author: Ryan Shepard
Prep time: 25 MinCook time: 1 H & 35 MTotal time: 2 Hour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional softened butter, for greasing the pan
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet with the softened butter.
  2. Place the room temperature butter and salt in a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, gradually, while beating on medium-low.
  3. Increase the mixer speed to medium once all the sugar has been incorporated, and beat until pale in color, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. With the mixer still on low speed, add one-third of the flour, followed by half of the cream, mixing until combined. Mix in another third of the flour, followed by the remaining cream, and then the remaining flour.
  5. Mix in the vanilla and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the batter into the prepared skillet, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula.
  6. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and crackly, 65 to 70 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour.
  7. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, give the pan a good shake, then invert the cake once, then again, so that the cake rests right-side up on the rack. Let it cool on the rack at least 1 hour before serving.
  8. (To store, wrap in aluminum foil or place in a cake saver, and store for up to five days. Alternatively, wrap in foil and freeze for up to six months.)

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Tag @ryannicoleshepard on instagram and hashtag it #brownsugarandbourbon
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Enjoy! Xoxo.
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