My mother was serious not just about food, but about all the props that accompany it. What does that mean? For Mommy, it meant beautiful linen table clothes that she bought when she traveled across Europe on her way back from her year abroad in Turkey. (Mom was hip. She moved to Turkey in the early 1950s to teach at a girls' school. She lived on the Asian side of Istanbul and taught on the European side of the city. She even learned Turkish!) We have table clothes from Belgium, Spain, and I believe, France (need to double-check that one with my sister, Sherri). She added to her collection when we were children, buying a gorgeous Chinese, hand-embroidered silk table cloth that looks like huge, translucent butterfly wings. And several, gorgeous, intricately designed table cloths.
On top of the table cloths went bone china. Mommy and Daddy were hard core about good dishes and glasses. We always set the table with the Crystal D'Arc glasses. And we used Aunt Mill's antique Rosenthal service for the holiday parties. For other gatherings, there were the Spode Royal Windsor the Princess Grace services, both completed by tea cups and saucers. That brings me to the focus of this blog: my mom's afternoon teas.
Mommy always made sure that there was something sweet and delicious on the sideboard. (I should point out that my mother looked in various furniture stores for the right sideboard to hold her china, but couldn't find anything she liked. So she told Daddy what she wanted and he designed and built one for her.) Very often, the sideboard held some kind of cake. I remember vividly how Mommy would come home from work with a few of her friends, whom she had invited for tea. While the water for tea boiled, Mommy (or my sister and I) would set the table. I can see Mommy putting two knives in the china teapot as she added the boiling water, to make sure it didn't shatter. She and her friends would enjoy her homemade cake along with the tea and good conversation. As a little girl, I loved sitting with them and eating from pretty plates. It made me feel grown-up and important. Good china made that cake taste even better! Seriously.
Mommy came by this kind of hospitality honestly. On The Hill in Roanoke, Nonny (my maternal grandmother) ALWAYS had cake on hand. Always. Right now, there's a nice spice cake with a 7-minute frosting at my house.
But I think I'd like to post a pound cake recipe. Traditionally, pound cake is made with a pound of butter, eggs (usually between 8 and 10), flour and sugar. It does not rely on any leavening agents or milk. Don't think about your cholesterol level if you plan to make this rich cake.
Enjoy your afternoon tea!
3 c. sugar
1 lb. butter, softened
4 c. plain flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Measure and sift flour, baking powder and dash of salt. Add flour to mixture only until well blended. Put in 10 inch tube pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool in pan for a few minutes before removing.