Plain Cake Dr. Clara May Isley (my great, great aunt)

My mother collected pound cake recipes mainly because they were my father’s favorite dessert.  When I got married my parents presented me with an index box filled with hand-written family recipes.  This one from Clara May (a pediatrician and quite a rarity for a woman at that time) was noted by my father as being “Very, very good.”  See for yourself if you like it too. 


2 sticks unsalted butter

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons lemon zest

 For the glaze:

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons Lemoncello


Cooking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350⁰F

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Butter a loaf or tube pan.  Then, coat it with flour.  Hit the side of the pan against a surface to help dislodge any accumulation of flour.  Toss out excess flour.   

1.       Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl for about 5 minutes (I used a standing mixer.)

2.       Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.

3.       Sift the flour before measuring it into a bowl.

4.       Add salt and mix thoroughly.

5.       Add the dry ingredients-- in three equal portions-- to the creamed butter mixture.

6.       Add the vanilla and lemon zest.  Mix thoroughly.

7.       Pour the batter into a prepared loaf or tube pan.

8.       Cook for an hour.  Be sure to test after 50 minutes.  (If using a tube pan, cook 15 minutes longer). Don’t let the cake overcook.  Unlike most recipes which say the cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean, my aunt suggested having a few crumbs on it.  She claims, and correctly so, the cake will continue to cook a bit once removed from the oven.

9.       While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Warm the juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add Lemoncello.

10.   Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes covered in a dish towel.

11.   Remove from pan, place on serving plate.  Then, liberally apply glaze with a pastry brush on the top and sides of the cake. 

Serving suggestions: This plain cake recipe is a canvas upon which you can add your own personal touches. I like to add fresh berries for color and texture contrast plus a scoop of lemon sorbet.

Serves up to 12 people, depending on the size of your servings.