Troll Cave

The Care and Feeding of Barbarians

There is a poor sprite that drifts about these walls. She is entirely ungrounded in logic, or reason, or reality, and one never knows quite exactly where she is. I’m not entirely sure she knows where she is. At any rate, I feel I am constantly saving her life, either by reminding her to eat, or to sleep, or to come in out of the cold, all things which she has a propensity to either forget, or not see the use of, or simply find unnecessary, or hadn’t quite gotten to yet (even if it is only 6 degrees F and dropping, and dark out). Today I once again saved her from near certain death.

She cooks dinner once every other week, and today conspired to make Black Beans and Turkey (except, with ground beef) and Rice. This is taking life in her own hands, because it not only has the dubious beans, but also rice and soy sauce, two things which the most barbaric barbarians regard as an abomination. One might almost think she meant it as an act of hostility toward them, but this betrays a misunderstanding of the sprite. She simply never considered reality, or facts, among which includes a particularly hibernative barbarian being dragged out of bed at the utterly unreasonable hour of 5 am, and forced into labor.

So, in order to save her life, and theirs, and possibly even mine (I sit next to them at the supper table), I went about concocting emergency rations. The wilde beastes would need taming tonight, and that means food, namely dessert. With whatever ingredients were on hand. I chose Pound Cake.

The popular barbaric assumption is that Pound Cake is titled as such because you pound the cake, or pound someone with the cake, or pound someone in order to keep the cake as your own. At any rate, something to with pounding things, preferably people. In reality, Pound Cake is named such because this old recipe has very scientific beginnings, in which a pound of sugar, a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, and a pound of flour were all combined together and crammed in the oven.

Today’s recipe has been monkeyed with, and no longer has such elegance of proportions, but it is still nothing like that farce in a box that proclaims it is mix for ‘Pound Cake’ and produces only a light, fluffy, white cake. Pound Cake is golden yellow, very heavy and fine, has a chewy crust, a pleasant egg-y flavor, and cannot come out of a box at all, when so much of it is eggs and butter. It is best served with fruit, but is still quite good without.

Just as the ingredient list comes first, it is also wisest to gather all your ingredients, so raid the cupboards and freezers. The act is generally known in the highfalutin’ cooking world as mise en place, and which I cannot help but transliterate to missing place, generally meaning “See what’s missing from its place, lest you find yourself half-way through and in need of a few eggs, necessitating calling upon your neighbors to see if they might have one to spare.” Even barbarians like having neighbors around every now and again, though taking a break half-way through a recipe to drive a couple miles off and back again for an egg is still not as smoothly as things are meant to progress.

Usually, when said highfalutin’ cooking world depicts mise en place, they show all these cute little bowls carefully arranged, neatly and artfully, in front of a white clothed chef with the expression of cat who’s just caught a canary. Though I am not highfalutin’, I am no less artful in my missing place.

Missed placed

For 3 9″x5″ pans of Pound Cake, you will need:

6 sticks of butter
5 cups of sugar
15 eggs
6 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. lemon extract (or orange, or coconut)
Fruit of your choosing (I am using 16 cups of frozen strawberries, 8 cups sliced and 8 whole)

Preheat your oven to 325.

Butter three 9″x5″ baking pans. Don’t forget the corners and sides.

Buttering the pans

Flour them. I shake around the flour of one pan over the others, so any “spilled” flour can simply be used to flour the other pans.

Flour the pans

And now, pray you have a mixer sufficient to the task. Meet my comrade in arms.

Monster Mixer

We don’t actually get along so well. I’m continually filling him to capacity, which he finds both uncomfortable and very difficult to manage. Meanwhile, I can’t stand his high-pitched grinding, especially since I already have to put up with so much other noise, high-pitched and otherwise. But for certain tasks, we declare a truce and generally work with each other. Pound Cake is one such task, and I would be loathe to be without him. (Don’t let my father hear I said that.)

Since I pulled my butter straight from the deep freezer, it is, of course, rock hard. Or as rock hard as pure fat can be. I chop it into chunks with a bench knife and pile it into a microwaveable vessel, and play a game of luck and chance attempting to get it soft enough for the mixer to handle without melting it. I lost.


No matter, butter is butter, and it is still hard enough to cream. In goes the butter.

butter in the mixer

In goes the sugar (gradually).

Pour in the sugar

And the machine cheerfully creams it creamier than you’ve ever seen butter and sugar get creamed. It is very white, and very fluffy.

Creamed sugar

Next I begin to add the eggs, one by one. This is the part that makes mortal mixers cry like babies, because the mixture gets so thick. If you’re adding eggs while your mixer is running, be careful. I added one of my eggs rather carelessly, and shortly thereafter had to get out of the way as parts of egg yolk went flying.

One at a time.

You may have to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides occasionally. Even my mixer misses some of the corners.

Scrape down the sides

Having mixed in all the eggs, it still looks very fluffy, but is now a nice golden color.

All the eggs are in

I do not sift in the flour, but it is important to mix it as little as possible at this point. Up until you put the flour in, the more you mix it, the lighter the cake will be. After you add the flour, any amount of mixing will encourage gluten development, and a tough, chewy cake. Mix it until just barely incorporated. Though the batter has a lot of air mixed into it, it is very, very heavy. I’ve sent many a good mixer to an early death making Pound Cake.

Add the flour

Add the salt and extracts, and again, mix as little as possible.

Add the remaining ingredients

Dump it into the prepared pans.

Pour into the pans

Smooth them off prettily, like you’ve just caught a canary. . .

smooth it out

. . . and pop them in the oven for an hour and a half, or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. (If your oven runs hot, you’ll want to check them early.) They will be a deep golden brown on the top. Let them sit 5 minutes, and then turn them out on a rack to cool.

Baked and brown

You can pop together the fruit sauce at the very last minute. I put my 4 bags (16 cups) of still mostly frozen berries in a pan, added 4 very generous soup-spoonfuls of cornstartch and one cup of sugar. I left it on low while I ate supper, but that hardly made a dent in it, so I turned the heat up to high, and kept stirring it. By the time the berries defrosted, the cornstarch and sugar had also thickened it.

Strawberry sauce

Here’s what you have:

missed in it's place, again.

The original recipe says to “slice very thin”, which is of course a very funny joke. Take a nice slice,

slice it thick!

put a generous ladleful of berries over it, add a dab of “whipped topping” (real whipped cream is of course much better, but generally not on hand during sudden emergencies), and enjoy.


My barbarians rapidly devoured all the strawberries, and two of the pound cakes. The third pound cake made scanty leftovers the next day. The matriarch said she didn’t care for warm strawberries, which was generally dismissed as absurd by the rest of the barbarians. The patriarch was trying to watch his cholesterol, so he ate (and thoroughly enjoyed) his warm strawberries over torn up, fresh-baked bread.

Posted in Recipes | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Mother of Barbarians (aka the Matriarch) Says:

    Almond extract is also very good.

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