09/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Slice of Welcome, A Piece of Consolation

Recently, we received news the most wonderful company was paying us an overnight visit. On their arrival day, I got up super early and baked this two layer yellow pudding cake.


With each step of its preparation -- from opening the boxed mix to greasing the pans to turning out the layers to cool to licking the ready-made dark chocolate icing from the spatula - I thought about our long distance friends and the joy that would accompany their visit.

Upon learning a few days later of the death of an acquaintance's beloved wife, I baked this chocolate pound cake.


And with each step - from sifting the flour to beating fresh ingredients until creamy to slipping the tube onto a bottle for even cooling to cutting flowers for decorating the platter - I thought about the number of times we'd talked about driving the half an hour to pay a visit, and did not.

Baking a cake requires one to slow down and provides the opportunity for reflection. And whether out of the box or carefully measured out, as an expression of welcome or consolation, cake is always greeted with accolades. Baking a cake is time well spent.

Chocolate Pound Cake

1 cup butter, softened
one-half cup shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
one-half teaspoon baking powder
one-half teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Cream butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. Sift together dry ingredients. Alternating with milk and vanilla, add dry mixture to creamed mixture, mixing well with each addition. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 60-90 minutes at 325 degrees, testing for doneness with a wooden pick. Cool 20 minutes before removing from pan. Serves 15. Freezes very well.