My sister Wendy gives parties -- small ones for her family of five, large ones for her international mix of friends, in her kitchen, buffet style, around her swimming pool with fajitas and margaritas, or grilling marinated chicken and hot dogs at her neighborhood clubhouse. So when I fly in from Los Angeles to visit her and the rest of my large family in Atlanta, I often walk in on a feast of leftovers crowding her counter space from parties past, and filling her refrigerator for parties future.
A few years ago, amid the rugelach from her mother-in-law, a cornucopia of unusual chips, huge brownies and other interesting treats, I saw a simple loaf cake wrapped nice and tight on the kitchen counter. My sister gladly parted with a thick portion, as she said she couldn't afford to keep eating it. With one taste, I understood. Whole, it had the nice browned crust of an old-fashioned pound cake. Sliced, the moist insides had the light, creamy color of a rich butter cake. But the taste was fuller, rounder, more delectable (and yes, fattening) since it was made with a healthy portion of cream cheese. To me, the satisfying depth of the center had no end.
When I asked my sister what party the cake was from, she said it wasn't: "My neighbor, Pat, makes a bunch of these and gives them to people, just because."
And just because of Pat, and the cheese in the ingredients and the overwhelmingly giving taste, I think her Cream Cheese Pound Cake is the perfect Shavuot treat, since eating dairy on the first day is one of the customs for celebrating this holiday. And the other, reading Torah, not only celebrates God's gift of the Torah to the Jewish people, but reminds us that in the receiving, we were "experiencing the Divine," according to "The Jewish Holidays, A Guide and Commentary" by Michael Strassfeld (HarperCollins, 1985).
Pat's Cream Cheese Pound Cake
3 sticks butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
6 large eggs
3 cups cake flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Coat two 9-by-5-by-3 loaf pans with butter or vegetable oil. Line with wax paper and coat paper with butter or oil.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Turn mixer to low and gradually add cake flour, mixing thoroughly and scraping sides as needed.
Transfer batter to prepared loaf pans and smooth tops with spatula.
Bake for 75-90 minutes. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and each cake pulls away from the sides of its pan.
Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and cool completely.
Two loaves, each serving 12.
Lisa Solomon's food articles have been seen in several publications, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Washington Jewish Week and The Canadian Jewish News.