Pound cake has been a staple dessert in the diet of many southerners. Personally, I have not gone a holiday without seeing it offered on the dessert table. This cake has a simple recipe and ingredient list which makes it accessible to all people. It was originally created in Britain in the early 1700s and was called pound cake because it had a pound of its four ingredients: sugar, butter, flour, and eggs. This recipe was introduced to America in America’s first cookbook, American Cookery, written by Amelia Simmons in the late 1700s. The next prominent pound cake recipe that would forever connect the dessert to the south was Abby Fisher’s version in her book, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, from 1881. Fisher was a former slave in South Carolina who was freed after the Civil War. Her cookbook made Fisher the first published African American chef. Fisher’s pound cake recipe used egg whites and yeast to help the cake rise since mixers were not around to help people beat the large amount of butter pound cakes usually demand.
Over the years as new ingredients and kitchen appliances are made, pound cake recipes in the south have gained some variety but it has mainly stayed the same. The typically southern pound cake is dense, baked in a loaf or bundt pan, and has a vanilla or lemon flavor. These cakes will sometimes have an iced top layer to add more flavor. In the south, it is common for each family to have their own version of a pound cake recipe. Although it may seem hard to tell the difference in a cake with such few ingredients, each family recipe has its own recipe they never stray from. Pound cake holds a lot of importance in southern culture, not just for its place as a staple dessert, but because it allows families to continue traditions made by their past generations. The south prides itself on following traditions, good or bad, and the passing down of pound cake recipes has given families a tradition of their own. Pound cake recipes allow family members to stay connected with one another, even as generations go by.
Dr. Joe Kelly is a professor in the English department at the College of Charleston. He is currently the director of the Irish and Irish American Studies and has taught classes in modern Irish literature, modern British literature, composition, and western civilization. When Professor Kelly was 15, he moved from his home in New Jersey to Texas, which would later have a large impact on his career field. Professor Kelly would go on to attend the University of Dallas to get his bachelor’s degree in English and he would then attend the University of Texas at Austin to receive both his masters and doctorate in English.
Being from an “old catholic Irish family”, Professor Kelly had a large interest in Irish literature and has written many pieces on the famous Irish author James Joyce. Although it may seem that Irish culture has little to do with the south, Professor Kelly does discuss how Irish nationalism was inspired by the civil rights movement in southern states. While he didn’t study the south specifically, Professor Kelly’s research and location in the south provided him the opportunity to write an article on Irish history in Charleston. After learning about the Irish history in the south, specifically looking towards Catholic Bishop John England, Professor Kelly took a turn in his career and began to look more at history than just literary criticism. He describes the situation as “it was just the fact that I happened to be living in the south that led to this encyclopedia article and then my fascination in writing this 500 word encyclopedia article led to this book which really changed the course of my career and I became, I would describe myself now as somebody who rights the history of ideas as opposed to the literary criticism”. Many of Professor Kelly’s works would now showcase this shift towards a different type of narrative.
In his most recent novel Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, Professor Kelly offers a different perspective to the beginning of America that focuses on reconstructing the confounding mythology of American history. He states that “It’s not so much that I’m interpreting things as I’m trying, myself at least in a small part, to contribute to that myth making”. In another one of his works that focuses more directly on the south, America’s Longest Siege: How Charleston Caused the Civil War, Professor Kelly is able to showcase the impact slavery had on Charleston culture which then affected the start of the Civil War. Both of these novels use the new type of narrative that Professor Kelly discovered while writing on the Irish south.
Professor Kelly’s current project is a novel showcasing the battle between two ideologies, liberal democracy and fascism, between World War l and World War ll. He plans on writing a narrative to show how modern writers were able to shift American culture in a way that allowed liberal democracy to succeed.