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Joni Woolf: Chocolate pound cake for chocoholics

Thirty years ago when Lynn Cass and I started Macon Magazine, and were recruiting writers for the various departments that we planned to include in each issue, a woman named Louise Dodd approached us, offering to be our food writer. An experienced food writer and reviewer, Louise knew the pay would be small, but if the magazine grew as we expected, her fame would increase. The publication grew and matured, and Louise’s already well-established reputation expanded even more. Long after the magazine was sold to its current owners, and Louise was no longer the food reviewer, she published a fine cookbook (that sold out) called “Eating from the White House to the Jail House.” Every recipe begins with a story, and one can almost hear Louise, in her heavy Southern accent, reading the beginning paragraphs to her audience.
The last time I saw Louise she had driven down from Macon with two friends to attend a small meeting I was hosting for state Rep. Dubose Porter (who was running for governor of Georgia at the time). She didn’t find the house right away, but she and her friends traveled up and down Bumphead Road, enjoying the scenery on a warm summer day, and laughing about it. Dubose happened to be Louise’s son-in-law, and she had brought his favorite cake — Chocolate Pound Cake. She smiled as she said, “This is his favorite, and I always bring him one.” It was not for sharing; it was for him to take home. What many did not know (and she never talked about) was that Louise had suffered from leukemia for many years and it was returning with a vengeance. This would be the last time we would be together.
These days, Louise lives on in my memory — and so does her chocolate pound cake. When she describes it in her cookbook, she says:
“I really like this Chocolate Pound Cake. I really like it. Not only is it easy to make and big, it is moist and good. When Herschel Walker was the football star of the world, I interviewed his mother for an article in the [Dublin, GA] Courier Herald. She and I both lived in Wrightsville.
“I learned from Mrs. Walker that Herschel’s favorite cake was chocolate and the next time he came home I took him one of these cakes. It and he are both winners.”
The cake is a classic, and can probably be found in many Southern cookbooks. But she put her own finishing touch on it as I do when I bake it. Her frosting recipe called for 1/2 cup of Crisco and two cups of sugar, and I decided to use a simpler recipe I had gotten from another friend (Mary Cox) back in 1966 — it uses half as much sugar, butter instead of Crisco, and sets nicely into a firm frosting that appears to be dripping down the sides of the cake. So here’s Louise’s cake, with Mary’s frosting — isn’t this how we pass down recipes in the South?

Chocolate Pound Cake
2 sticks butter            1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening     3 cups flour
3 cups sugar             1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 eggs                 1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cocoa         2 teaspoons vanilla
Cream butter and shortening with sugar. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each one. Sift all dry ingredients and add alternately with milk to butter mixture. Add vanilla. Cook in greased and floured tube pan at 325 degrees F. for 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done.

Frosting Recipe
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix first four ingredients together in medium sized pan. Bring to a boil; boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat to spreading consistency 6 to 8 minutes. Pour over cake, letting frosting run down sides.

Now I’m going to the kitchen and bake the Chocolate Pound Cake to take to my nephew, Ross McDougall, who I will be visiting this weekend in North Carolina. Ross was at Georgia during the Walker years and was, like my daughter Carey (who was a freshman with Walker), not just a fan of Walker’s, but a great admirer — of the athlete and the man he became. One of a kind. Like the chocolate cake.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net