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Coping List & Cornmeal Pound Cake

Cornmeal Pound Cake | Delightful Crumb

Hello, friends. How are you holding up out there? These are strange times—as we are all well aware. Many people have said wise and thoughtful things about this moment, and many more have said loud and frightening things, and I don’t know that I need to add to the clamor. If you’re like me, perhaps it’s hard to keep all of that reading and absorbing to a minimum already…? Instead, I am here to share a few small things that are helping me to cope, pound cake included. I narrowed my list to 10 and left out the basics—you should, indeed, call friends and family, exercise and keep up/start therapy if you need it. Also, I’ve worked from home for four years now, and I will affirm what they are saying: we should all be showering in the morning, wearing real clothes and scheduling a start and end to the workday. Close the door on your office (or even just the materials) if you can.

And so, here are my top 10! How are you finding peace amidst the chaos?

1. Take daytime breaks. Make a cup of coffee, step outside, walk around the house or meditate for a couple of minutes.

2. Go outside! Whether this is for a quick break, my morning run or drinking tea on the porch, the fresh air is not only good for my soul but a reminder that spring is coming—and always does.

3. Amplify the good vibes. I love all of the positive things that people are doing on the internet and social media, but there’s a lot of stressful stuff on there, too. I’m trying to take in the encouraging aspects, then step away.

4. On the flip side, quiet the extra noise. If something is bringing you down, mute that Instagram account and return to point number two! Also, I so appreciate that everyone is connecting more, but even this (and the associated screens) can overwhelm me. If you are finding the same, focus your attention and spread out the calls.

5. And relatedly, no social media or news first thing. I have historically not been great at this, but I’m trying to fill the initial empty morning space with good things that will set my day off right.

6. Write handwritten notes. When my anxiety reaches its heights, it always helps me to get out of my own head and think about other people. Postcards and letters force me to slow down and don’t require staring at another screen—and who doesn’t love receiving mail?!

7. Watch musicals, up to and including the goofy ones, if not especially those. Apparently I should have better prepared Ben for the strangeness of Bye Bye Birdie, and I cried about seven times during Fiddler on the Roof, but this is nonetheless working for us. (Note: If you, as a rule, don’t like musicals, this advice is not for you.)

8. Sit down for dinner, and/or any other meal where you’re able. The tangible nourishment of food is a comfort, and God knows we need that right now.

9. No coronavirus talk at said mealtimes.

10. Bake! (And then eat the delicious thing you’ve baked.)

Before I get to the baking, I’ll make just one observation. What feels perhaps most unique about this situation is that it is collective, not individual. So many crises are personal, and we can ignore them if they are not our own. But this is not like that. Here, the whole point is the collective. If we are not careful, we endanger not just the most vulnerable among us but everyone. Personal risk is just one factor in a much bigger picture, and the truth is, that was always the case. If nothing else, I hope that this moment changes us for the better—that we might move forward as though we do, indeed, believe we’re all connected.

And so, I offer you a classic recipe from the great Claudia Fleming that does require quite a quantity of butter and half a dozen eggs but pays off with richness and comfort and—dare I say—a delightful crumb. They say that the supply chains are healthy, so let’s just go big. Slices are delicious for dessert with a dollop of yogurt and spoonful of jam, or on their own for your afternoon coffee break. Freeze a few slices for future you, or leave them by your neighbor’s door, and keep your head up.

Cornmeal Pound Cake

Lightly adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course

Makes one 9×5 loaf, about 10 servings

With recipes that call for lowering oven temperature, I often have a little bit of trouble with my old apartment ovens. If you’re in the same boat, just start checking early while also being prepared for the cake to need even more time to bake. Tenting with foil will keep it from getting too brown.

Cornmeal Pound Cake | Delightful Crumb

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus additional

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour (or substitute all-purpose), plus additional

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until well combined, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. (If you want to overachieve, sift them.) Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Gradually add this to the butter mixture, beating well to combine. If the batter curdles, add a spoonful or two of the dry mixture.

Add half of the dry mixture to the batter and beat to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients, gently folding in with a spatula.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes longer, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cake is getting overly browned but isn’t yet done, tent with foil and continue baking.

Let the cake cool slightly on a rack before removing from the pan to continue cooling. Serve alone or with compote, fruit or jam and/or whipped cream, crème fraîche, ice cream or yogurt.

Note: I’m aware that there’s something wrong with the comment function on my site right now—I’m working on getting to the bottom of it! Thanks for putting up with the lo-fi nature of this humble blog in the meantime.

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