Mama Helen, my precious MIL and Ben’s mom, was a fabulous Southern woman and a well-known and prolific home cook. Over the years of being in the Phillips family with her and Daddy Howard, Ben’s Dad, I had many meals in her kitchens. The cabin, the Finley Park house, the condo, or the beach house. Every place she hung her hat, there were several oiled and well-used cast iron skillets, spatulas, wooden spoons, pots and pans. From stringy beef, cukes & buttermilk, tomato pie, and peach cobbler to cornbread and her famous home-canned green beans, Mama Helen’s meals were truly the kind you just wanted to sit and eat more and more and more.
Two of her dessert specialties that I especially love are her coconut cake and her pound cake When she and Daddy Howard would come to visit us, she’d always ask what I wanted her to make, and the answer wasn’t hard. Your pound cake or your coconut cake. When they pulled up in their wagon at our house, there’d always be both! This vintage recipe is one that has a huge significance and history to it, for me. Where or how Mama Helen learned to make it, I don’t know, but her culinary talents and heritage live on through all of us Phillips’ girls who have a copy of her hand-written ‘cookbook’ where she describes the recipes as if she’s right there talking with you. And, Mama Helen would not mind one iota that I ‘boho’d’ her original recipe just a tad by adding fresh lemon zest/juice and an extra teaspoon of vanilla.
- Oven temperature 350
- 3 cups sugar
- 16 Tbl. butter, salted and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, solid, Crisco
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 tsp. lemon extract
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 3 cups sifted flour, all-purpose
- 1 Tbl. baking powder
- Cream together the butter, Crisco and sugar. Add one egg at a time and beat well. Add vanilla and lemon extract to milk and blend slowly into the batter.
- Sift the flour and add one cup to the batter and beat well. Add a second cup of sifted flour and beat well. Add the baking powder to the last cup and sift again. Add to batter and beat well.
- Coat bundt pan well (Crisco preferred) and dust with flour. Pour thick batter into pan. Put in cold oven at 350 degrees and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Do the toothpick test. Remove and let cool about 45 minutes.
I made the cake at high altitude (7k+) and preheated the oven to 350, baked for an hour, then reduced the temp to 325 for another 20-25 minutes. If the top gets cover the top loosely with doubled foil to keep from getting the top too brown.