“I want a piece of cake.”

My dad enjoys his food and clearly has since birth.  Grandmom wrote in his baby book that his first sentence was “I want a piece of cake.”  My great-grandmother – Ida Gates Hamlin – made the most amazing biscuits.  I can still remember how they smelled and tasted.  She also made a great pound cake.  No matter how I try to top her recipe with one of my own, hers remains everyone’s favorite.

Here are two of my favorite cake recipes.


from the kitchen of Ida Rebecca Gates Hamlin:

Pound Cake

Cream together 2 sticks butter, ½ cup shortening and 3 cups sugar. Add 1-teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Add 6 medium eggs, beating in one at a time. Sift together 3 times: 3 cups flour, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon baking powder. Stir in 1-cup milk divided into thirds alternating with flour so you end with milk. Bake in a well-greased and floured large tube pan at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cake stand in pan for 10 minutes before inverting.



from the kitchen of Nellie Russell Clark Wilkerson:

Carrot Cake

1 cup Wesson Oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
2 1/2 tablespoons hot water
Beat this together.
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a little salt
Sift this together and add to first mixture.
Next add
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup nuts (optional)
Whites of 3 eggs.  Beat and fold in lightly.
Bake 350 degrees – 55 minutes
Grease tube pan – line with wax paper..
Place on rack to cool.


Nellie Russell Clark

523795_10151518215507524_1485757310_nNellie Russell Clark was born 5 October 1895 in Manchester, Cumberland County, North Carolina to Emma Delilah Russell and John McFagden Clark.  She was the youngest of six children.  Her oldest sister Frances Reid Clark, known as “Fannie” to many and as “Sissie” to her siblings, was also her school teacher.

She married Joseph Lawrence Wilkerson of Durham, North Carolina.  In December of 1915, their daughter Helon Clark Wilkerson was born.  Just over 12 years later in January of 1928, their daughter Marie Lawrence Wilkerson was born.

Nellie died on 10 January 1966 — months before I was born.  She is buried at Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina.

285631_10151757855262524_834426837_nNellie was quite deft with a needle.  My parents have a quilt square that was pieced by her and then embroidered with the names of my grandparents and possibly the date the quilt was completed.  She also made the wedding gown worn by my grandmother Helon and then my aunt Marie.  As you can see from Marie’s wedding portrait, the gown was beautiful.


She almost most likely made the baptismal gown worn here by her daughter Helon.  Her great granddaughter Rachel was the last to wear it.  I thought Caitlin had worn it, but she told me earlier today, she hadn’t.  Nellie’s mother-in-law, Mittie Herndon Wilkerson, was a dressmaker, so she could have helped with the baptismal gown.

373932_10150685326727524_1141051994_nI think it very telling that when I ask different family members about my great grandmother Nellie, they all get the same soft smile on their faces before they answer and tell that she was just the nicest person, a gentle person, a good person.

Dad called her Big Mama.  I always thought it was because she was his mother’s mother.  Makes sense, right?   Anyway, he tells me she would greet him by saying, “Hey, Big Bill.”  He would reply, “Hey, Big Mama.”  Of course then Dad and I get a bit silly and repeat the “Heys” a few times.