The Real First Day of Summer


May, while technically spring most everywhere else, is the beginning of summer in the South.

Memorial Day is officially the unofficial first day of summer down here, and this year it’s supposed to rain. There were plans to go to the lake and cliff dive, but it looks like we will probably end up at the mall doing last minute shopping for our upcoming beach trip, which is fine because we all need new swim suits and towels.

And we are tired.

But we will shop and recover because tomorrow afternoon we have plans…

We will head across the street for our neighborhood cookout where we will reconnect with our neighbors after the abnormally cold winter we had.  The men will talk about lawn mowers and football while the women discuss which tomatoes they are growing, the best wine for the summer, and which sunscreens to use on our faces.

There will be burgers and beans and cole slaw and potato salad.  There will be a few veggie trays and most likely a Paleo dish or two.

And I will bring a pound cake.

It’s not just any pound cake. This one is spiked for flavor, but don’t worry- no one gets tipsy from this cake- the alcohol cooks out. Add to that a soaking sauce full of butter and orange juice, and you can’t really go wrong.

I have one the loyalty of our entire street with this cake.  And there’s never been a leftover crumb.

It’s an inherited trait from my paternal grandmother. I got her hands, her metabolism, and her ability to woo a sweet-tooth.

I grew up traipsing behind both of my grandmothers all of my childhood. They taught me how to bake, can vegetables, set a table, string beans, and conjugate verbs in Latin among other things.

The culture of the South is held in the hands of the women, which is why grandmothers are so vital to girls. They serve two purposes: they are the historians of the family rich with recipes, traditions, and stories, and because they serve as benevolent buffers until we become human again after the teen years and develop the ability to appreciate our own mothers.

But mostly, the recipes…

I could write a book about the foods and traditions Buddy and Nana taught me when I was a child, but today we’ll start with a spiked pound.

And if you’re lucky, when we’re closing in on the 4th of July, I’ll tell you how to make the best homemade ice cream you’ve ever had.

Harvey Wallbanger Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern, Dessert, Cake, Pound Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This is an old family recipe for a pound cake that never yields left-overs. Ever.
  • 1 Deluxe Yellow Cake Mix (I use Duncan Hines)
  • 1 3 oz. pkg of Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup Galliano (Italian liqueur)
  • ¼ cup Vodka
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (fresh is better, but you can use store-bought OJ)
  • 4 eggs
  • Soaking Sauce
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Mix all ingredients for the cake on high speed for 4 minutes.
  2. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan
  3. Bake at 325 for 1 hour to 1.5 hours (when a skewer comes out clean)
  4. Mix sauce in a sauce pan on the stove until bubbly.
  5. Cool the cake for 15-20 minutes in the pan
  6. WHILE THE CAKE IS IN THE BUNDT PAN- pour the sauce over it and let it stand for 30 minutes.
  7. Invert the pan on a plate and serve.

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