Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Manly Man's Birthday



Are you sitting down? The Associated Press reported today that Charlotte (yes, N.C.) is the second manliest city in the United States. (See complete article.)

True, Nashville, with all its country singers and cowboy hats took top honors, but given the amount of tomato sauce in their BBQ, I think we can claim the crown in 2010. Or is it a belt? On the other hand, we did just land an IKEA store, which although thrilling, certainly diminishes the Queen City's masculinity. (Lucky for us they didn't consider city nicknames, huh?)

I'm doing my part though. My own son turned 14 today. In Medieval times, it's the age at which he could have become a squire. For him, it's just another day in eighth grade. For me, it's a milestone.

In the "manliest" survey, researchers looked at our city's cars, snacks, professional sports teams and power tools, but a parent's perspective is different.

And while I harrass my own 14-year-old a good bit, I can see that he's well on his way to manhood. He's a good guy. A good friend. A good student. And a good son. He's not a follower, but has the judgment to know when to go with the flow. He can pitch a tent, make a friend laugh, write an essay, cheer a teammate, do his own laundry, ask a girl to dance, work for a good cause, and explain homework to his younger sister when I (despite being repetitive and using my loudest voice) have failed.

He can admit when he's wrong -- usually with good humor. He can stand up for what he believes in. He's a fan of The Dark Knight and Spamalot, but for the right girl, can also watch Marley and Me -- with no snarky asides. And he's the kind of babysitter little kids love and parents too, because he does the dishes and puts away the toys.

Today's his day.

To my unceasing surprise, though, he's not a cake-eater. In years past, we've celebrated with cookie cakes, ice cream cakes and even tiramisu. This year, I've insisted on a "real" cake. I promised to replicate the Starbucks marble loaf he routinely orders, by tweaking one of my own favorite recipes.

A good man deserves a good cake. But only after today's English test and baseball game. He is, after all, still a kid.

Marbled Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In mixer, cream butter and slowly add sugar, beating constantly to cream well. One at a time, add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in vanilla and sour cream. Put about 1/3 of batter in a separate bowl, stirring in cocoa powder and chocolate.

Spoon half of "plain" batter into prepared pan. Spoon (randomly) chocolate batter into pan, trying not to make a "layer." The result should be blotchy. Spoon remaining "plain" batter on top. Draw a butter knife through the batter -- one time around the pan. (Don't swirl.)

Bake 1 1/2 hours or until cake tests done. Place on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes, before turning out to cool completely. Serve with confectioners' sugar, whipped cream and fresh berries. (Alternately, bake in three 4" x 8" loaf pans, for about an hour. Freezes well.)




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