Fresh & Fluffy Sun Drop Pound Cake


When you’re a kid growing up in the American South, you have the opportunity to contribute to shelves full of cookbooks. Your schools, churches, civic organizations and other community groups constantly compile and release volumes of recipes. At least that was true back in the 1980s and 1990s when I navigated grade school in western North Carolina.

Recently my mom introduced my wife Molly to a “Springfield Specialties” cookbook produced by my first elementary school, Springfield in Stanley, N.C. Children and their parents submitted recipes for the book, which was accompanied by student drawings of food and kitchen implements.

Cookbook Cover

Molly gravitated to the dessert sections of the cookbook, and she ultimately landed on a Sun Drop Pound Cake to make and sample first. Sun Drop has always been somewhat of a preferred drink on both sides of our family, particularly for our dads, so it seemed a natural choice to bake into a cake.


Here’s the Sun Drop Pound Cake recipe, straight from the book:

Sun Drop Cake Recipe

We discovered that the Sun Drop flavor is actually pretty subtle in this recipe. The impact of the cake flour it recommends is much more profound! Molly and I had neither one baked with cake flour previously, and we learned in this experiment that it produces a fluffy, spongy cake that is quite delightful in texture and flavor, much different than the result of regular baking flour options!


Our small town grocery stores didn’t offer many options for cake flour, so you might have to look closely or ask what’s available. I found this box hiding on a top shelf, the only one of its kind.

Adding the glaze over the hot cake leads to a very sweet, satisfying confection that we recommend you sample as soon as you make it for the best experience possible! We also found that, like many pound cakes, this Sun Drop Pound Cake pairs quite nicely with your favorite vanilla ice cream for an extra special treat.

As a #FoodieScore Pro Tip I learned from my parents during my childhood, you can rejuvenate slices of cake after it’s several days old by cutting hunks and toasting them lightly in a toaster oven or conventional oven. A slightly browned piece of pound cake with freshly and slightly melted icing is a nice surprise when you expect it to become much drier as it sits. The method really preserves cake nicely!


Thank you to my elementary schoolmate Marinda Teague and her family for sharing the recipe all those years ago. When the Springfield cookbook debuted in 1991, my wife had just been born. The experience of baking the cake together is a reminder of the timeless beauty of cookbooks, family and community recipes, and food that connects generations of people.

A Meal in Memory of Grandma

housewife and cook

Food is more substance than just sustenance for me. For some people, cooking and eating are just necessary functions for life. For me, each meal’s preparation and consumption is an experience to relish and remember. Much credit for that goes to my maternal grandmother, Vember Christine Allred Quinn.

Grandma passed away on Oct. 20 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She still continued to enjoy some of her favorite foods until the final weeks and days of her amazing 88-year life, even though she hadn’t been able to think through the process of making a meal herself in years.

I deeply miss Grandma Vember’s cooking, along with so many other things that made her a beautiful person. Meals at her house, especially at times like Thanksgiving, meant I got to sit around the table with her, Grandpa, Mom and Dad to eat and talk. Each one of us always sat in the same place, and my seat was to Grandma’s left, also next to Mom.


Grandma’s passing has had me thinking about the dishes and recipes of hers that I recall most fondly. So I’ve decided to put together a meal at Grandma’s house, and I’d like to invite you to join me for dinner. No reservation or transportation is necessary. Just continue reading and enjoy this simple yet special table of memories with me in the plates below. Here’s what’s on the menu.

FLANK STEAK: Grandma cooked the most flavorful, tender flank steak—and we just called it steak—I’ve ever consumed. My own is not nearly as tasty or chewable. Flank steak has a tendency to be tough in consistency. Not grandma’s. As I remember, hers had a light but very meaty quality to it, with a slightly soft, slightly crispy coating that had a hint of pepper in taste. This was my favorite main dish for grandma to prepare, and I’d still take a pan of flank steak now over any other more expensive cut of meat.

HOPPY TOAD BISCUITS: Perhaps my favorite food prepared by my grandmother was her biscuits. I can still picture the containers of ingredients in the bottom kitchen cabinet and her hands at work in the dough on the counter above. She’d nestle the biscuits close together and they’d join in the sided pan in the oven. When they hit the table, we’d break them apart, and they’d seemingly hop from the plate and into our mouths. They were small biscuits, shaped by the pan’s sides and their neighboring pieces of dough, with a slightly crisp outside and a soft but completely done middle. I’ve never eaten a biscuit like Grandma’s.

GREEN BEANS AND POTATOES: Some dishes are more about the memories attached than the unique recipe in which they originate. That’s how I feel about a pot of Grandma’s green beans and potatoes. In my mind, I can see the glass pot and lid that she always used for her green beans and potatoes. Neither the beans nor the potatoes were any sort of premium quality, and they weren’t seasoned in any creative way, to my knowledge. But the combination of a can of green beans and a can of whole potatoes introduced to me the realization that food can be both simple and fulfilling.

OLD DRY CAKE AND CHOCOLATE GRAVY: This is just a basic cake with butter, milk, eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla, but there’s nothing ordinary about its story in our family. Grandma made the cake once, before I’d ever tasted it myself, when Great Aunt Kathleen was eating with my grandparents and Mom. Grandpa asked her how she liked it, and Kathleen answered that it was a little dry. It’s since been known as the “Old Dry Cake.” Sometimes when she made it she’d cook a chocolate sauce (also known as chocolate gravy) and pour it over the hot cake, allowing it to run over and into the cake. I dare say you haven’t lived if you haven’t had chocolate gravy poured over “Old Dry Cake.”

If I could have Grandma make one meal right now, those dishes are exactly what I would request. They’re emblazoned on my heart, and their memories have influenced my interest in cooking and zeal for how I feed myself and my wife Molly. Thank you, Grandma. I think of you every time I step into the kitchen.

In Memory of Vember Christine Allred Quinn (Oct. 11, 1929-Oct. 20, 2017)

Chocolate Syrup Pound Cake

This delicious chocolate cake recipe came from a news story I did as a reporter for The Star. A couple in Shelby turned their grandmother Nell’s old home into Nell’s Farm House, a place for quiet, country lodging near Shelby and Gardner-Webb University. Included in your stay is access to some of Nell’s amazingly unique recipes, like this Chocolate Syrup Pound Cake.

I was very excited to make it, mainly because of the unique ingredient of chocolate syrup, as opposed to using the more traditional ingredient: cocoa. I wanted to see how it changed the flavor and texture. So how was it? The flavor is delicious, and the texture, dense. It is a pound cake after all. But let me tell you this – its chocolate-y taste does not need icing.


2 sticks butter

1/2 cup Crisco

3 cups sugar

3 large eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Dash of salt

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. can chocolate syrup


1. Cream the butter, Crisco and sugar. Beat well.

2. Add eggs, one at a time.

3. Add chocolate syrup and vanilla.

Choc syrup pound cake 1

4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

5. Mix the dry mixture into the chocolate mixture, alternating with adding the milk.

6. Pour into a buttered and floured Bundt cake pan.

Choc syrup pound cake 3

7. Start in a cold oven. Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the door for one hour.

Choc syrup pound cake 4

Molly’s take: I love the different taste you get using chocolate syrup in this cake. It makes it a little richer and more chocolate-y than if you had used cocoa. I also love that, unlike most pound cake recipes, this one truly is delicious enough not to need icing or frosting. Definitely one I’ll try again! Maybe with a tall glass of milk…

Matthew’s take: A thick slice of this cake and a glass of milk is the perfect pairing for a delicious dessert or snack. I believe the chocolate syrup makes the cake more moist than cocoa does, and I think that moisture helped keep the cake from getting dry after a few days. But we also didn’t have to worry about the cake getting dry because it was so good that it didn’t sit around for long. If you want a solid cake that stands alone, try this recipe.

Foodie Travels: Copper Penny Grill, Forest City, N.C.

Flavor: That’s how I would describe the Copper Penny Grill in Forest City if you only allowed me one word. Everything we ate on our recent first visit to the new restaurant in Forest City’s downtown was full of flavor.

We received a few recommendations from friends to check this place out and decided to spend a weeknight along the city’s Main Street. In addition to dinner, we took a walk through town, around old mill buildings and a mix of new and longtime local businesses.

My first impression when we sat down in the Penny was aided by the space in the booths. At 6 foot 4, I struggle to relax and find comfort in the booths of places like Waffle House, where I really have to fold myself up to fit and don’t have full range of motion to lift my fork from table to mouth.

We settled in and checked out the menu and had plenty to discuss. Molly and I rarely get the same thing or even a plate from the same category on the menu. At the Copper Penny, our ordering discussion included talk of fish tacos, steak, sandwiches and burgers.

In the end, we followed one of my restaurant rules (I like to try a place’s burger first to determine how they handle the basics and my favorite savory meal) while also breaking our collective rule (we BOTH ordered a burger).


Molly went with a favorite of hers—the mushroom swiss variety—while I selected the quesadilla burger. She had regular fries and I upgraded to the sweet potato fries, which I highly recommend if you like them. More on that in a moment.

The burgers were both cooked well and still juicy. The meat was well-seasoned, and the flavor that topped both sandwiches was distinct and memorable. Molly’s mushrooms were a tastebud-pleasing topping, something that’s not often the case in many dining experiences. I’ve found that mushrooms are often squishy and flavorless after-thoughts that really don’t add to the burger. The bun on Molly’s sandwich was soft but hearty, the perfect housing for a burger.


The quesadilla burger, not really a common find in an American grill restaurant in western North Carolina, was topped with a pico de gallo that was the star of my dinner show. It was neither spicy nor bland, but had a fresh veggie feel to it that really set off the experience. Oh, and my sweet potato fries! They came with a brown sugar dipping sauce unlike anything I’ve had as a fries condiment. The sauce turned the fries into a major component of my dinner, whereas an average fry accompaniment usually takes a backseat to the burgers I order.


It’s rare we do dessert when we eat out on a normal occasion, but we had already planned to see what our options were on this night. (The menu tells you specifically to save room for dessert but does not tell you what those desserts are.) When presented with the choices—a variety of cake options—we selected the lemon berry mascarpone. A waitress walking by as we ordered said, “that’s the best cake I’ve ever put in my mouth.”

When our cake plate was finished, the same waitress walked by and said, “Did I lie to you?” No, she didn’t. This mascarpone had a cool and light summery quality to it. The lemon and berry played off each other perfectly, and the cake was just the right mix of moist and crumbly.


Keep in mind that we order water most of the time for our drinks, and we did here, too, but we were still able to eat dinner, with a couple of additions to our meals and dessert (and also a tip) for under $30. That might sound like a lot for two burgers and fries, water and piece of cake, but consider this: The burgers were satisfying, the fries were plentiful and delicious and the cake was a huge piece, plenty for two people to share. Also consider that you can spend $7-$8 a meal if you go to a fast food joint and order a specialty combo.

Going out to eat is all about the experience. The Copper Penny provided a great one, from atmosphere (they also offer a bar and high-top tables if you’re so inclined) to service to food. We will go back, and we recommend that you check this place out, too.

Copper Penny Grill

146 E. Main Street, Forest City, N.C.

Foodie Travels: Davis Donut House, Forest City, N.C.

The often-circular sweet treat always comes filled with debate. Is it doughnut or donut? In our part of the world, is it Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’? Is it cake or glazed? Is it plain or filled with a cream?

At one of my favorite local shops off West Main Street in Forest City, N.C., the answers to all of those questions are simple.

It’s Donut.

It’s Davis, instead of Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’.

And it’s any variety you like, including delicious cinnamon rolls, bear claws, iced, cream-filleds and crullers, all baked fresh every day and available until they sell out.


The star of the show at Davis is quite possibly the orange twist, a treat rarely seen at most donut shops, chain and unique. The slightly orangey, icing-coated twist of dough has, along with other favorites from the large glass donut counter at Davis, delighted Rutherford County residents for decades. It was among the favorite Davis items of my grandfather, who first took me to Davis when I was a young boy.

Back then, the shop was on a side street right along the main stretch of town in Forest City. The location was ideal, but the seating was almost nonexistent as I remember it. Davis has since moved west along Main Street headed toward Spindale and, while it’s a bit farther from our home than it used to be, it offers more display space for donuts and seating for customers to enjoy confections, coffee and more.

The individual treats are very inexpensive and satisfyingly filling, but you may want to be sure you have a little extra money with you on your visit. You can take home a square white box filled with any variety of Davis Donut specialties you like. And if you plan on telling your friends about the place, you should probably have an example to share with them.

Davis Donut House

652 West Main St., Forest City, N.C. (Update October 2017: And now served in multiple locations in western North Carolina!)

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