While many came to know me through my public commentary, a chance encounter during the 2018 holiday season introduced me to an entirely new group of followers and opened up a unique opportunity for connection.
In December 2018, at 3:00am, I was jolted out of my sleep thanks to my next door neighbor. Having just moved into the apartment complex two months prior, we’d not officially met and the middle of the night didn’t seem like the best time to make introductions. Living alone in a new city and not believing their late night party required police or property management intervention, I thought of how to address the issue myself. Leaning into my Southern roots, I could think of no better way to introduce myself and tell my neighbor to keep it down than with pound cake and a letter—which I delivered to his door the following morning.
A few days later, my neighbor came over to introduce himself and apologized for his party. (He also told me I should consider opening a bakery or becoming a writer.) During our conversation, Tommy shared that his daughter died in a car accident earlier in the year. In the thick of his first holiday season without her, Tommy’s party was an attempt to combat the grief that had begun to engulf him. Having lost my mother unexpectedly three years prior, I understood his pain all too well. Over pound cake, we developed a friendship that continues.
I shared my experience with the party in real time on social media, including my letter to Tommy, and it went viral. (Here’s the Twitter thread.) On Twitter alone, it has been seen by over 8 million people with close to 175,000 likes and 40,000 retweets. Our story was covered by national and global media, including an Inside Edition profile. Thousands of social media users tagged The Hallmark Channel, Netflix and Lifetime calling for them to make our “meet-cute” into a holiday romantic comedy. Last year, I wrote that script and, this year, I’m heading to LA so it can eventually become a film.
It’s been a year and I’m still meeting people who tell me how much “the pound cake story” touched them. Beyond writing my first script and beginning a friendship with Tommy, I’m grateful this chance encounter opened up the opportunity to share how baking became a source of healing through my own trauma and grief. To celebrate these conversations, I’ve launched Healing at 325º. An extension of my current website, this baking blog will provide faith meditations on loss and healing; resources for wellness; and of course, recipes.
We live in a world that wants us to believe we are more different than we are alike. While there are certain realities unique to our social locations, there are some universal experiences that will always shape the core of who we are. When we lean into those experiences and honor them, it is then we are able to create worlds that make room for everybody. Here’s to doing that one cake at a time!
For those who’ve asked for the pound cake recipe, here it is. I got it from my uncle Derrick. It’s a family recipe!
The Benbow 5 Flavor Pound Cake
3 Cups of Sugar
1 Cup of Butter
3 Cups of Flour
1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
A Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
½ Teaspoon of Lemon, Orange, Strawberry, Coconut, Almond Extracts
1 Cup of Milk
1- Preheat oven to 325º.
2- Sift dry ingredients together.
3- Cream sugar, butter and shortening.
4- Alternate dry ingredients and eggs.
5- Add extracts.
6- Add milk.
7- Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes but check it after one hour.
8- Cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping out of the cake pan.