Granny Arnold's Ton Cake

Saba Arnold

Granny Arnold was my paternal great-grandmother.  On September 27, 1896, Eddith Pearle Irvin was born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, near the Alabama state line.  She and Malcolme Arnold married in Aberdeen on October 10, 1922.  They then moved to the very smaller nearby town of Caledonia, Mississippi, where they lived for most of their married lives.  For 60 years, whenever someone came to visit, every holiday and for various other special occasions, Granny always made her specialty, a pound cake.  My dad began calling it her “Ton Cake” as a child, saying that the cake’s richness made it much heavier than a pound.  Anytime Granny made the cake, her husband would try to shake the floor or open the oven door when she wasn’t looking so the cake would fall.  He preferred the denser, gummier consistency that resulted.  Granny canned fresh peaches every summer, and any time she made her ton cake, she would open a jar of these peaches to serve with it.  She had a special “peach bowl” she only used for serving peaches.  My grandmother loved the bowl and would often ask Granny for it.  But Granny would always reply, “Nope.  That bowl’s for servin’ peaches.”

Despite everyone’s attempts to replicate Granny’s Ton Cake, my dad Tim was the only one who could ever get it right.  Even my grandfather agreed that Dad’s ton cakes were right up there with Granny’s.  So by default, Dad became the keeper of the beloved Ton Cake recipe after Granny’s death in 1985.  My Dad passed away in 2002, and one of my most prized possessions is this recipe, in his handwriting.  He had made the cake for a work party, and an impressed coworker requested the recipe.  Having prepared it many times, he simply wrote the recipe out on a piece of paper from memory and gave it to her.  Several months after his death, I received this recipe, as well as a letter in the mail from that coworker.   

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup butter
4 eggs

Combine all ingredients and bake at 350°--40 minutes for a 9 x 13-inch pan, 60 minutes for a tube pan.


1 box powdered sugar

Lemon juice

Add lemon juice to powdered sugar until consistency is thick/soupy, then spoon desired amount over cake.