My mom makes the best pound cakes.

I'm not saying this because she is my mom, but because it's true. The ingredients are simple - eggs, cream cheese, sugar, butter, flour and vanilla - but somehow, the way she puts it all together makes it delicious.

My mother did not start making these cakes until I had been out of the house for a few
years, so her visit to Columbia last month was the first time I saw her bake one and probably only the second time I'd tasted one.

While I let the creamy cake melt in my mouth, I wondered what it was about those simple ingredients that became so special in her hands.

When I asked my younger sister about it, she said it was the secret ingredient my mom put in the cakes: Love. And when I asked my mother, she said it was important to remember to say a prayer after all of the other ingredients had been added.

In many ways, that cake reminds me of my mother. For those unfamiliar with a pound cake, at first glance, there is nothing extraordinary about its appearance.

It is neither intimidating nor fancy on the outside, but like my diminutive mother, inside is something smooth, sweet and rich that is hard to resist. The cake is strong enough to be laden with berries, whipped cream, ice cream - or any other topping one can think of - but is good without any adornment.

One week later, as she prepared to head back home, my mom scribbled the recipe for her pound cake onto my refrigerator notepad. The next day, I decided to try my hand at her recipe.

Although I had the recipe in front of me, I called my mother to walk me through it because I was afraid I would make a mistake. What if I added the ingredients in the wrong sequence' How would I know if I'd mixed them long enough'

Midway through my mixing, mom stopped me. "You have my directions," she said, ending our conversation. In my mind, she was not just telling me that she had taken me as far as she could with the cake, but in life. She had given me all the ingredients, and now it was up to me to put them together the right way.

As I stirred the batter, I thought about the attributes my mom passed on to me. Like that cake, she gave me the basic ingredients I needed to be a career woman, a wife, and now, a mother. On top of the basics, she was sure to add a hefty dash of love and lots of prayer.

The resulting cake was a beautiful brown, and as I tasted the first buttery bite, I silently thanked my mom. Thanked her for the recipe, the instructions and the wisdom she had to know that she had to let me do it for myself. The wisdom to know that, despite my fear, she could no longer hold my hand.

My cake turned out perfectly and I hope, I pray, that she passed along to me, not only the ability to bake a good pound cake, but to be a good mother.

Now, when I look at the now batter-splattered recipe hanging on my refrigerator, I will think of my all my mother has done to make me the woman I am today. And those things are better than any cake.

Happy Mother's Day.