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Pound cake another pandemic loss, long the queen dessert at many funeral repasts

With so many services on hold, Chicago funeral home operator Spencer Leak Jr. posted on Facebook asking for his favorite sweet. The cakes have been coming in ever since.

Chicago funeral home operator Spencer Leak Jr. holds one of the many pound cakes that were dropped off after he said he missed his favorite treat because the pandemic has canceled funeral repasts.
Chicago funeral home operator Spencer Leak Jr. holds one of the many pound cakes that were dropped off after he said he missed his favorite treat because the pandemic has canceled funeral repasts.
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No one knows better than a funeral director that, pound for pound, comfort can be found from the right combination of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.

Those four little words make for a sweet slice of heaven: pound cake.

Tender of crumb and butter-moist, they’re a highlight of many repasts, the after-funeral banquets, often potluck, where home bakers take quiet pride in how quickly their treats disappear.

But with so many services on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago funeral home operator Spencer Leak Jr. was left craving his favorite dessert.

So, on Sept. 16, in a teasing Facebook comment, he wrote: “I will pay top dollar for a pound cake. Since there are no repast[s] I havnt had a piece in over 6 months. Please help a brother out!!!”

The Facebook post that brought Spencer Leak Jr. a wealth of pound cakes.
The Facebook post that brought Spencer Leak Jr. a wealth of pound cakes.

Days later, they’re still coming in. He’s had about two dozen deliveries so far to Leak & Sons Funeral Homes at 7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave. and in Country Club Hills.

“I didn’t think my pound cake post would turn into a movement,” he wrote in a follow-up Facebook post. “My employees are really enjoying this.”

“People are dropping off pound cakes like I’ve never seen in my life,” says Leak, 50, who’s been a funeral director for 30 years.

One delivery brought two cakes — one for Leak and another for his father, Spencer Leak Sr.

He’s getting his just desserts — more than 600 Facebook comments from people touting their baking or saying their grandmother or cousin makes the best. One promised pound cake so good, “You will slap somebody.”

They’ve also been posting mouth-watering photos of their pound cake permutations, including versions featuring black walnuts, chocolate, Hennessy chocolate, lemon, rum, peach cobbler, strawberry cream cheese and sweet potato.

A would-be pound cake pirate tried to get in on the goodies, posting: “um Spencer has moved to Maryland. Inbox me for the new poundcake address…”

Another advised those who partake: “Get out your stretchy pants.”

Leak posted a photo of a slice with a few bites missing.

Seeing the ultra-moist image, one person commented: “That’s not done.”

“It sure tastes like it’s done,” Leak replied.

Because of his job, he can’t always make it to dinner with his family. So dining at repasts is a way for Leak to refuel with good home cooking.

“After the funeral, it’s a time for family and friends to eat,” he says. “Most of the time, it’s potluck — spaghetti, mac ‘n’ cheese, greens, fried chicken. But what I look forward to is the sweets.”

Especially pound cake.

“It’s the butter. It’s the moistness,” Leak says. “When you put it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and you get a cold glass of milk, there’s nothing better.”

His employees have another dining preference they’re hoping he’ll share.

“My staff is asking: Can you post you have a craving for crab legs?”