Tracey Herrin was one of the first people I met when I started college at East Carolina University in 2004.
She lived down the hall from me on the fifth floor of Clement Hall.
At the time, I was terrified to be living away from home for the first time. Becoming friends with Tracey made it easier.
During the two years I lived in Clement, I probably spent 90 percent of my time with her.
We ate almost every meal together, watched TV together, went shopping together, walked to class together and even showered together, not literally — we used separate stalls within the same giant bathroom.
Since graduating in 2008, I haven’t gotten to spend nearly as much time with Tracey. She relocated to Texas to go to grad school and I ended up moving to Salisbury.
We’ve only seen each other about three times, but we’ve continued to stay close friends.
When I found out she was moving to Charlottesville, Va. to do an internship I was thrilled. Charlottesville is obviously much closer than Texas.
During a recent visit, Tracey showed me how to make peach cream cheese pound cake.
She’s been reading my series “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Sarah” online and wanted to know if her kitchen could be a stop. The series typically doesn’t leave Rowan County, but I figured I’d make an exception.
Tracey is a phenomenal cook. She is constantly trying out new recipes and posting the results on Facebook. Looking at her page makes my mouth water.
“(Cooking) is relaxing and a stress reliever,” she said. “And if I can make people happy by putting something good in their stomach then my job is done.”
She found the recipe for the pound cake we made on Pinterest and decided to add peaches to it. We used frozen peaches, but she prefers fresh ones when they are available.
“I like pound cake because it’s old-fashioned Southern cooking,” she said. “I grew up eating peaches because my dad’s from Georgia, so put the two together and you’ve got a creation.”
The pound cake recipe called for some decadent ingredients including butter, sugar, vanilla and an entire packet of cream cheese.
To start, we beat the butter and the cream cheese using an electric mixer. Tracey told me the trick is to stop when it looks fluffy.
We added sugar to the mix and then the eggs, one at a time. Tracey said dropping in each egg individually instead of all at once gives the batter a smoother consistency.
The last thing we did before popping it in the oven was add the peaches. We cut them up into small chunks before dumping them in. Instead of using the mixer, Tracey simply used a spatula to fold them in.
“There should be a peach in every bite,” she said. “It just adds another layer of flavor because you’ve got the really good pound cake with a burst of sweet peach.”
Tracey said the recipe would work great with other types of fruit such as blueberries and strawberries.
We chatted a while as we waited for the cake to bake.
She told me she learned to cook from her mom and grandma.
“I spent lots of time in the kitchen during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said. “As I got older, it was more day to day.
“My grandmother told me that you never put pound cake in a hot over, you always start with a cold oven.”
Tracey enjoying listening to music and watching her favorite cooking shows while she’s in the kitchen.
“I also like having people join me,” she said. “If you’re not having fun, you might as well get out of the kitchen.”
Tracey will try to make almost anything at least once.
“I don’t look for anything in particular,” she said. “I usually browse Pinterest and repin the things I want to try.”
So far, Tracey has 2,000 repins. Looks like she’s got a lot of cooking to do.
If a recipe doesn’t work out quite the way she expects, Tracey typically retraces her steps.
“I try to go back and maybe add something or take something out,” she said. “Once in a while, I’ll say ‘That was a wash, good try, time to move on.’”
We didn’t eat any of the pound cake when it came out of the oven that night because it was so late, but she packed up several slices for me to take home when I left the next morning.
I barely made it out of Charlottesville before I peeled back the aluminum foil and pinched off a bite.
It was quite possibly one of the best pieces of cake I’ve ever tasted.
It was sweet without being overly sugary and the peaches gave it a little tang. The cream cheese made it extremely moist.
I ended up eating an entire piece and saving the rest for later. Later came quickly, the cake was gone by the end of the next day.
Being in Tracey’s kitchen felt like old times. We laughed a lot as we remembered some of our more interesting outings together and it was nice to catch up with an old friend.
Sarah Campbell is lifestyle editor for the Salisbury Post. Contact her at 704-797-7683.