I love making cakes. Not fancy, special-occasion cakes, but every-day cakes, to have with coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon, or a glass of wine after dinner. I have a very simple recipe I use, that is a good starting point for any kind of variation you can think of. It’s a vanilla cake, but you can add any kind of flavoring you like. You can add chocolate chips, or nuts, or coconuts, or fruit. You can slice it in half and spread jam or nutella (or both!) in between and stick it back together again. You can add lemon zest or orange zest or cinnamon or ginger. You can make a chocolate cake by adding cocoa powder or melted chocolate. You can make a crumb topping with brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, butter and cinnamon. You can frost it, or put powdered sugar on it, or coat it with ganache, or make it into an angler fish for your son’s birthday. The possibilities are endless!
To show you how easy it is, I’ve made two at once! A pumpkin chocolate chip cake, and a coconut-almond cake with cherry filling.
Basic vanilla cake recipe
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup) softened
1 cup sugar (white or brown, whichever taste you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 (scant) t. baking powder
1 (scant) t. baking soda
up to 1/2 cup milk
See, there’s one of everything! So easy to remember, so simple to make!
2. stir in the vanilla and the egg, one at a time.
3. Add all the dry ingredients. I never sift anything, I just pile them all in together and let them mix when I stir them in. At this stage, for the coconut cake you’ll add about a cup of mixed ground almonds and flake coconut. And for the pumpkin cake you’ll add cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg – whatever mix you like, in the quantities you like.
4. Mix this all together. At this point it will be quite thick, and you need to add some moisture. For your average cake, or the coconut almond cake, you’ll add milk. Up to about 1/2 a cup, but stir it in for the correct texture. For the pumpkin cake, the pumpkin itself (I used 3/4 cup pumpkin puree) will be the moisture, so you don’t need to add milk. Stir it all together until you get a light, pourable but still thick batter. About the texture of whipped cream. Now if you’re adding nuts or chocolate chips, do so. If you’re adding fruit, like bananas or apples, this will be the moisture that you need, and you shouldn’t need to add milk.
5. pour into baking pans that have been greased and floured, or, ideally, have a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. I used 10 inch pans, because that’s what I have, but this recipe is probably better suited to smaller pans. 8 inch, maybe, so the cakes seem a little taller at the end. If you wanted a crumb topping, you’d sprinkle that over now.
6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it’s brown on top, pulling away from the sides, and if you touch it lightly with your finger it springs back up. Let it cool in the pan before you turn it out onto a plate. At this point I sliced the almond/coconut cake in half and spread cherry preserves in the center, and then sandwiched it back together again.