The Plainest of Cakes

Having been extremely slack in our backing and cooking and candlestick making over the last week, we found there is NO cake in the house. Not even a cookie crumb is to be found, which on a Sunday is a fairly sad state of affairs. So one has to start off by making a nice cup of tea and leaving a block of butter to defrost. Now the plainest of cakes is a simple quatre quarts, four quarters: 250g butter, 250g sugar, 250g flour and 4 eggs. Which is what I was going to make. But then I dug out an old Aussie cookbook and thought I’d give this slight variation a try.

I am of course gravely tempted to meddle with the recipe and add olive oil to it, or swap the milk for ricotta and use semolina instead of flour. But Eddie has tasked me with making this SIMPLE cake, so simple cake it is:

Plain Butter Cake

Ingredients and a Pot of Tea
  • 250g butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 eggs
  • 325g flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 15g baking powder
  • 160ml milk

Now, making a simple cake is not really simple at all. Because there is so little in it, you have no leeway for error. But fret not, follow me dilligently and you’ll get it right! First of all, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. This is important. If your eggs are cold and your butter is warm, the mix will split when you whisk the eggs in. So take everything out of cupboards and chillers an hour before you start on your cake. Heat your oven a half hour before you are going to bake. Set the oven to 180ºC and check the temperature every now and again.

Here’s the butter and sugar properly whisked.

Use your trusty stand mixer, drop the whole block of nicely soft butter into the bowl, attach the whisk, add the vanilla essence and let it whizz around. Here my autocorrect tells me that it’s “whiz”, not “whizz”, but I ask you; seriously? Which one looks more whizzy? There!

Back to the butter that is being whizzed. You want the butter to fluff up nice and easy. I find that the organic and artisanal butters don’t do as well as the plain, good commercial ones. LeGall and Pamplie are great for eating, but I don’t find they give the best butter cakes, so I use President, or Lurpak or Bridel, which do very well.

Then you add in egg by egg. Break each egg into a small bowl, turn off the mixer and then slipping the egg into the batter, turn the machine back on and whisk until it is incorporated properly. Repeat until all the eggs have been added.

Now add about half the flour and whisk it in. Add half the milk and whisk again. Repeat with the other half of flour and milk and you’re done.

Next step, bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is just done. Stick a small knife into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, take the cake out. If you bake it for too long, the cake will be dry, so you’re better off with a cake with a few too many cut in it than a dry cake.

The cake is baked

So that’s it! A really simple, delicious cake. Eat it with a bit of whipped cream or some ice cream, or just with your tea.

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