A piece of cake.

Nothing annoys me more than when you treat yourself to a piece of cake in a cafe and you get served with some dry, synthetic rubbish which makes you wish you hadn’t wasted the calories, let alone the money. There really is no excuse for it because kept simple cake is the easiest thing in the world to make.

I recently held a summer party and my guests were amazed at how many cakes I’d managed to whip up in a morning. I promised that it really wasn’t very difficult, and that it was all down to the easiest basic cake recipe in the world which you then alter slightly for different flavours. It’s so simple that it’s one of the recipes which I know off by heart (and my memory for measures is not very good). Essential however are a really good electric whisk* and a large mixing bowl.

*I had a Dualit hand whisk (like this one http://www.johnlewis.com/dualit-89300-series-hand-mixer/p230855935?kpid=231885211&s_kenid=7c39e472-4552-c6e8-cb47-00003c155451&s_kwcid=ppc_pla&tmad=c&tmcampid=73) which I loved until it recently packed up, it was over five years old though. My new one is a Kenwood (http://www.johnlewis.com/kenwood-kmix-hand-mixer/p230855934?colour=Almond) and it seems to do the job.

Basic cake recipe

Preheat oven to 160 degrees (fan)
Line two 20 cm sandwich tins with greaseproof paper and grease lightly with cooking margarine or butter

Add the following ingredients into a large mixing bowl

  • 220g Stork margarine
  • 220g Self Raising Flour
  • 220g Caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 4 large eggs

Options

  • For a plain cake (which you can then make into a Victoria Sandwich) add a teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • For chocolate add a tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • For coffee make up some instant coffee with two teaspoons of coffee and a table spoon of hot water and add a table spoon of this mixture into the mix
  • For lemon add a table spoon of lemon juice and some lemon rind if you like

Now take an electric hand whisk and mix all the ingredients together starting slowly and then getting faster. You want to incorporate all the ingredients but do not over mix. I usually try to mix for no more than 30 seconds.

If the mixture doesn’t drop from the beaters easily then you may need to add a teaspoon or two of warm water.

Divide the mixture into the two tins (I have recently started to weigh my mixture so that it’s equal (perfection inspired by watching the ‘Great British Bake-Off’)) but it’s not really necessary.

Put the two tins onto the same shelf in the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes. Put a skewer into the centre of one of the cakes after this time and if it comes out cleanly then it’s done. If not then put back into the oven for another 3-5 minutes.

Once removed from the oven place on a cooling rack in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out of the tin and leave to cool completely before icing. Don’t be tempted to ice too soon and the icing will melt into the cake and make it soggy.

Fillings and toppings

Basic butter cream icing (for a Victoria Sandwich)

  • 100g softened butter (I don’t use Stork here)
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Mix the butter and icing sugar together with an electric hand mix until incorporated. You can keep the icing in the fridge until it’s ready to use but you will need to let it soften for 15 minutes or so before putting on the cake. For a Victoria Sandwich I put a layer of butter cream icing and a layer of raspberry jam in the middle of the two cakes then I just dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

For coffee and walnut cake I add 50g of chopped walnuts to the basic butter cream icing mix and a tablespoon of made up instant coffee (as for the main cake but using hot milk to dissolve the granules rather than water otherwise the icing curdles).

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