12 July 2009

Let them eat cake!

Let’s start with the basic vanilla sponge cake, also known as the Victoria sponge, although I'm not sure why - I’m sure it was Marie Antoinette who was rumoured to say “let them eat cake”. Anyway. Most people I know are completely daunted at the idea of making a cake and prefer to rely on box versions – which I hate!
This is one of those recipes you will want to print it out and keep safe – every domestic goddess (I love that phrase, thanks Nigella) needs to have a cake in her repertoire.
Honestly, don’t be scared - this is a no mess, no fuss cake. It has never flopped on me, and there are endless variations to be enjoyed.
(I apologise in advance for somewhat poor picture quality – bear with me and I’ll get this right!!!)

Boston Cream Cake

I became obsessed with Boston Cream donuts (chocolate on top, custard inside) when I lived in London, and recently saw a Boston Cream cake version, so of course I couldn’t hold myself back - but you can choose any number of variations (see end).

Total prep time: 30 minutes, including icing and filling

Total Cooking time: 25 minutes

I have borrowed this recipe from
Home Bakes, which I was given by friends at Lannice Snyman Publishers – I love this book for many reasons, but most of all, because it’s South African, so you have no issue with odd ingredients or measurements, and all Ouma’s favourites are included!

Ingredients list

For the cake:

200gr sugar

4 large eggs
135gr flour
15ml baking powder
5ml vanilla extract
125ml sunflower oil
125ml water In the photo, you’ll see I used self raising flour – it was all I had with me as we were away on holiday! So I used about half the amount of baking powder – but I think this is probably why the cakes dropped slightly after they came out of the oven, so try not to use SR if you can!

For The Icing:

±20gr butter
±130 gr icing sugar
±40 gr cocoa powder

For The Filling:
125ml ready made custard (yes, I cheated!)
2 egg yolks Directions: Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Grease your choice of tin (I use a spray and cook – not sure why I think it’s important to save on calories at this point!)
You can make this cake in a loaf tin, or a deep ring tin (ie with a whole in the middle), or a deep spring form tin (that’s the one with the base that unclips – nice high sides), or (my favourite) two round sandwich tins for a layer cake.

Get two big mixing bowls and one smaller bowl ready.
In one, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, oil, water and vanilla essence.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites into the other mixing bowl, and keeping the yolks in the smaller bowl, ready for later.

(I tend to be over cautious here, as you’ll see in the photo – I separate each egg, placing the white into it’s own bowl before adding it to the rest of the whites – juts in case you have one off egg – doesn’t happen often, but I have had it once, and when you break open your fourth egg and it’s off and you only have six eggs in the house, this is a problem you don’t want to have!) I beat the yolks first, using the clean beater, until stiff peak stage.

Then, beat the cake batter until it’s smooth (using the same beater, no need to clean if you do it in this order). Add the yolks and beat again. Don’t over beat, just enough to get rid of any lumps.

Then fold in the egg whites to the cake batter.
Here are a few tricks:

1 – always use a metal spoon (never wooden) when dealing with beaten egg white – you want to cut into the mixture, not bash out all the air!
2 - add one tablespoon off whites first, mixing pretty carelessly if you must, this makes it easier to fold in the remaining mixture

3 – fold in really means in a circular motion, incorporating air as you go. I don’t think you have to be too careful here, you basically want to retain as much air as you can, so keep folding, until the batter smooths out, rather than flattening any lumps, as then you’ll lose the air

Pour into your prepared tin or tins, and gently knock them on the counter, to release some bubbles.
Bad photo, I know - sorry - but you can see that I have knocked the bubbles out of the tin on the right, but not the tin on the left. See?

Cook as follows:

Loaf tin/ Deep ring tin/ Deep spring form tin - 30-35 minutes
Sandwich tins – 20-25 minutes

Leave the cake to cool for about 20 minutes in its tin, turning out gently onto a wire rack to cool further, before finishing off as required.

See - no mess, no fuss! I love this recipe! While it’s cooking, I prepared my icing and custard filling. With the custard, I got a little complicated and I’m not really sure I needed to.

I added 2 egg yolks and another tablespoon of sugar to the ready made custard as I wanted it to be very thick, which in essence did work, but I really should have refrigerated it once cooled, for it to set nicely - never mind, we live and learn!

Chocolate icing just can’t be easier – I used about 2 ups of icing sugar, don’t bother with sifting, and about 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, a teaspoon of butter (or margarine, doesn’t really matter), with a little hot water. Beat it (now would be a good time to clean the beater!), until it’s smooth and glossy – adding more water or icing sugar as you need. If it thickens while it sits, waiting to be used, add a tiny bit of hot water and beat again – but be careful not to add too much.

Then simply assemble your cake and voila!

So yummy ... I made this cake while we were on holiday, so because there were only 2 of us, it was around a lot longer than I suspect it would be in any normal household (!) - it lasted a whole 5 days. Fabulous. And, the other bonus, is I have two egg whites saved … watch this space – the best gooey meringue recipe coming up soon!


Plain Vanilla
Perfect as is, with any number of toppings or fillings: Rich butter cream filling and icing Rich butter cream icing and Caramel treat filling Chocolate butter cream filling and icing Filled with whipped cream and fresh berries, dusted with icing sugar on top This is one I made for a friend, for his wife's birthday with white chocolate ganache icing - her favourite!

Coffee cake (my mom’s speciality when I was growing up!) Add a tablespoon of coffee granules to the 125ml water, ensuring it dissolves. Use a coffee flavoured icing as your filling and icing, or combine it with a whipped cream filling

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake Use lemon essence instead of vanilla, and add 50ml poppy seeds towards the end. If you can add some fresh lemon zest, great. Drizzle with a thick, plain icing made of icing sugar, lemon essence and water

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake
Pour half the batter into the prepared tin. Mix 30ml cocoa powder with a little boiling water and add to the remaining batter. Pour it into the tin in a zig zag manner, gently drawing a knife through the batter once to create the marbled effect

Chocolate Cake
Replace 30ml of flour with 50ml cocoa powder, with chocolate icing and either cream, caramel treat, jam (some form of berry is best), or more chocolate icing as your filling.

This one I made for a girlfriend's birthday - fabulous! And a square cake is fantastic for a big party, as you can slice it up for lots more people!

This one I made for my mom for Mother's Day earlier this year - pretty hey?
And so simple ...

I bought a huge tub of chocolate mousse and used that to fill it - being sure to keep it in the fridge of course. And I sprinkled it with Woolwoths' Chuckles (my favourite), fresh raspberries, rose petals and edible gold dust. It was great, and she loved it!

Now it's up to you...



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