How to make that perfect vanilla cake that does not have too much butter or sugar or all the things that are harmful for you and still get it to rise well, fluff up and taste awesome? Err, tough job (and healthy cake is kind of an oxymoron) but it is a work in progress till I personally feel satisfied that I’ve nailed it. However, that’s not to say that this cake didn’t taste awesome. I didn’t quite get the level of fluffiness I wanted, but the cake turned out moist, dense and buttery and the reviews were great.
A well made vanilla cake is one of life’s simple pleasures. It requires no frosting or fancy toppings to taste amazing. All my cakes are lower in sugar and I try to get the butter or oil content to the bare minimum (as much as will allow me to cut without losing flavour or balance). So here I went with a 3-2-1 ratio of flour, sugar, butter and got a really good flavour. I added quite a bit of milk to keep the moistness up. The milk made the batter a bit runny, so I had to cover the bottom of the tin with aluminium foil from outside so the batter did not leak out while baking. Please be mindful of the baking time as it is a runny batter so it may take about 50 minutes.
As it is, in my house no cakes last more than a day and a half. Nowadays, in a valiant attempt to not feel so guilty about baking too many cakes and desserts and eating most of them myself, I’m sending at least half of it to friends. That way, we get to eat not more than a slice or two and are not given to further temptation with it sitting on the table beckoning to us enticingly every time we pass. So we (literally) have our cake and eat it!
Try this recipe out. Sometimes plain vanilla is just what one needs!
300 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200 gms sugar (finely ground or castor)
100 gms butter
2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
200 ml milk
- Preheat the oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating rods on.
- Line a round 8 inch diameter baking tin with butter/parchment paper at the bottom and oil the sides. Since the batter is a bit runny, if you are using a baking tin with a removable bottom, place a sheet of aluminium foil around the bottom of the pan from outside and fold up the sides that batter does not leak out of the bottom of the tin. Set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till light and creamy. Then add the eggs one by one, beating after each egg and adding the other after the previous one has been fully mixed in. Add the vanilla essence/extract and mix.
- Fold the flour, baking powder and salt mixture into the butter mix. Then add the milk and fold well into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin and place it in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. After 45 mins, test the middle of the cake with a skewer while it is still in the oven. If the skewer comes out clean, remove the tin from the oven and leave out to cool. If there is still runny batter stuck to the skewer, keep it in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Re-test with the skewer and only remove from the oven when the skewer comes out clean.
- After the cake has cooled, run a knife between the edge of the cake and the tin to loosen the cake from the sides and remove on to a serving platter. Enjoy.
Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.
Do not use a smaller baking tin. Stick to a minimum 8 inch diameter tin
else the runny batter will not set in the given time and the bottom will burn while the centre remains uncooked. You can bake the cakes in two tins. If you’re splitting the batter into two tins, then check if its done with a skewer after 35 mins.
The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.