Talking about her book How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking (2000), Nigella Lawson had once remarked that ‘Baking is the less applauded of the cooking arts’. Traditionally, baking has been seen as a housewifely activity, and in the male-dominated industry of professional cooking, it has often been relegated to the back-burner. However, I have always felt that baking gives the most sense of satisfaction. There’s something about the feeling when you see your cake rising in the oven, or when it turns out perfectly, without sticking to the cake tin... Try it and tell me if you disagree!
There is a certain amount of science behind baking, so stick to the recipe you are following. Any sort of baking requires ingredients taken in exact measurements. Some recipes ask you to blend an egg at a time in the cake mixture; while others may ask that you whisk the eggs first and then add to the batter. This affects the way the cake turns out, so go as per the recipe on hand. Remember that baking powder starts acting as soon as it comes in contact with the wet mixture. So the time between mixing the cake batter and putting it into the oven should be minimal, else the cake won’t rise as much.
And finally, sometimes despite your best efforts your cake may not turn out perfectly. But let that not put you off baking forever! Honestly, there is no greater joy... Having said all that, here’s a recipe for a basic Vanilla Cake.
This recipe serves 12 people (depending on portion sizes)!
- 3 Eggs
- 200g all-purpose Flour
- 100g Caster Sugar
- 100g softened Butter (I use salted butter. If you're using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dry mix)
- 10g Baking powder
- 5ml Vanilla essence or 1Vanilla bean, scraped
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an 18cm cake tin and sprinkle some flour in it.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
- Beat the butter; add sugar and beat well together.
- Whisk the eggs separately and then add to the sugar and butter mixture. Add vanilla essence.
- Add half of the dry mixture into the wet mix and using the cut and fold method, blend well using a wooden spatula. Add the remaining dry mix and blend well. There should be no lumps.
- Transfer the batter to the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remember that ovens are a bit temperamental, so you’ll need to keep a watch! The cake is done when a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- Turn it out onto a serving plate or a cake stand. Slice and serve – plain, or with some cream or chocolate sauce (or both)!