22 January, 2016
A simple butter cake could still be the center piece of a tea table, when made to perfection. Though it sounds simple, not all the butter cakes turn out to be great. This is one of the first cakes I learnt to make looking at how my Mom made them.
Not knowing the scientific facts behind them, I religiously followed every single step taught to me and I it turned out be ‘okay’ most of the time and excellent randomly. I was curious how the results changed every time and until I started to look up for answers. Once I got to know facts, I was able to produce the most wonderful butter cake every time.
I remember how my Mom beat the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. I learnt later that having room temperature butter helps achieve this state faster. And it is this air that makes it fluffy that is going to help it rise and get volume. I also add a teaspoon of lemon zest to the sugar which I find gives a nice sent to the cake.
She always added one egg at a time. I know now that it is to stop the batter splitting which will then not be able to hold its structure. Also having room temperature eggs is a must. We never had to worry about this as we always had our fresh eggs on the counter top and never in the fridge.
The flour was sifted a few times along with baking powder. This helps incorporating more air in to the flour and get rid of any lumps. This aids rising and gives a softer crumb.
She would never incorporate flour with the beater but always used a wooden spoon to fold the batter and towards the same direction. The old fashioned beaters were too fast to fold in unlike the mixers today. Folding in flour is so important, that it doesn’t disturb the emulsion that is already there in the batter. For best results alternate flour and milk ending with flour.
The final batter should not be too runny. It has a volume and hold shape to a certain extent.
The next hurdle is the oven temperature. Every oven is different and you are the only person who knows how it operates so always use your judgement in baking. Fan forced ovens are faster and thus always heat 20 degrees lesser than the conventional temperature. If the centre of the cake rises too much and then sinks, it’s a sign of too high temperature.
The cake cooks from outside in so if the temperature is too high, the outer later bakes in to a hard shell and when the interior bakes and rises, and it irrupts from week center. So the temperature should be just right to cook outer and inner layers just minutes apart.
Towards the end of the baking, test the cake constantly with a cake tester. The cake should be out of the oven just after it is done. Over baked cake drier and too crumbly and is so unpleasant to eat.
I always brush the top of the cake with sugar syrup as it is cooling down and this helps keep the cake super moist. Let the cake cool completely before storing to prevent soggy bottom.
- 250 Flour
- 250 castor sugar
- 250 butter
- 4 eggs
- 300ml butter milk
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- Zest of a lemon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 180 and line a 12 by 8 cake pan.
- Mix the zest with sugar.
- Cream butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy.
- Add one egg at a time clearing after each addition.
- Sift flour with baking soda and baking powder.
- Fold in flour alternating with buttermilk (milk) followed by vanilla.
- Pour the batter in to the prepared tray and bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Brush top with sugar syrup.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Let the cake cool completely before storing to prevent soggy bottom.