August 30, 2012

Vanilla Butter Cake

  Birthdays were always a special occasion at my maternal home. My mom always baked me a cake, icing or no icing :) I guess my brother was not as lucky as me when it came to getting to cut a birthday cake..... as mom mostly made payasam for his birthday. I vividly remember how my mother once baked a plain cake and iced it with my favorite pink color home made icing. She used all the different nozzles to pipe out a cute doll on the cake. I still remember the black peppercorns she used to create the doll's eyes with :) That was for my eleventh birthday. Back then, there was no ready made icing available in India and there definitely was no Betty Crocker brand in any of our stores. So mom would buy icing sugar, food colors, blanch almonds, make almond paste, make colorful rosettes and flowers out of that to decorate the short, it was a tedious process. But she always took extra pains to get an outcome as good as the photos in her recipe books. She mostly preferred to bake a simple vanilla cake or 'plain cake' as she would call it, whenever she wanted to ice it. She always felt that this was the best cake to enjoy the flavor of home made icing. Well, all I can say is that whatever she baked, I thoroughly enjoyed really didn't matter to me whether the cake was plain or not :) Mom did try to hand me down the recipe for her vanilla cake, but the recipe got misplaced somewhere :( Hence began my search for the perfect 'plain cake' and after many months of searching the web, I chanced upon a recipe quite similar to my mother's. On second thoughts, I wouldn't exactly call this my old plain cake as this one is way more buttery than my mom's cake. I do relish this recipe though, as this was the first perfect cake I baked, all on my own. It is very simple to bake and very heavenly to eat...... thank the butter for all the dense flavor!

Vanilla butter cake out of the oven

Vanilla cake, less a yummy slice !


All purpose flour or maida - 1 1/2 cups
Sugar - 1 cup
Eggs - 2 (at room temperature)
Baking powder - 2 tsps
Butter - 1/2 cup (1 unsalted stick)
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Milk - 3/4 cup
Vanilla extract - 2 tsps


Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour either a 8 or a 9 inch round pan. The cake will rise more in an 8 inch pan. The pan in the above picture is a 9 inch one.

1) Bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. You can place cold eggs in luke warm water to speed up  the process. Microwave cold butter for about 10-15 seconds if you don't have time to thaw it. Hopefully in peak summer time, it should take less than an hour to thaw them both.
2) Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. 
3) In another large bowl, cream the butter using a hand or stand mix on low and then medium speed, for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating on high speed, till you use up all the sugar. Take care to scrap the sides of the bowl so that all the butter is well creamed. You should get a smooth pale yellow mixture once creaming is done. If the butter and sugar are not properly creamed, then the mixture will be slightly gritty in nature and this will affect the texture of the cake. The creaming process will take about 3 minutes.
4) Now add the eggs and vanilla extract to the creamed mixture and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
5) Gently add the sieved ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk until well blended. Use a spatula to 'cut and fold' all the ingredients.To do this first add a small quantity of the flour followed by a little milk, then take the spatula and cut through the creamed mixture, simultaneously folding all the ingredients in a gentle circular motion.You could divide the dry ingredients into 3 portions to make this easier. Continue with this gentle mixing until all the dry ingredients and milk is used up.
6) Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 °F. Check for doneness with a toothpick or a tester. The cake if done should spring back on a slight gentle touch. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 10 mins, before transferring to a cooling rack. I prefer to leave the cake in the pan itself to cool down, as that way, the surface of the cake does not become too moist. Just be sure to cover the cake with a clean kitchen towel or paper napkin after a couple of hours.
7) Once cooled completely, cut into pieces and store in an air tight container. Refrigerate the cake in the hot summer to increase shelf life, else it may go bad in a few days due to the heat.

Note: This cake is awesomely buttery in taste and so is slightly on the denser side. If you don't prefer the dense taste, increase the quantity of flour to 2 cups. Enjoy eating 'plain vanilla cake' :) Once cooled you can ice it with any icing of your choice.

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