It’s rising perfectly… I glanced through the glass door of the microwave, while cleaning my six-month-old’s bottle steriliser.
Ten minutes more to go… I switched on the steriliser and put water in the kettle for boiling. It needs enough time to cool before the little one wakes up for his feed.
Sponge cakes take up a lot of my precious time because the batter needs to be beaten for long. I prefer to bake fruit cakes these days.
Beep…beep…beep… The microwave said it was done.
I inserted a toothpick through the loaf and it came out clean. My fruit cake was ready — in 25 minutes flat.
Life has become so easy with all the gadgets around, so much so that multi-tasking new mothers like me too find time to walk that extra mile.
I remember the first time cake was baked in my humble small-town home with no oven and mixer grinder. Usha auntie, the new neighbour, had brought along a recipe of cake that could be ‘baked’ in a pressure cooker.
That afternoon, around 25 years ago, my mother, grandmother and Usha auntie sat on the floor forming a circle, with my sisters and I and Usha auntie’s daughters of our age too joining them. With all the paraphernalia in front of us, we looked in awe as auntie measured the flour, the sugar beaten to dust by my mother using her shil-nora (see photo), eggs, baking powder, milk and raisins. Then she added a few drops of something from a small bottle. “It’s vanilla essence,” she enlightened us.
After beating the batter for some time, auntie handed over the baton, err the spiral egg beater, to my mother, freeing herself to grease the cake tin. We could not find butter paper in the market, so had to do with a normal white paper torn off my maths practice book. A perfect circle was cut out of the piece of paper and placed inside the tin, before the batter was poured in. The cooker was on the gas stove and in went the tin. Auntie did not put the cooker lid on. Instead, she just covered it with a normal steel plate.
An hour later, a knitting pin from my mother’s kit went inside the cake to see if it was cooked. It was, apparently, as auntie switched off the gas.
Our first homemade cake was ready. It was a little burnt from the bottom, with all the raisins failing to beat the gravitational force, and not fully done in the centre. But no one complained as we had just learnt that we too could bake cakes at home, so what they were not anywhere near perfect.
Another family friend had pitched in with the idea of ‘baking’ cake on a tawa. You were supposed to put sand on the tawa and then place a heavy bottom pan, like a pressure cooker, on top of it with the cake tin inside. Well, it may sound interesting but we never tried it.
With time, we mastered the ‘pressure cooker cake’, with a lot of variations such as soda water instead of milk, chocolate powder instead of vanilla, cherries in place of raisins.
We also learnt that by using less sugar than the quantity we were using earlier, we could prevent it from burning.
I can now bake brownies, muffins, two-in-ones and also the ones using real fruits.
Over the time, I picked up a lot of other tricks too and am now quite confident with cakes. While I had graduated from pressure cooker to OTG long time back, my new microwave that I bought last year has made baking cakes even easier and takes lesser time.
It’s time now for the Food for Thought. Here’s my basic fruit cake recipe.
Maida: 1 1/2 cup
Sugar: 1 cup (powdered)
Butter/refined oil: 1 cup
Tutty-frutty: As you like it
Salt: A pinch
Baking soda: A pinch
Baking powder: 1 and a half spoon
Preparation: Sieve maida with baking soda and baking powder. Add tutty-frutty and salt. Beat sugar and butter till fluffy. Add maida mixture to it one spoon at a time and keep beating. Put a beaten egg and mix. If it gets too dry, add a little milk (be careful with the consistency; it should not be watery for a fruit cake). Grease a cake tin and sprinkle a little dry flour. Once beaten properly, pour the cake mixture in the greased tin and put it in the oven preheated at 180 degrees C. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, or till the upper crust is golden. Keep checking by inserting a toothpick.
Last words: Don’t add the tutty-frutties or dry fruits directly to the cake batter — they will all settle in the bottom. To prevent this, mix them with the dry flour first. If you are using your mixie to beat the mixture and don’t want the dry fruits to get chopped further, separate a portion of the flour in which the nuts/raisins/tutty-frutty will be mixed and fold it into the mixture manually, later. You can try the same recipe in a pressure cooker. Just remember to put a grid on the bottom before placing the cake tin, or it will burn. A pressure cooker can be used to make cakes because of its shape and structure. We don’t need to pressure cook the cake, so there is no need to cover it with the usual lid. Just a normal steel plate will do. Keep the flame low. It usually takes an hour, but keep checking after first 30 minutes, because consistency of the batter is the key.Happy baking!