My 2-and-a-half-year-old son loves cakes. And I do not need a better reason to bake them. I have become so regular with cakes that my kitchen perpetually smells of the utterly-butterly calorie bombs. Well, maybe that’s exaggeration, but I do end up baking cakes once every fortnight if not week.
An unfinished bottle of wine had been lying in the closet for a long time and I decided to use it in the cake I was going to bake this time. I looked up on the Net for recipes and opted for a soaked cake for the simple reason that I did not want to completely deprive my son of it. I used the same batter to bake some extra that I did not soak in wine.
The recipe that caught my eye was one made with brandy. But I decided to substitute it with wine. Also, it was an almond cake, but I used vanilla instead. You can find the original recipe on allrecipes.co.uk.
So, here goes the recipe of the cake that earned me quite a lot of praise at a Sunday gathering.
Food for thought: Wine soaked sponge cake
Flour: 400 g
Sugar: 400 g
Butter: 225 g
Eggs: 4, separated
Milk: 250 ml
Vanilla essence: 4 teaspoons
Water: 450 ml
Red wine: 125 ml
Preparation: Preheat oven to 150C. Grease and flour your baking tin and set aside. Beat the butter and 250 g of sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, blending them well into the butter mixture. Add the flour alternately with the milk. Pour in the vanilla essence. Once your batter is ready, beat the egg whites in an absolutely dry bowl until stiff peaks form. Now, fold in the egg whites into the cake mixture. Don’t mix too vigorously, but ensure the egg white has evenly blended with the batter. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the preheated oven until a skewer inserted into it comes out clean. It may take around an hour or so, but do check before that if it’s ready. Turn off the oven when it is and let the cake cool completely.
In a pan, bring the water and 150 g of sugar to boil (for at least 10 minutes). Reduce heat and add the wine and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Allow the syrup to cool down to room temperature. Now, prick holes in the cooled cake and then pour in the wine syrup all over it. Let it rest for some time and your wine-soaked sponge cake is ready to serve.
Last words: For best results, make sure the eggs you are using are in room temperature. Also, it’s better to use powdered sugar for the cake. It turns fluffy with butter faster. You can use granulated sugar for the syrup.
The Philadelphia cream cheese my brother brought from the US two months back was still resting in my fridge as I was still contemplating what to make with them. It was Christmas time soon and the heavenly Red Velvet Cake I had recently tasted at Elma’s Bakery cafe in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village was still fresh on my mind. So the cream cheese had to go into my Red Velvet Cake, I decided.
I scanned through a number of recipes on the Internet to find the one I could try at home. I did find some, but I still had to compromise on certain ingredients, which I could not manage to stock. Vanilla beans were over, so had to do with the essence. Couldn’t find Dutch-processed cocoa powder, so used regular cocoa. Didn’t have liquid colour, so had to use dry powder. But it had a disastrous effect, with the cake turning orange, though the packet said ‘RED’, yes in all CAPS.
The colour fiasco notwithstanding, the taste was good, and the way it should have tasted. Here is the recipe.
Food for thought: Red Velvet Cake
I was in a mood to bake something different, something savoury. And I did not want to go by any established recipe. It had to be something original; it was my own ‘invention test’ (MasterChef hangover, can’t help).
I looked around the kitchen and the fridge and collected a few ingredients to start with — flour, eggs, boneless chicken, onions buttermilk et al. As I got on the job, the list went longer.
When I put the dish in the oven to bake, I was wondering if I wasted my one hour. But then, with so many good ingredients, a good amount of effort and above all a good intention going into it, the result could not be bad, could it?
Why don’t you check out for yourself?
Food for Thought: Chicken Bread
Flour: 1 cup
Butter milk: 1/2 cup
Brown sugar (ground to dust): 2 tea spoons
Olive oil/butter: 1 cup
Boneless chicken: 250 g
Ginger: 1 inch, chopped
Garlic: 3-4 cloves
Green chillies: 1-2, chopped
Dried oregano: 1 teaspoon
Chilli flakes: 1 teaspoon
Baking powder: 2 teaspoons
Sant and pepper: To taste
Processed cheese: 2 cubes
Olives: 4-5 (optional)
Preparation: Cut the chicken into small pieces. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown. Add the chillies, ginger, garlic and the chicken and cook it dry with salt, pepper, oregano and chilli flakes. Once the chicken is cooked, grind it and set aside. Sift the flour with baking powder, and mix in the brown sugar and salt and beat it smooth with the oil. Now whisk in the egg, butter milk and add the ground chicken mix and continue beating. If the mixture is still too thick, add another egg or soda water. Mix in the cheese cubes cut into small pieces. Once the batter is ready (it should fall from a spoon in dollops), pour it in a greased cake 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: You can use grated cheese too, but the chunks taste heavenly when you bite into the bread. When the cake is in the oven and is only half-ready, and the upper crust is still soft, you can take it out and sprinkle sliced olives and chopped garlic on it, before putting it back. The olives and garlic will remain on the surface this way and you won’t need any special garnish for this savoury cake.
I had never heard of a dump cake until I saw this recipe in one of the food websites I visited recently. It was incredibly easy to make, and looked so yummy that I just could not wait to have it on my dining table.
But there was a hurdle. I did not have two of the only four ingredients required.
And by the time I managed to go out and get the stuff, I had forgotten an important part of the recipe – the oven temperature required for the dish. To find that, I had to go back to the Internet, but then I did not remember the website either by then. A frantic search on the web took me to http://www.allrecipes.com and I found what I was looking for.
When I finally made it, the dish was worth all the wait and effort. It was crunchy…and yummy…and fruity…and a beauty!!
Here goes the recipe:
Food for Thought: Pineapple dump cake
Pineapple: 1/2 can (if it’s a 500g can)
Cake mix (non-chocolate flavour): 250g
Butter: 1/4th cup
Cinnamon powder: 1/4th teaspoon
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Line pineapple pieces on the bottom of the pan, with half the syrup (if it’s a 500g can). Now cover it with the dry cake mix and press it. Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle cinnamon powder. Bake for 45 minutes and serve with ice-cream of your choice, though it tastes great without ice-cream too.
Last words: The original recipe had peach instead of pineapple. I personally prefer the taste of pineapple to peaches so used the former, but you can use peach, cherries or any other canned fruit. I really don’t know if this dish can be made with fresh fruit and homemade cake batter. May just try some day and let you know. Please write to me if you do.
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!