We Baked a Plain Cake… simple and delicious

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Plain cake was my fathers favourite cake, it is a simple, fairly dense cake that keeps well and is great eaten with a cup of tea (never coffee, impossible; that requires an entirely different cake).


Mum’s two cake tins were always occupied, one was either a sultana cake, a simple ‘fruit’ cake, or a plain cake. The other would have been a cake that was a bit more fancy, maybe an iced chocolate cake, an orange cake or my favourite, a ginger cake with mock cream and a plain vanilla icing. Tin one was ok for the kids to go to, tin two was not, that required permission from Mum who may be keeping the cake for a special purpose.


Having just read that I began to think of how mum would use the left over cake, it would not have been thrown away, that was just not on. Fruit cakes would be gently fried in a smear of butter and served up with some custard, same with sultana cake. Plain cake was often cut into smaller pieces and placed in the bottom of a baking tin, covered with a good custard and baked, the top scattered with nutmeg. Its a definite bow to the ingenuity of the cooks of the past, nothing wasted, simple food and yet absolutely delicious.


Plain cake was just that, a simple cake of two flours, plain and self raising, butter, eggs, sugar and in mums case, a few shreds of lemon peel, a cap full of vanilla essence and a small squeeze of lemon juice. The balance of taste is important, if you choose to use lemon (not enough that it should be a lemon cake) or vanilla.


My family, who all gathered around to taste started a discussion about what else could be done with such a cake, too heavy for lamingtons (you need a golden sponge) too heavy I think for many desert dishes, but for a trifle or indeed an Italian equivalent (use Mascarpone and dip the cake in Amoretto), could be a big winner.


I think this cake is a bit guilt free, sugar can be controlled, it has no additional fattening bits and pieces and even the butter can be controlled… although I suspect that too much control equals loss of quality.


Somehow we started to not eat cake, people were advised that cake eating = getting fat and poor hapless and indeed innocent cakes were blamed. That’s simply not the truth, it may be part of the reason, but not the whole. Dietary habits, fast food, lifestyle are all far more to blame than humble slice of cake. I tried to remember in the days of my youth, when cake eating was part of the everyday, how fat or overweight was the population? I think in a town of 2500 people, maybe half a dozen souls were overweight, my own grandfather included, it was by no means a problem.

Perhaps in my younger days, people were a lot more active, cars were far less common, even in our house my father did not own a car until I was fourteen, we walked everywhere as did most people. My father rode a bike. Eating cake was done everyday, and no one was shy.


Hamburger, fried chicken and endless chips did not happen, the only available take away was a bit of battered fish, a few chips, wrapped in newspaper was the choice. You could duck into one of the two bakeries in town and get yourself a damn fine meat pie, pasty or sausage roll, but the chance was that you would meet your mother in the bakery picking up bread, some great puff or short pastry or one of Tommy Digby’s very fine cakes. You would then be questioned about why you needed to eat between meals and asked, in no uncertain tone, was her (your mother’s) food not good enough. Caddies bakery has a lot to answer for in my own case!


Plain Cake

250g (8oz) butter

250g (8oz) sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup (65gr or 2oz)plain flour

1 1/2 – 2 cups(200gr to 250gr or 6 1/2oz to 8oz) self raising flour

1/2 cup milk (approx)

pinch salt

vanilla essence


Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time beating well. Add pinch of salt and vanilla essence and mix. Alternately mix in flour and milk. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c/360°f for 30 – 40 minutes or until when tested skewer comes out clean. Turn out of tin and allow to cool.








~ by peterwatson on June 12, 2014.

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