Food hack #2: The Emergency Cake
if you're a parent you've probably been there, little Jimmy announces he has to take something to the bake sale and it's 7pm the night before. Or you don't have kids but you're very exacting aunt just called and said she's calling in for afternoon tea. Or, you simply desperately want some cake but don't know how to bake.
Well fear not, I've got you.
Whatever the reason you need a cake on the fly, this little hack will have you popping out a Pound Cake, Voila-ing a Victoria Sponge (weak) or boxing off a Battenburg (better) in no time.
The idea of this hack is that it's soooo simple, you'll never forget the recipe and it's soooo easy to throw together, you probably have the ingredients in your fridge and pantry already. If not, a couple of emergency supplies to keep in the back of the cupboard on your next weekly shop and you'll be on it like a car bonnet whenever the need arises.
Baking is a science more than a skill so even if you've never baked before, I'll give you the ironclad Man Cave Fire guarantee that you can pull this one off. Go on you legend.
There are just five tools that you will need to own or acquire for this hack:
A set of scales
A mixing bowl
A mixing spoon
A cake tin
A wooden skewer
And four basic ingredients in your kitchen:
Flour (preferably Self Raising)
If needing a cake at a weird time of the day or with almost zero notice is a potential reality for you, keep the above on hand and make a couple of tactical purchases from below and keep them in a box somewhere.
Note that these are all optional upgrades:
Food Colouring / Flavouring
Assorted Decorative Sprinkles / Chocolate Chips
Can of Fruit / Dried Fruit Like Glace Cherries
Jar of Strawberry Jam or Lemon Curd
OK, so you've got the basics and little Jimmy has had a talking to about leaving things until the last minute and not telling you when he needs something, he's been banned from his X-station for the night and is now your not so willing helper / slave.
Let's get our cake on!
Hack Recipe: 1 Basic Cake, No Upgrades.
Take 1 egg per person for the size of the cake (4 is a good number for a standard size cake)
Weigh all of the eggs in their natural state (shells and all). Note down the weight.
Weigh out the same weight of each of flour, sugar and butter.
You should now have 3 bowls all with contents weighing the same as your 4 eggs.
Get a large mixing bowl and turn the oven on to warm up at 180c / 350f
In the mixing bowl add the butter and the sugar and creme it together by mixing it with the spoon
Once mixed, crack your eggs in one at a time, continuing to mix. You should end up with a wet batter. Mix quite hard to get some air into the mix.
Add the flour in 3 separate stages folding (Lightly mixing, not whisking) into the batter until it's just incorporated, don't over mix, it's Ok if it looks a little undermixed. You don't want to knock all the air out.
If you were doing upgrades (more on that later) now would be the time to add them.
Smear a small amount of butter all around the inside of your baking tin 9so it doesn't stick) and pour in your cake mixture
Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
Take out of the oven and push the skewer down into the middle of your cake and remove. If it comes out clean, you have a cake, if not, put it back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes and repeat until you get a clean skewer.
Put to the side to cool for 10-15 minutes
Run a knife around the sides of the tin to release the cake and turn your cake out, rest it on a wire rack if you have one.
You have just baked your first emergency cake. Well done.
Couldn't be easier right?
All you have to remember is the trick about weighing the eggs and the fact its sugar, butter and flour and you'll never be in a position where you can't pull a cake out of a hat.
Decorating and upgrades
Ok, for a basic but passable cake, cut through the centre horizontally so you have a top and a bottom. Spread either jam and cream or butter cream (icing sugar mixed with butter) on the first layer, pop the top back on and dust with icing sugar and there you have it: a Faux Victoria Sponge
For a chocolate version, mix Cocoa into your flour before mixing it into the batter to make a chocolate cake. If you have them, throw some chocolate chips into the mix to make a more moist chocolatey cake. Mix cocoa, butter and icing sugar to make chocolate frosting and you'll have ain instant death by chocolate cake
Grab a tin of pineapple rings and a shallow baking tin, cover the bottom of the tin with a single layer of drained pineapple rings and pour over your caked batter and bake for an instant pineapple upside down cake.
Grab a muffin tin and some paper muffin cases and seperate your cake batter into 2 equal portions, making one chocolate y stirring in some cocoa and adding chocolate chips and glace cherries. With the other half of the batter add lemon, lime and orange zest (or any combination) and mix it into the batter. Pour the batter into the muffin cases and bake giving you a set of chocolate chip and a set of citrus blast muffins. Decorate with buttercream and sprinkles.
The list goes on and this versatile "Cheats cake batter" will work wherever you need a cake based dish. It's probably not going to be as good as following a dedicated Muffin or Victoria Sponge recipe but it will get you out of a baking crisis if you ever have one.
This is also useful whenever you have a bored kid on your hands, they'll think you are a total legend if you get them to help you in the kitchen and bash out a decent sweet treat without even going to the shops.
And there you have it, another quick hack for your home-cooking arsenal.