Plain cakes are the ones I grew up with. They are not only my comfort zone, but my happy place, too.
There is a special kind of magic about homemade cake. It has little to do with the level of sophistication or perfection of the cake, and everything to do with the forethought and care that went into the baking. It is for this reason that my heart will forever belong to simple cakes. To the kind of humble cakes that sit on kitchen tables in ordinary houses all around the world. To the kind of cakes that are sliced and shared until only crumbs remain and are, somehow, more than the sum of their parts. They are cake-love and connection. They are: “I love you”, “I miss you” and “Thank goodness it’s Friday”. They are the “I’m sorry” we can’t seem to say, expressed ever so eloquently through the creaming of butter and sugar, breaking of eggs and stirring of spoons. And to me, they are home.
Plain cakes are the ones I grew up with. They are not only my comfort zone, but my happy place, too. I am a home baker – self-taught through years of trial and error. My love of baked goods (and of food in general) has been shaped by my family: my English grandma, who made excellent sponge cakes and infamous trifles; my Australian nanna, who had a no-nonsense approach to cooking (and, indeed, life), but a real love of whipped cream; my parents, who have always cooked good food, from scratch; and now my husband and two small children, who are my in-house cake critics and chief taste-testers.
Now, as a cake baker and recipe writer, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I am going to: I think this is my favourite cake. It’s a comfortingly simple butter cake, with just the right ratio of cake to sunny passionfruit buttercream. This is the cake I make first when I have been away from home, and the one I crave with a big cup of tea when my mum is not around for a hug. To me, this cake tastes like home.
185g unsalted butter, softened
185g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
225g self-raising flour
pinch of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
pinch of salt
125ml buttermilk, at room temperature
125g unsalted butter, softened
240g icing sugar
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp, plus extra to decorate
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan-forced and grease a deep 20cm round tin thoroughly with butter. Line the base and side of the tin with baking paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, caster sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a separate bowl and whisk together. Add half to the creamed butter mixture, stirring gently, before adding half the buttermilk. Once incorporated, follow with the remaining flour, then the remaining buttermilk, stirring gently until the batter is smooth. Spoon the batter into the tin, smoothing the top with a spatula. Tap the tin gently on the bench a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 45–50 minutes or until golden, risen and cooked through. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cake is cool, make the passionfruit buttercream. Mix the butter and half the icing sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar and passionfruit pulp and beat until light and fluffy. Spoon the buttercream onto the cooled cake, smoothing it out to evenly cover the surface, and top with a little extra passionfruit pulp, if you like.
Serve at room temperature in thick slices, with a large pot of tea. Any leftover cake will keep happily in an airtight container in the fridge for 2–3 days; just return to room temperature before serving.
TILLY PAMMENT’S NEW COOKBOOK THE PLAIN CAKE APPRECIATION SOCIETY IS OUT NOW!
Published in ed#691