Sometimes the best things in life are the simple things. One of my favourite guilty pleasures? A slice of old-fashioned butter cake and a cup of tea. To my mind butter cake has a straightforward, no-nonsense personality. Often overlooked in favour of her flashier sisters – the tortes, gateaux, genoise and dacquoise of this world. We know each other well. After all she is the first cake I learnt to bake. From scratch.
Reliable and dependable. She pulls herself together in mere moments. Without fuss or advance planning. Just beat together the most basic of pantry ingredients – flour, eggs, butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk and vanilla. One bowl required.
In a little over an hour she emerges from her chrysalis. A slow oven. Golden on the outside. Sweet and fluffy, rich and buttery on the inside. Needing very little in the way of adornment. Just the merest dusting of icing sugar. Timeless and elegant.
Of course like Cinderella she also enjoys dressing up. On occasion you’ll find her frosted or iced. Perhaps layered and sandwiched with jam or cream. Simple yet complex. Meltingly delicious. To the very last mouthful.
Old Fashioned Butter Cake
125 g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup milk
PREHEAT oven to a moderately slow 160 C. Position oven racks so the top of the cake tin is roughly in the centre of the oven.
GREASE a deep 20 cm round cake tin. Line base with baking paper.
PLACE all ingredients in the order they are listed into a medium mixing bowl. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until just combined. Scrape down mixture from the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
INCREASE speed to medium and beat until mixture is smooth and changed to a paler colour.
POUR mixture into the prepared cake tin.
BAKE in preheated 160 C oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stand cake in tin on top of a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out onto the rack. Turn cake top side up to cool.
DUST with a little sifted icing sugar to serve. The cake will keep in an air tight container for up to three days and is suitable to freeze.