This makes an 8″/20cm vanilla cake, and uses the creaming method:
200g salted butter
1 TSP vanilla extract/paste
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
Turn the oven on: 180 degrees. It is important to get the oven temperature right. Oven thermometers can help and are fairly inexpensive.
Prepare the tin – grease lightly and then line with baking parchment – here’s a good link for this: http://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/baking/how-to-line-a-cake-tin.html.
- Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge for about 2 hours before you start, depending on how hot it is. (TOP TIP: The butter should ease to the touch a little, but not sink…)
As a guide: I live in Berkshire, in the UK. In the winter, 2 hours may not always be long enough. In the summer, on one of our rare hot days, half an hour is usually more than sufficient.
- Cut the butter up a bit and whizz in the mixer (with the paddle attachment * see below) for a few minutes along with the TSP of vanilla extract.
- Slowly (I do it half a dessert-spoon at a time) add the caster sugar. (TOP TIP: Doing this slowly, helps get more air in the cakes, and helps them to rise).
- The whole mixing process should be about 10 minutes – I let it keep mixing to get to the 10 mins, on no.3 of my Kenwood, which is about medium-fast.
- In the meantime, crack the eggs and whisk slightly – you don’t want lumps of yolk but you don’t want to whisk till frothy either.
- Turn the mixer down (I put mine at no.2) and slowly add the egg mixture – I take about 3 minutes over this, so just a very little at a time – if you add too quickly, it will curdle. (If it does curdle, add a little of the flour. Note: It can also curdle if the eggs are still cold.)
- Turn the mixer down to it’s lowest setting.
- Add the sifted flour at a quickish pace, 1 dessert-spoon at a time. You just want to incorporate the flour – if you mix for too long, you will end up with a tough (dense) cake.
- Turn out the mixture into the tin, and with a palette knife, smooth the cake flat, right out to the sides and corners. Drop the tin onto your kitchen surface from a short height – this gets rid of any (too) large air-bubbles, and gives the cake a more even texture. It also helps to level it.
- Bake for 30 mins. Do not open the oven door before the first 30 minutes, otherwise you will expose the cake to cold air and it will sink. If a skewer / cake tester doesn’t come out clean, give it another couple of minutes and try again (keep doing this until the tester comes out clean).
- Leave the cake to cool for 10 mins.
- Skewer all over the cake (I probably skewer about 40/50 times) and brush sugar syrup (see below) on it.
- When the tin is cool enough to handle, turn the cake out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Wrap the cake in parchment and foil.
* I use a silicone-edged paddle attachment for my Kenwood, as it saves me having to scrape the bowl during the mixing. If you do not have one, then I would suggest scraping fairly regularly (e.g. at least a couple of times when creaming the butter with the sugar).
- Bring to the boil: 75g caster sugar + 5 TBSP cold water.
- When it’s cold, add 1 TSP vanilla extract/paste and stir. (It’s best to let it sit for a while, so the vanilla is properly infused.)