Post # 316 Butter Cake

December 3, 2014 at 3:40 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 316 Butter Cake

Way back in the early 90’s, I had a recipe for butter cookies that was excellent.  The cookies could be used as a base for dozens of other cookies.  I got it from an article in the food section of the Washington Post.  I never bothered to copy it down on my computer for a couple of reasons.  First, I had the article in my hand so I didn’t need to copy it anywhere; and second, I’m lazy.  I had the entire section of the paper right there, in a folder, how could it get misplaced?  Predictably, I haven’t seen it in years.

I keep my eyes open for it or one like it as I wander through the web, but so far, no luck.  I did find another recipe that I’m going to share today.  It’s a butter cake, and very easy to make.  It’s a very basic cake, not too sweet, and with a tremendous butter flavor to it.  Like the butter cookies I’m searching for, this cake can be the base for many other cakes and desserts.

What is butter cake, anyway?  For most of us, it was this:

butter cake 1

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a box mix, but as I recall, it was a standard cake that you added your own butter to.  It tasted good and was strong enough to stand its own ground against any frosting you’d want to put on it.  I don’t know about you, but that chocolate frosting looks delicious.

That wasn’t how butter cake started, though.  The classic butter cake is the pound cake.  The pound cake is so-called because the baker uses a pound of each primary ingredient:  a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, and a pound of egg.  It’s an old recipe dating back hundreds of years.  It’s been refined and improved over the years.  I imagine it tasted good back then, and it tastes really good now.

butter cake 2

With the innovation of “risen” cakes, cakes that had leavening agents added to them so they would rise, the butter cake became a standard.  As techniques changed or were invented, cakes changed and butter cakes, while always around, became less popular.  People seemed to want lighter, more ethereal kinds of cakes.  I still love the basic butter cake with chocolate frosting.

butter cake 3

This one has a whipped frosting so the dense cake can shine.

Over the past couple of decades, home-style cakes have been coming back into favor and the butter cake is the star.  Bakers are treating it differently now.  New techniques, new flavors, new thinking has changed the butter cake and turned it into an elegant dessert.  For instance, the syrup soaked cake is now very popular.

butter cake 4

It’s been no secret that in my house, cakes and carbs reign supreme.  I’m baking a couple of times a week, and very little is ever tossed out.  So I stumbled on this easy butter cake recipe and I’ve made it several times.  Just by itself, it’s a wonderful cake.  But I added and changed so now, it’s a wonderful cake, but different from when I found it.

Today, for instance, I turned it into a chocolate swirl cake.  I drizzled a small amount of chocolate syrup over the batter and used my rubber spatula to swirl the chocolate throughout the cake.  Turned out nice.

butter cake 5In the past, I’ve added various nuts and turned it into pecan cake or a walnut cake.  Once, I dotted it with cherry preserves.  They sunk to the bottom during the baking process and created a nice bottom coating for the cake.  I’ve added cinnamon and turned it into a snickerdoodle cake.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m going to start experimenting with the flavorings and try an almond cake, and a peppermint cake.  I’m also going to add some grated zest and try an orange cake and a lemon cake.  All of this with the basic butter cake recipe.

See what you can come up with.

When making this cake, be sure all the ingredients are at room temp before starting.  The suspension of the sugar in the butter is critical to the success of the cake.  Adding cold eggs or milk/water to the butter mixture will make it go solid again.  You don’t want that.

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk or water, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.  With an electric hand beater, cream the butter until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and mix until completely incorporated.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely between eggs.  Add vanilla and mix.  Add one third of the flour and mix carefully until fully incorporated.  Add one half of the milk/water and mix carefully until fully incorporated.  It will look grainy after each addition of liquid but that’s okay.  Add another third of the flour and mix, then add all of the milk/water and mix.  Finish up with the final third of the flour.  The batter should be shiny and smooth.  And delicious!  At this stage, if you’re going to add nuts, chips, candy, etc. use a rubber spatula to incorporate the additions.  Pour into a prepared pan.  I use an 8×8 square pan, but you can experiment with other pans, adjusting your cook times accordingly.  Put into a 350 oven for 40 minutes for the 8×8 square.  A 9×9 square takes about thirty minutes.  I’m going to try this in 9 inch round pans to create a thin layer cake.  See what happens.  Who knows?  When the cake is done, let it cool completely then tuck in.  Frost it, sprinkle it with sugar, douse it with syrup, spirits, or whatever.  It’s good any way you want to eat it.  I’m thinking next time, plain with a fruit compote over it and a dollop of crème fraiche.


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