Easy preparation is the icing on these one-pot, no-mess cakes

April 27, 1994|By Andrew Schloss | Andrew Schloss,Special to The Sun

We all have favorite recipes of which we never tire: an easy spaghetti sauce, a perfect salad dressing or a quick marinade for grilled chicken, but our recipe files can get pretty thin when we look for cakes that are simple and fast enough to throw together at a moment's notice.

Cake mixes are an attempt to fill the gap, but they often mean dragging out a mixer and dirtying several bowls.

However, there is a cake-making method (as easy as any mix) that yields high-rising, moist cakes, ready for baking in less than 10 minutes, and requiring no more equipment than a whisk and a saucepan.

The trick to these cakes is to melt the butter and/or chocolate in a large saucepan. Then the sugar, eggs and flavoring are stirred in, followed by the dry ingredients. To save time and equipment, it is best to measure the flour in a large measuring cup, and stir in the other dry ingredients. The finished batter is put into a baking pan and baked by conventional means.

These cakes can be iced, but they don't have to be. A dusting of confectioners' sugar or a dollop of whipped cream is all the gilding any of them require.

Two standard cake-making procedures are missing from these recipes: By not sifting the dry ingredients and by dropping the step of creaming the fat with the sugar, we have eliminated all of the extra equipment and much of the mess inherent in baking a cake. But, as with any improvement, there is a trade-off.

Dry ingredients are sifted in order to aerate them, remove debris and diminish lumping. Because all commercial flours are cleaned and pre- sifted, it is unnecessary to sift them, unless you are preparing a sponge or angel food cake.

Recipes for most cakes other than sponge cakes start with instructions to beat butter with sugar, which forces air into the butter and thereby lightens the cake. If you melt the butter, such aeration becomes impossible, and the resulting cake is dense and moist rather than light and airy.

Cakes like gingerbread, carrot cake and applesauce cake are improved by this method. Dense, rich cakes like tortes and brownies are also successful moved into a saucepan, as are hearty, sweet breads, like banana bread and zucchini bread.

The idea behind these cakes came from a friend who seemed to have an unending supply of chocolate cake coming from her oven. She gave me the recipe to illustrate how little effort it actually took. The chocolate banana cake that follows is a rendition of her recipe, which was stolen from her mother, who stole it from her neighbor, who stole it from an aunt, who has no idea I've stolen it for you.

Chocolate banana cake made in a saucepan

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/4 pound butter

1 cup sugar

2 bananas, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat and mix in sugar, bananas, vanilla and eggs.

Measure the flour in a 2-cup measuring cup and thoroughly mix in the baking soda. With a whisk mix into the saucepan until combined.

Pour into a greased and floured 8-inch layer pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

Brandy applesauce spice cake

Makes 9 to 12 servings

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup raisins

1/4 pound butter

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups applesauce

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brandy

Measure the flour in a 4-cup measuring cup and mix in the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and allspice until thoroughly blended. Toss in raisins and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, applesauce, eggs, vanilla and brandy. With a whisk, mix in the dry ingredients.

Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch square baking pan and bake in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

One-pot black pepper gingerbread

Serves 9 to 12

2 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves

1/2 teaspoon dried mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/4 pound butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup dark molasses

2 tablespoon instant coffee powder

2 eggs

1 cup boiling water

Measure the flour in a 4-cup measuring cup and thoroughly mix in the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, mustard, pepper and ginger. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, molasses, coffee and eggs, beating with whisk until smooth. Add half the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Beat in the boiling water, and then the rest of the dry ingredients.

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