Banish box mixes and bake sweet homemade delights as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4

April 12, 1995|By Pat Dailey | Pat Dailey,Chicago Tribune

1-2-3-4 Cake

Makes 16 servings

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Put the butter into a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until the butter lightens in color, 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar. Beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until the eggs disappear.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating it with the milk and vanilla, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix lightly, only until each addition is incorporated.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until the cake just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 28 to 32 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then loosen from the sides with a small knife. Invert layers onto a wire rack and cool completely.

VARIATIONS:

* Tube or bundt pan: Bake in a greased and floured 10-by-4-inch (18-cup capacity) tube, bundt or kugelhopf pan for 60 to 70 minutes. After the cake has cooled, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and fill the center with fresh berries or glaze as desired.

* Citrus cake: Add 2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind and 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind to batter.

* Buttermilk cake: Decrease baking powder to 2 teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon baking soda; substitute buttermilk for whole milk.

* Spice cake: Substitute packed light brown sugar for the granulated sugar. Add 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger and cocoa, 3/4 teaspoon ground pepper and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice, cloves and nutmeg, sifting them with the flour mixture. Use the batter to make 24 cupcakes in greased muffin or egg-shaped tins. Frost if desired.

Per serving (of basic cake): 313 calories; 14 g fat; 85 mg cholesterol; 135 mg sodium; 44 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein.

Lemon Layer Cake

Makes 16 servings

1 recipe 1-2-3-4 cake, baked in three 9-inch round layer cake pans

1 recipe Citrus Curd

1 recipe Snow-White Lemon Frosting

1 cup flaked coconut

lemon slices for garnish

Cover the edges of a cake serving platter with wax paper. Put one cake layer onto the center of the platter. Spread with half the Citrus Curd. Top with a second cake layer and spread with remaining Citrus Curd. Top with last cake layer.

Frost top and sides of the cake with the Snow White Lemon Frosting. Use the palm of your hands to gently press the coconut over the sides of the cake. Remove wax paper from edges of serving platter. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days before serving. Garnish the cake with lemon slices. Serve the cake at room temperature.

Per serving: 595 calories, 27 g fat, 180 mg cholesterol, 165 mg sodium, 84 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein.

*

Curds -- puckery tart and exceedingly rich -- are British in origin. There, they're used at teatime, as a spread on scones. Here, a sprightly curd flavored with lemon and lime is used to fill the towering layers in a cake.

Citrus Curd

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

grated rind (colored part only) of 1 each: lemon, lime

2/3 cup sugar

5 large egg yolks

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and hot

Put rinds and sugar into a blender or food processor; process until rinds are as fine as the sugar. Add egg yolks, lemon and lime juice and mix thoroughly. Slowly whisk in the hot butter.

Transfer to a small heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours before using.

Snow-White Lemon Frosting

Makes 2 cups, enough for 1 layer cake

1 3-ounces package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 pound box confectioners' sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or lemon extract, optional

Combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the oil or extract in a food processor or large bowl of electric mixer. Mix until smooth, adding more lemon juice to reach a spreadable consistency.

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