Cake, like most of the best things in life, doesn’t just happen. For cake to happen successfully you need a plan, a plan and two other things: time and a reason to make one.
Earlier this month, Mom and I had both. I had a friend who was going in for gall bladder removal surgery, and a day off with nothing pressing on me to be accomplished. I had asked Mom earlier if I could make a meal for my friend as she has kids and I thought that a home cooked meal complete with cake would be just the thing to say ‘I’m thinking about you and hope this makes you smile as you recover.’
Mom helped me pick out which meal to make (roast beef, carrots, potatoes) and then I added a 1-2-3-4 cake. This is an old family recipe that most bakers have passed down in their family. This is a fantastic cake, it’s easy to make and so tasty. You can change it up and add things to it to make it more luxurious or serve it unadorned with coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy the simple goodness. It’s called a ‘1-2-3-4’ cake because its how the original users of the recipe remembered the main ingredients. You use:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspon of baking powder
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
It’s so easy! It’s been my family’s go-to cake for three generations. I remember my grandmother making it when we’d come down and visit during the summer, and Mom would make it for birthdays, and any time we needed a cake. You can use it as a layer cake or as a sheet cake. You can pare the recipe down or double it as needed. It’s like the Swiss-Army Knife(TM) of cakes. It also makes amazing cupcakes.
The first step is to add the sugar and the butter together. According to MomMom’s notes (that’s the paper on the counter there) it’s called creaming . I don’t know why, I just know it’s the phase of the cake that makes me the most nervous because the mixer suddenly decides it’s tired of being a mixer and wants to know what life is like as a mechanical bull.
Yee-haww git along lil tastebuds. For those who are interested, the mixer is more than 30 years old, and still works amazingly well, other than the aforementioned dreams of rodeo glory. It is my grandmother’s mixer, passed down through the family. After you cream the sugar and the butter together you start adding in the eggs, one at a time.
Baker’s tip: don’t ever just crack the egg into what you’re making, when you add in eggs. Break it instead into a smaller container or pitcher. If egg shell, blood, or mutant chicken are present, you’ve saved yourself the heartache of having messed up your whole project. When you’ve verified that there’s nothing wrong with the egg, then add it into your cooking project. You’ll save a lot of heart ache this way.
This shot is after two eggs were added and this yoke was being irritatingly illusive. I had to shove it into the beaters with the spatula. But look how creamy the batter’s getting! Ah, but it’s only for the minute. You still have to add in the flower and baking powder. In a separate bowl combine the flour and the baking soda. I used a whisk but you can sift it too. You just want to combine the flower and the powder evenly. If you have self-rising flour you don’t have to do this step but I can never find self-rising flower and so I have to add the baking soda in.
Now comes the time of testing and patience. You have to add the flour/baking soda to the rest of the mix slowly. I suggest half a cup at a time, maybe a little more if your mixer’s newer than mine. Too much too soon, and you’ll be covered in flour. And so will your kitchen. I alternate pouring the milk and the flour in as well. It helps things combine nicely.
It’s impossible to get a shot of the milk pouring while holding a camera, it just can’t be done, at least by me it can’t. So there’s the milk, sitting up on top of the batter instead of looking elegant as its poured in. When all the ingredients come together just right, this is the final result.
From there, you take the batter all lovely and smooth, and pour it into the cake pans, which you’ve all ready greased or lined.
Another baking tip: pick the pans up and drop them on the counter (not far, a quarter of an inch does it) to get the air pockets to brake up so you won’t have as much settling and falling when you take them out of the oven.
Then, it’s time to think about how you want to dress your cake. Or if you want to dress it. I did. I decided on chocolate icing.
Chocolate icing recipes abound, and I don’t remember which one I used, but I do know that I used unsweetened baker’s chocolate, not cocoa. I didn’t take pictures with the icing simply because other things were happening. Things like this:
So I was a tad busy while making the icing. Mmm, I love vegetables cooked with the meat. They just melt. Anyway, so I was busy in the kitchen while I was making icing. Then, the cakes came out and it was time to assemble them using the delicious sticky chocolate glue.
That is almost the end of the story. The very, very end, is that my friend loved the meal, her kids adored the cake, and every last pan came back lovingly cleaned. Though my friend said that really, she could have given them back unwashed, they’d been licked spotless.
What undertakings have you started, to help someone else when they were in a low spot? Did you wind up getting the most out of it, like I did? If you try the cake recipe here let me know. Or if you use this one too, let me know!
Coram Deo Scribes.