I don’t do much baking, or rather, I’ve a few classics I stick to. I’m posting this because it’s one of those things that should be straightforward but I’ve been tweaking it for years and am convinced I’ve finally nailed it.
The basic recipe is Delia’s 6/6/6.
She beats the 6oz caster sugar with 6oz butter til white then adds 6oz self raising flour & 3 eggs.
I learned early on you had to quickly bind in the flour and eggs and get it in the oven straight away. At the start I used to over beat the flour and eggs and let it drone away in the mixer, but it was wrecking the cake.
First, I had to throw out TWO Kenwood mixers (the Chef Classic) because it comes with a liquidiser that fitted to the top. TWICE there was a spillage from the liquidiser and the liquid, smoothie or whatever I was making, dripped into the motor and that was it, €400+ down the tubes TWICE. Who DESIGNED this?
So the next time I bought an old fashioned hand mixer. It’s cheap and it’s never broken. I don’t have a food processor. So far this hasn’t been a problem though lots of recipes recommend them. I would like to have one but it’s on the list of “things I will buy in the future when I have money” with art and a new carpet for my bedroom. Anyway, the hand mixer is fine. A lot of baking got done before Chef Classics and Food Processors.
Crucial. Reduce the sugar. Instead of 6oz, use Barely 5. Barely. I think tonight it was 4 and 1/2.
The sugar makes the cake hard. I’ve started doing this with all recipes – just reduce the sugar. And it’s made everything taste better and is so much softer. You wouldn’t believe the difference.
An aunt said she always used the soft butters but I had stuck to regular butter. However, now I soften it in the microwave. I usually intend to just have it room soft – you know, not so hard it’s a pain to beat, but sometimes I let it go too long and it’s practically melted. Sometimes there is liquid. It’s fine! Again, it makes the cake so soft. and since I’m there using my cheapo handmixer a cinch to mix!
But still let it go white.
It’s flour. I often get the cheap own-brand ones wondering how it could be different to the Odlums. A friend says there’s something about the field churning out the 3rd crop of wheat in the year and the cheap flours are from the 3rd harvest. I have no idea if this has any basis in reality, but mostly stick to the cheap ones as I don’t want to be an eejit paying for brands, and then crack every now and then and get the Odlums as buying the cheapest of everything gets tiresome and maybe there is a difference. Then I revert to the mean. (haha behavioural economics pun).
Tonight I put in the 3 eggs and I dunno. The mixture just looked a little bit stiffer than I preferred. A bit doughy. So I said what the heck. I was going to add in half an extra egg but I have free range eggs and the next one in the box was quite small so I said feckit and put it in.
So you know, you don’t want it runny. But you do want it nice and smooth and creamy, so add another bit of egg it looks dry.
Then I divide it between two tins and make sure not to over cook it. Set your timer on the phone. 20-25 mins at 180. And then raspberry jam in between.
It was so smooth and soft. And the great thing is I don’t care if the lads wolf it down as a snack – everything in it is good and nutritious except for the sugar, but there’s a whole lot less than anything from the shop.
Also, one more thing. When I’m really busy, sometimes, I’ll take out the bowl and weigh the ingredients at night. And then make it up the next day. Sometimes the butter is left sitting in the bowl for a couple of days as I get distracted. But it has a better chance of being made if I at least have the stuff out and weighed. Oh and the tins I have don’t need to be lined. Just grease them a bit. That saves loads of time. When I make the 4/4/4 (for another instalment) I line the tins and it’s a pain in the arse. I might try to make that one w/o lining and see what happens.