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    Such a simple term, isn't it? The word itself does not remind us of much - it could be anything from a packet of Britannia to the most elaborate birthday cake you've ever laid your gluttonous eyes on. But when we're down to specifics?

    When I say... a loaf of cinnamon cake punctuated with chocolate chunks? A decadent and moist chocolate oreo cake inviting you with the occasional crunch hidden within? Warm slices with a jam filling perfect to go with that morning coffee?

    Okay, what about… A simple vanilla cake tantalizing the memories of your childhood as it made its way from your mum's or grandmum's oven to the table where your famished eyes devoured it before it could even cool down?


    Speaking of... Did you know? You could take that one vanilla cake recipe and modify it into every cake I mentioned before that?

    Baking cakes is simple science where you take 1 teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of baking soda, for every cup of flour! That's it!

    Crazy, right?

    Well, that's what I thought – I was of the opinion that cakes could never be kind to me. They either didn’t hold shape or something or the other always went wrong. But after being enlightened by a friend regarding the flour and baking powder and baking soda ratio – it all made sense. Conquering that one successful vanilla cake attempt opened up the path to many recipes I could decode by mere modifications made to that one recipe without spending unnecessary amounts of my mental energy. Baking is all about flexibility, and gaining a basic, general grasp is all you need. So, here’s the game-changer with the game-changing technicalities.


    Basic Vanilla Cake           (can be made with or without egg)         


    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup sugar, powdered
    • 3 tbsp cooking oil (or 1/2 cup melted butter)
    • 1 egg at room temperature *
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence
    • 1/2 cup milk at room temperature
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda


    *To make it eggless – skip the egg and use a total of 1 cup milk in the recipe.



    1. Combine/sieve all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
    2. In a separate bowl, whip up the sugar and oil/butter. Add in the egg (if using) and vanilla essence. Mix. Add the milk. Mix.
    3. Once all the wet ingredients have come together smoothly, slowly fold in the dry mixture in portions. The batter needs to be thick. That ensures a crumbly texture.
    4. Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F.
    5. Grease a 6″ inch baking tray, sprinkle some flour, tap it around and remove the excess. You could also simply line the tray with parchment paper.
    6. Pour the batter. Bake for 30-35 mins, or till the top has cracked and is golden brown. Do a knife check to ensure the done-ness.



    Here comes the fun part. How do we alter this to create more beauties? Here’s how.


    Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Chunks


    • Add 2 tsp of cinnamon powder to the flour as you sieve it or when you mix all the dry ingredients.
    • After you’ve prepared the batter, add ½ cup of roughly chopped chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips) to it and gently fold it in till it’s evenly distributed. Then bake at the prescribed temperature for the given amount of time.



    Chocolate Cake


    • Add 4 tbsp cocoa powder to the flour as you sieve it or when you mix all the dry ingredients. Follow the rest of the recipe without any changes.



    Chocolate Oreo Cake


    • Follow the steps mentioned under the Chocolate Cake.
    • Once the batter is ready, add 10 roughly chopped oreo biscuits and fold it in gently. Make sure you use a knife to chop up the biscuits instead of breaking them with your hands, as the latter might get messy because of the cream filling.


    Jam Filled Cake


    • It’s better to use a rectangular baking dish for this one.
    • Once you’ve poured out your batter, in the center - lay your favourite jam on the top, along the length of the dish. Then bake at the prescribed temperature for the given amount of time.



    Coffee Cake


    • Add 1 and half teaspoon of instant coffee powder to 2 tablespoons of warm milk and add that to the rest of the milk. Do not add coffee to cold milk as it would not dissolve.


    That’s it. Amazing, isn’t it? You could leave your friends and family in awe of your skills with whipping up fancy sounding cakes while all it took you was one recipe with a handful of tricks!

    If you’re a baking enthusiast, you should most definitely experiment with other flavours using this recipe. Marble cake, custard cake, what not. Google or Youtube cake recipes, check out the ratios, how much peanut butter for what quantity of flour. Apply that. Be your own Nigella Lawson. Have fun, be flexible.

    Happy Baking!


    Pratyusha Pangari




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