A Simple Butter Cake: One For The Fridge Door

This heralds a change of life or, at least, a grasp of commonsense while baking. The rules you learn baking can apply to the rest of your life. The beauty of this recipe is that once you make the measures, the whizzer performs all the hard work.

I hate making cakes. This is cooking by routine, by numbers, by recipes. And I hate following recipes. You can make pasta by feel, bread by experimentation, roasts by smell, soup by any version of mixing and matching you like, yet if you fiddle with weights, volumes, flows, add-ons, take-outs, containers or temperatures while you’re making a cake, chances are it will end in disaster. Yet, at the same time, if you have this organised mind, this need for exactitude, for replication, then there is nothing so marvellous as the end result of your hand-made bundle of crumbs.

It’s enough for me to re-think my attitude to life, to making cakes. After all these years I’ve realised there are so many other areas of cooking that allow for massive, off-the-wall experimentation, that you may as well have one small part of the culture set aside for routine. I suppose it’s a bit like breastfeeding for tiny tinies: that sense of warmth, pulse, love that comes just when you need it. Besides, it’s not much fun sucking on mum’s toe, just to be different. So, from now on, cake making will take on a new role in my life. When things are going wrong, when the favourite gets done in the last stride, when the Hawks fiddle and faddle and go down by a point, when the dog barks at me, I’m going to measure, and measure, and fold, and follow strict routines. I’m going to make a cake.

For those of you who are reformed romantics like me, for those of you who want the perfect cake recipe – for all and every variety you can imagine – there’s a new version of an old favourite of mine out there waiting for you. It’s called The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker (Chapters). Whenever I pick up this book, I can’t imagine the hours of work and creative energy that went into its production.

250 g butter, softened

1 cup (200 g) caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla essence or zest of 1 lemon

2 cups (300 g) self-raising flour, sifted

¼ cup milk, at room temperature


Cream the butter and sugar with the salt in the whizzer for 2-3 minutes, until light and white and fluffy. You’ll need to scrape the sides down now and then to bring all the mixture together.


Add the eggs, one by one, down the chute, continuing the whizzing process as you go. Add the vanilla essence similarly.


Remove the mixture from the bowl, and fold in the flour and the milk, alternately, maintaining as light a mix as you can. It will be quite firm, well away from runny.


Spoon the mixture into a well-greased 25-cm-round tin and bake in the oven at 180°C for 50-60 minutes.


Stick the recipe on the fridge door. You can use it for all sorts of marvellous cakes, puddings, desserts, muffins – anything you fancy will work when covered with this batter. Just be sure to place any juice-loving fruits on the bottom or else the mix will be sabotaged by leaking fruits. When using the batter atop a puree of fruits, or a truck-load of berries, make sure the fruit is warm when you pile on the batter.

Some recipes call for 1½ cups (300 g) of sugar. That’s too sweet for my palate. Please yourself. You may prefer 250 g. The method and physical result are unaffected by weights of sugar between 200 g and 300 g. Try several alternatives and note the weight that suits you, and your family.

WINE: How about a good cup of tea? Something with some oomph – English breakfast.