I find baking incredibly satisfying. There’s something zen about starting with basic ingredients and ending up with a cake.  I try to bake as many cakes as possible for family birthdays & the occasional holiday. For Easter I made a Coconut Cake with Lemon Icing which  was decorated with Easter Candy .

There’s something wonderfully sweet about baking cake for a birthday or holiday meal. Please don’t take that to mean that I make all of the cakes—sometimes I’m slammed and I’m happy to enlist the help of the local baker or supermarket (a great source for flashy & fun kids’ cakes).

Anyway, I have one recipe that I swear by, and trust me when I say you will be able to do this from memory—really—this recipe is going to be my dementia test when I get older: it’s just that easy to remember!

1 -2 – 3- 4  Cake

1 Cup Butter (2 sticks softened Butter, unsalted preferably)

2 Cups Sugar

3 Cups Flour – just your regular stuff- I love King Arthur

4 Eggs room temp

4 tspns baking powder

1/2 tspn salt

1 cup Milk

1 tspn vanilla

Pre-heat Oven to 350. Butter, flour and if you have it line the bottom of 2 cake pans with parchment paper .

1. Mix flour, salt & baking powder in a bowl set aside.

2. Meanwhile mix together sugar and butter in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until fluffy on high.

3. Add eggs one at a time until fully mixed & add vanilla.

4. On Medium, add flour in 3 batches alternating with Milk.  With the last addition turn off the mixer and use a spatula to make sure everything is incorporated.

Distribute between the two cake pans and bake for 25 mins or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 mins on rack and remove from pans; cool completely before icing.

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Now the fun part! This recipe is incredibly versatile and is a breeze to change up depending on the recipient.

*Almond Cake with Marmalade and Dark Chocolate Icing.  On step 2 add a package of almond paste. For the filling use marmalade & ice with Dark Chocolate Icing. Decorate with pieces of orange from Marmalade

*Buttermilk Cake w/ Strawberries & Vanilla Icing. – Step 4 replace milk with Buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the milk. Use either fresh strawberries or strawberry jam depending on the season.

*Peach Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. After step 4 fold in a 1/2 cup peach jam. When you ice the middle layer line it with fresh peaches ( the key here is to have very ripe peaches)

*Coconut Cake with Lemon Icing. Step 2 add the zest of one lemon. Step 4 fold in 1 1/2 cups coconut. Ice with Lemon icing.

*Hot Chocolate Cake- Mix 1 1/2 cups coco powder into the flour.  Instead of using two cake pans use one rectangular cake pan. When the cake is not quite cooked all the way through, about 20 mins, pull out of the oven, cover with a bag of small marshmallows, and finish in the oven.

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Another trick to add a special touch: cut your cakes in half and you end up with a 4 layer cake, which looks great when sliced. Great for those icing junkies.

Blank Slate Icing

2 Sticks room temp butter

1 box confectioner sugar (1 lb box)

1/4 cup milk

1 tspn vanilla

With a stand mixer or hand mixer whip butter slowly add 1/2 of confectioner sugar (the dust will fly!) , add milk then rest of sugar and vanilla increase speed to high for around 2 mins so that the icing fluffs up. If the icing seems thin add more sugar and if it seems too stiff add more milk.

The reason for the name is there are a bunch of ways to add variety:

* Lemon Icing—add lemon juice and zest instead of milk

*Chocolate Icing—instead of confectioner sugar use coco powder. For a more fudgy approach melt a bag of chocolate chips and add to the icing—whip on high after.

*Mocha Icing—Use half coco & half confectioners. Instead of milk add coffee . I’m a huge fan of instant espresso so if you have it or instant coffee add1 tablespoon in addition to the coffee.