I can count my true cake repertoire on one hand. I’ve flirted and made others with varying degrees of success, but I invariably return to one these five: the ginger one, the chocolate one, the clementine one, the other chocolate one and this, the nice plain one.
I make this cake about once a month, maybe twice if Vincenzo is lucky, he really likes cake and milky coffee for breakfast and mumbles buona with his mouth full. It is golden yellow with a moist but firm crumb that tastes of what it is butter, sugar, flour, eggs, milk and a flick of vanilla.I am quite partial to a slice for breakfast myself.
I have always called it a nice plain cake although I think it would be just as happy to called a kind of pound cake or a madeira cake. I like that it is both dainty and workaday at the same time, not too sweet, straightforward and very nice.
My mum made two of these nice plain cakes while we were away in Umbria, she used a loaf tin which worked perfectly – this cake is not fussy about it’s tin, she’s a flexible kind of cake. Mum got up early while the rest of us were still rolling around in bed wondering if we drank a little too much Rosso di Montefalco and then remembering we didn’t care if we did, because we were on holiday. By the time we reached the kitchen the scent of warm cake led us to the breakfast table.
Fruit salad, plain yogurt, coffee and cake…
It is happily nice and plain to make, you only have to remember to take the butter out of the fridge some time before so it’s nice and soft.
A nice plain cake
Based on Jane Grigsons madeira cake from her book English food and shaped by numerous attempts and advice from Nigella Lawson.
- 120g / 1 stick of butter
- 250g /1 1/4 cups of fine sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 small teaspoons of vanilla essence
- 260g / a cup and a half of plain flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 8tbsp/1/2 cup of whole milk
Set the oven to 190°/375F and butter a deep 8″ round tin or a loaf tin (a 9″x 5″ x 3″ I think !!)
Cream the butter and together until it is pale and light and fluffy.
Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar one at a time until you have a smooth silky batter and add the vanilla essence.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter gradually, stirring firmly after each modest addition and add salt.
Stir in the milk a bit at a time.
Pou the mixture into your greased tin and bake at 180°/350F for about 30 – 40 minutes or when a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow the cake to sit for a a nice 20 minutes before turning it out of the tin.
I think this cake is best eaten the day it is made, best of all when it is just just warm. It keeps well for another two days, just wrap it carefully in a layer of baking parchment and then another of foil.