Hugs to you, Eashwari..
This is already my personal favourite post of the year!
I love to name it Tea Cake. That's how amma calls it. She still has the flair to make the perfect tea cakes, airy and light with no luxury of eggbeaters or new age ovens those days. She used the (vintage!) glass horlicks mixer inherited from her ma-in-law; my granma, for beating egg whites to stiff peaks and a round oven that didn't have a timer or even a temperature control for baking her cake ever since I can remember or since past a few decades.
Neverthelessly my tea cakes turn out denser every time I bake in spite of modern beaters, whisks and ovens. I still am unsure where I fail to make this basic pound cake while I boast about baking ventures!
Recently I had a surprise box of freshly baked, warm pieces of simple tea cake, neatly squared out, which had the loveliest texture, flavour and taste which I could relate to the best 'yellow vanilla pound cakes' savoured at many parts world wide and most importantly the cake amma makes!
The source point was Eashwari, who is my friend for almost the past two decades; whom I had not recognised as a great baker! She runs her own pre-school and had had her hands always full. On another note I get inspired the way she maintains her cute little home. In an artful way with all the simple contemporary, traditional stuff hanging here and there or placed neatly on shelves and corners which merges with every single other piece around.
I rang her up, while the cake sent over by her, melted in my mouth bursting all its goodness. She explained the recipe which seemed to be like a simple pound cake made with a 40 year old egg beater and a 30 year old oven! Ah, so there lies the secret! The vintage appliances again!!
We fixed up a time convenient for both of us and over to her neat and systematic kitchen...
Tea Cake / Vanilla Pound Cake / Yellow Cake
Yields 24 squares
As you know, a pound cake is a 1:1:1:1 ratio of 4 ingredients. Traditionally, a pound of each ingredient went into for baking which yielded quite a large cake. Hence the quantity is scaled down to suit the size or requirement of the cake. We used 400 gms of each ingredient which yielded a more-than-one kilo cake for her family of two and my family of four!
All purpose flour- 400gms
Eggs- 7 no:s (which measured 420gms)
Unsalted butter, softened at room temperature - 400gms
Sugar - 400 gms (powder after weighing)
Vanilla extract - 2 tsps (we used bush vanilla essence)
Baking powder - 3 tsps
Hot milk ( bearable heat of around 65 deg c)- 4 tbsps
Weigh eggs and flour separately.
The total weight of 7 eggs we used shows 420 gms. But Eashwari feels it is fine as we can count the extra 20 gms as the weight of the shells of the eggs.
Weight of the flour is exactly 400 gms.
Measure 3 tsps of baking powder. Add to the flour and sift.
Separate egg yolks from whites. My friend was crude and casual here. She broke the eggs one by one in a vessel, spooned out the yolks and collected in a bowl. Some egg white got added to the yolks which is fine again. But she saw to it there wasn't a drop of yolk combined to the whites. This(fat) interferes with stiffening of the whites while being beaten. Be warned!
Keep aside the yolks. Beat the egg whites in high speed, until frothy and stiff as you see. Frothy and light whites give way to softer cakes!
Cream butter and sugar with the beater in low speed.
Again, be careful to beat the egg white first before getting into this part. A drop of butter can interfere with the egg whites not getting them stiffened!
Now, get ready for the mix up! Preheat your oven at 350F (about 180 C)
1. Add egg yolks one by one to the butter-sugar mixture. ( See to it, you turn to a large container as everything gets in here finally)
2. Alternate egg yolks with flour.
3. Whisk in medium speed to combine until finished.
4. Add beaten egg..
5. followed by vanilla
6. and whisk until smooth in low speed.
7. Add the measured hot milk to loosen the batter
8. Whisk in low speed to combine.
Transfer the batter to the greased and dusted cake pan. The batter should fall 'ribbon-like'. Note the consistency!
Bake at 180 C for around 50-55 minutes until the top turns golden and an inserted knife in the centre comes out clean. ( Our vintage appliance demanded 40 minutes baked at 200 C ) :-)
Cool and cut into squares. We did 6 x 4 that gave 24 squares.
I brought home my share to share with you all and also for my tea :)
I had seen my mom adding egg yolks one by one along with vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture combining with a wooden ladle ( as she never owned a beater those days). She made sure to fold in the flour gently
finishing with the frothy beaten egg white, even more gently, taking care not to break them much.
Eashwari had used an electric beater throughout which yielded a soft cake as well!
My friend makes her own homemade butter; weighs and powders sugar after weighing and combines both with a fork and freezes. She takes it out and leaves in room temperature of 30deg C for 8 hours on the day she plans to make the cake.This softens the butter as much as possible in a natural way. Hot tea cakes comes out of her oven ( ah! see the picture of this cake getting baked in her 30 year old oven) in the evening she serves for tea!
Anjana, welcome back to India after the completion of your studies :)
Have a wonderful time with your family!
I dedicate this post for you and your amazing mom, Eashwari :).