My five-year-old nephew Roman took a bite of a homemade sugar cookie on Christmas Day and made a face I wasn’t expecting: he wrinkled his nose and shook his head, the universal sign for “I don’t like this.” How could this be, I wondered? He’s a kid, right? Don’t children love sugar?
My brother Andy, Roman’s dad, remarked that kids eat a lot of processed foods, that they’re not necessarily used to homemade tastes. This make me think about the difference between the baked goods you buy at the store–packaged cookies, boxed cake mixes–and how different they really are from homemade. If you bake a cake from a mix, you’ll get fluffy, moist layers that will stay fresh for several days. Bake a cake from eggs, flour, butter, and sugar, and you’ll get a denser, more crumbly treat that lasts three, maybe four days tops (depending on your ability to resist slicing up a huge piece every time you pass your cake stand).
This recipe is a simple, one-bowl affair that requires no melted chocolate, just cocoa powder, and yields a single layer. Caramel frosting pairs well with this cake, but I chose to dust it with powdered sugar, make some whipped cream, and serve it “plain.”
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish, if desired
Grease and flour a nine-inch round cake pan; set aside. Note: if you plan to leave the cake in the pan, you can simply grease and flour it, but if you wish to remove the cake from the pan to set it on a cake stand, I recommend greasing the bottom of the pan, lining it with a circle of waxed paper, then greasing and flouring the paper.
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Add milk, shortening, and vanilla, beating on medium speed for two minutes.
Add egg and beat on medium speed for another two minutes.
Pour batter into prepared pan; it will be a light brown color and very fluffy in texture.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cake on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan (if you desire) to cool completely.
Dust with powdered sugar and top with sweetened whipped cream if desired.
Sweetened Whipped Cream
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Chill your bowl and beaters (or whisk attachment) for 10-15 minutes.
Add whipped cream and powdered sugar to the chilled bowl and beat on medium, then medium-high speed until soft peaks form.