Saturday, 18 April 2009

Bake your own cake from scratch, then eat it

Far from being a philosophical posting about getting what you want in life, this post is actually about cake - the delicious baked treat that goes so well with afternoon tea.

I've been into baking for goodness knows how many years. I used to bake cakes most weekends for the ladies in my mom's ceramics class, trying different receipes each time.

Although I love baking, it isn't something I get to do very often. Nonetheless, every April I bake a cake of sorts to take to Adventure Racing Club in celebration of's birthday. Last year it was cupcakes; this year I went all out with made-from-scratch chocolate and lemon poppy seed cakes.

Out of convenience, I do like using box mixes (choc or vanilla). They're pretty good and you generally just need to add eggs, milk and/or oil. Easy. But, I also find that these box cakes are quite small and the prices keep going up. So I opted to make a BIG chocolate cake from scratch, trying a new recipe. Delicious!

Staying with the theme of size of cake and cost, I did a costing on the price of the ingredients for a large made-from-scratch cake vs a box cake (yes, I do have better things to do; but I thought the exercise would be entertaining). The one thing to note is that you do need to invest a little bit more in the beginning for long-lasting baking ingredients like baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder; you'll use them with each cake you bake and they're always useful to have in the cupboard.

Box Cakes
There are pretty much three brands of chocolate cake that you'll get your hands on easily: Ina Paarman @ R28.59 (650g), Pillsbury @ R32.99 (510g) and Moirs @ R19.39 (400g). With Pillsbury you just have to add 2 x eggs and 80ml oil. I'm not sure about the others. So, let's go with Pillsbury as I know what needs to be added and it is in the middle in terms of dry ingredient weight (excl. icing).

Pillsbury chocolate cake mix, R32.99
2 x xlarge eggs, R2.67 (more pricey if you're using free range, grain fed etc)
80ml sunflower oil, R0.85
TOTAL: R38.32

AND this total excludes icing.

Lisa's made-from-scratch LARGE chocolate cake
500ml water, from the tap (negligible)
660g caster sugar, R12.50
250g butter, R9.00 (half of a 500g block)
35g cocoa powder, R4.70
1tsp bicarbonate of soda, R0.35
450g self-raising flour, R3.46
4 eggs, R5.33 (x-large eggs)

TOTAL: R35.34

My cake is not only cheaper than Pillsbury, but based on dry ingredients it clocks in at just over 1.1kg! Yes, my cake tastes better AND it caters for far more people.

As for the icing, I lathered that delicious Nestle Caramel Treat (R13.99) on top. A good chocolate butter icing is another excellent option (you need butter and icing sugar - you would already have the cocoa powder).

Just incase you'd like to bake this cake, I'll include the directions below. As a note... this recipe is quite different to others I've made where you mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients and shove in the oven. Other methods involve creaming the butter and sugar, adding eggs and then the dry ingredients. With this cake you melt the butter with the water, sugar and cocoa (delicious!) and then add to dry ingredients.

Lisa's made-from-scratch LARGE chocolate cake

500ml (2 cups) water
660g (3 cups) caster sugar
250g butter (you can go for 200g - makes little difference)
35g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
450g (3 cups) self-raising flour
4 eggs (I use x-large)

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (or 160C for fan ovens). Grease (I use Cook'nBake Spray) and flour a large baking dish (26cm x 33cm) - I used a 23x23 dish and left the cake in the oven for a little longer because the cake is thicker.
  2. Combine the water, sugar, butter, sifted cocoa and bicarb in a medium saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 mins. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature (I let it cool for a bit until it was just warm).
  3. Add sifted flour and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and pale in colour.
  4. Pour into baking pan; bake for about 50 minutes or until the cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan. Once removed from the oven, allow the cake to stand for 10 minutes. Turn it out on to a wire rack to cool.
  5. Only ice the cake once it has cooled completely.

Recipe adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly: Cakes, Biscuits and Slices.

Happy baking.

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