Isn’t it funny how the simplest things in life bring you the greatest pleasure, and the sometimes the best memories? The other day, I needed to make a cake to serve with evening coffee/ tea and was wondering what to make. The summer has set in and I wasn’t looking forward to spending too much time in the kitchen. For some strange reason it also struck me that I had been cooking for my family for close to 17 years!
All the women of my generation, in our immediate family on both sides, are working women with the exception of me. So at some point I guess it was natural that my daughter, then about 4 years old, suddenly woke up to the fact that her mother was the only one who stayed at home and didn’t go to the “office”. She wanted to know why I wasn’t doing the “normal” thing of going to work. The explanation that I was staying at home to spend time with her and look after her satisfied her.
She thought about all this for a while and then wanted to know if I got paid for the work I did at home. I can still remember her shocked look on her face when I told her that I didn’t get paid for doing the housework. She couldn’t believe that I did all the cooking and no one paid me to do it all. The way she looked at things then, grown-ups who worked got paid!
Being a very fair minded soul, which she is even today, she decided that my cooking (and I) was being totally unappreciated and found a solution immediately. Out of the generosity of her little heart, she told me that from that day onwards she would pay me 25 paise (think of it as 25 cents) out of her pocket money for every meal I cooked for her.
Yes, she used to get pocket money even then (all the coin change in our purses was hers), though she collected only shiny coins and kept giving us all the rupee notes which she considered “dirty pieces of paper”. It’s a different thing that I’m still reminding her of how much she owes from back then, but it’s a memory I shall cherish as long as I live.
Going back to the cake I wanted to make, I was looking for a simple recipe. Something which would take me all of 10 minutes to convert ingredients to batter, preferably without having to take out my mixer or do a lot of washing up. I found what I was looking for in Betty Crocker’s Starlight Yellow Cake. While I was searching for this cake I could make with minimum fuss, I discovered that many people in the U.S. in the 60s and 70s grew up on cakes made out of boxed mixes.
That’s something I never knew about given that my mother didn’t bake cakes, and I’d never seen boxed mixes for anything where I lived. It’s a different thing that cake mixes, including Betty Crocker mixes, can be found in most of the larger Indian supermarkets today. These are very expensive, which can be a good thing in my opinion, and it is cheaper to buy the ingredients and mix up the batter oneself.
You don’t need a boxed mix for a cake with this sort of recipe. All you need is about 10 minutes (excluding oven and cooling time), a cake tin (or two if you prefer), one bowl, a hand whisk and some negligible exercise for your arm. And you have a delicious yellow cake ready to be sliced and served!
Usually yellow cakes owe their colour to the yolks that go into the cake. And I understand that the yolks in eggs in some countries are more yellow than in others. The eggs I get here have yolks that range from a pale yellow to a deeper golden yellow, but not dark enough to colour a cake yellow if I use only 1 for the batter. Using more than 2 in a cake is guaranteed to give it an “eggy” enough smell and taste for us to recognise. So I used vanilla flavoured custard powder to make my cake yellow and more deeply flavoured with vanilla.
I baked my cake in a 9” cake tin and served it plain, warm from the oven. This cake provides a lot of possibilities for serving. You could dust it with powdered sugar/ cinnamon sugar for a sweeter cake. You could divide the batter equally between two 9” cake tins and then sandwich the cakes with jam or frosting if you choose.
This cake would also do well if paired with fruit and whipped cream. Whichever way you serve it, it’s a great cake. It is a lot like my Eggless Custard Powder Cake except that this one has eggs and a little less butter.