The cake, a book and some hot tea; joy in simple pleasures!
I grew up eating a lot of home-baked vanilla flavored cake with no frosting. We didn’t have a cookie jar to dig in after school but we had a cake box that would hardly be empty. Ma didn’t need any special occasion, she just needed some free time in hand and our lunch box would definitely have a piece of cake in it.
Ma’s cake is still very popular in our family circle. If you were imagining a tall, fully frosted, beautifully painted cake, then you would be disappointed. Her cake was plain, soft, made with oil (no butter) and vanilla flavored. Period.
Over the weekends, my brother and I would often bake together with Ma. Our tiny hands would be busy mixing the flour with baking powder or rub oil on a white transparent paper before layering it on the baking pan while Mom would whisk eggs and sugar. There was no electric mixer in our home. Her power tool was always her hand and it still is. Every now and then, we would look through the glass on top of the oven to enjoy the magic and run back to tell her about how the cake is growing or changing color.
These days she doesn’t bake as often as she used to but even today, we never order cake from bakery. Any occasion, be it small or big, she will happily get busy prepping the cake batter while Dad would take out the old oven and dust it clean. Everyone in our family loves her cake and whenever we have a get together, the house once again gets filled with the aroma of vanilla and our evening tea gets more delicious.
Few months back, I gave a tiny twist to Ma‘s cake. I added rosemary instead of vanilla! The inspiration to add rosemary came from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook and even though it surprised me at the beginning, I realized later that how beautifully rosemary could work on desserts. Arvind is picky about cake; he doesn’t like dark chocolate cake or any fruitcake. Thankfully, this one, he loves!
The woody, poky, evergreen aromatic rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. It gives the cake a mild refreshing flavor.
Just like Ma‘s cake, this cake also turned out soft and crumbly with crusty edges. And even today, I get tempted to lick the parchment paper clean, just like my little brother and I used to do as a kid!