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Thursday, March 14, 2013

1-2-3-4 Cake for Spring

Imagine my consternation when I noticed people posting on Facebook about a cake called a "1-2-3 Cake" that utilizes a couple box mixes, some water, a coffee mug and a microwave. There's so much wrong with that combination it makes my head hurt!

But what really got me was when I mentioned the classic 1-2-3-4 Cake to these folks and they were completely puzzled. They thought this staple of the baker's kitchen was actually this microwave abomination! To quote one of my favorite comedians  John Pinette: "I say, nay, nay!"

The 1-2-3-4 Cake (I have heard it called the 1-2-3 Cake by people just too busy to add that "4") should be one of the first two cakes every good home baker should learn. Alongside the Pound Cake the 1-2-3-4 is the basis for nearly every other American cake you will ever make in your kitchen. It helps you understand the basic proportions of all successful cakes and the recipe is so simple you'll never need to refer to it again once you do it. From there you can whip out a cake at the drop of a hat for any occasion. Nearly all Southern cooks learn this recipe as kids.

In this version we take our basic 1-2-3-4 cake and update it for Spring. This is the beauty of this simple dish - you can flavor it, frost it and fill it to fit any season or occasion. We're using a little lemon flavoring instead of the traditional vanilla and then we're filling our cake with some strawberry jam and then frosting with a quick and easy store bought frosting that I find delicious - Betty Crocker's Pink Lemonade. I'm opting to decorate this with some pastel sprinkles and some little pansies from my patio garden. BTW: Pansies are edible and have a mild wintergreen flavor (although honestly I can barely taste it). They're beautiful on cakes!


1-2-3-4 Cake


A basic cake that should be in every good cook's repertoire. All you need to remember is 1,2,3,4.


Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon or vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk (or half and half)
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the room temperature butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Add the extract and beat on low speed until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder and stir with whisk to combine.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the bowl of the mixer alternating with the milk. (Begin and end with the flour.) Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and finish combining batter.
  6. Divide batter evenly between the three prepared pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and allow to cool completely before assembling cake.
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