Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Some of you may be wondering: Why make such tiny cakes, when you could make one big cake?
It’s a fair question, I admit. Because, as a lifetime of eating cake has taught me, cakes – even simple ones – beg for a bit of ceremony.They are to be unveiled (even if only from a plastic cake carrier), sliced and carefully distributed, piece by piece, the slowness of the affair serving to increase your appreciation of the fact that soon, you will have cake!
Tiny cakes – cakes that offer instant gratification, that can be eaten with your bare hands – they’re really just glorified muffins. (Not to mislead you here, a muffin and a cake are made using different mixing methods, and so are technically different things.) So why not just stick to big cakes and muffins?
Because little cakes fill a niche all their own.
First, they’re seem nicer than muffins. So I suspect that in simply knowing they’re cakes, there’s a good chance we’ll find them a little tastier – or more tender, or fancier, or more indulgent, or more ceremonious (despite the obvious deficiencies) – than their muffiny counterparts.
Second, they’re more portable than a full-sized cake. And, if you’re the type who would, say, schedule a two-week camping trip immediately following a four-day outdoor music festival, having a stockpile of portable desserts (with that bonus psychologically-induced tastiness that muffins lack) may be essential to your survival. Of course, my original stash of 12 has dwindled to a mere one, having sampled a few and shared a few more, so I’m forced, alas, to make more.
Explanations aside, the cakes were lovely – delicately flavoured with vanilla, fruit and lemon, and sturdy enough in texture to live up to the claims of portability. I think they could use a bit of tweaking and so have made a few suggestions in the notes above the recipe. If you want to reproduce the cakes as they are in the photos, simply follow the recipe as it’s written.
And now, all that being said, I should tell you that I didn’t think about any of this until after I made the cakes. But I’ve convinced myself and, hopefully you too, of the merits of little cakes. And with that, I’m off to bake another batch!
Little Cakes with Summer Fruit
Adapted from epicurious.com
Makes 12 small cakes
Notes: Next time I make these, I’ll add a full cup of fruit, dicing one 1/2 cup of it and stirring into the batter with the final batch of flour, and pressing the other 1/2 cup into the tops of the cakes as the recipe below directs. This approach should work fine with all of the fruits except for the cherries, which would dye your cakes red, were you to stir them into the batter.
If you end up using a variety of fruits, like I did, you’ll find yourself with a lot of leftovers. I stewed my extra fruit – loosely following this recipe – and served it alongside the cakes.
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temerature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of milk (or non-dairy alternative)
~1/2 cup of soft fresh fruit*, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp granulated or raw sugar
Butter for greasing the muffin tins
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-muffin tin with butter.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a large bowl and a sturdy whisk), beat together the butter and sugar until fluffly, 2-4 minutes.
4. Add the egg, vanilla/almond extract and lemon zest to the butter mixture and beat again until smooth.
5. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by 1/2 the milk, then another 1/3 flour, then the remaining 1/2 of the milk, then the remaining 1/3 of the flour.
6. Evenly distribute the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Top each little cake with some of the fresh fruit, gently pressing the fruit into the batter. Sprinkle each cake with 1/4 tsp granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are golden and a tested inserted into the centre of a cake comes out moist but clean. Take care not to overbake them, or you’ll risk a crumbly cake!
7. Let the cakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire wrack to cool until they’re cool enough to eat. The cakes are best day-of, while they’re still warm, but extras can be stored in an airtight container for an extra day.
*I used peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, blueberries and plums. I cut the cherries into quarters, left the blueberries whole, and cut the remaining fruit into 1/4-inch slices.