Butter cake is like a blank canvas. It tastes great when well made, and it can be dressed up with a simple whipped cream, fresh berries, your favorite fruit preserves, and all the way to frosting if need be.
This Mrs. Ng version is a good one and has been shared around.
I played with the original recipe a bit so I can adapt it to use only all-purpose flour instead of self-raising flour. So I present to you my version of Mrs. Ng old fashioned butter cake.
If you bake at all, then you will notice my recipe for this butter cake calls for very basic ingredients. You need all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg, butter, milk, and vanilla. Easy right?
For the egg yolk batter, you will need:
- 180 gram (~ 1 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 stick (16 tablespoon/230 gram) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (not melted!)
- 150 gram sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks, from large-size eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
And for the egg white batter (meringue), you will need:
- 4 egg whites, from large-size eggs
- 50 gram sugar
Can I use self-rising flour and salted butter?
If you want to use self-rising flour AND salted butter, replace the first four ingredients for the egg yolk batter with:
- 200 gram (~ 1 3/4 cup) self-rising flour
- 2 stick (16 tablespoon/230 gram) salted butter
Can I use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour?
Yes, you can use cake flour too. The texture of your cake will be lighter and slightly closer to a sponge cake instead of a butter cake. It will still be delicious.
And as for tools, an electric mixer helps tremendously. Even after so many years of baking, I only own a hand-held electric mixer, so never ever be discourage from baking and assume you need an expensive stand mixer to create marvelous and delicious baked goods.
Step-by-step to prepare the cake batter
1. Egg yolk batter
Whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and 150-gram sugar until pale and fluffy with medium speed. It usually takes about 7-8 minutes.
Add vanilla extract and egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well with each addition. Usually around 30 seconds per egg yolk.
Next, lower the speed. I usually set the speed to the lowest setting. Alternatively, add half of flour and half of milk, beat well with each addition, until all flour and milk are incorporated. Stop immediately once all the flour is incorporated and you no longer see streaks of flour. We don’t want to over-cream the batter.
2. Egg white batter
In another large mixing bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy, then add 50-gram sugar in 3 batches. Continue whisking until stiff peak.
3. Combine both batters
Fold the egg white into egg yolk batter in 3 batches with a spatula. Be extra gentle so you don’t destroy all the air bubbles from the egg whites.
Now the cake batter is ready. Pour into a prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven.
To line or not to line the cake pan
I always line my cake pan with parchment paper since it helps tremendously when removing the cake from the pan.
If you don’t want to line the entire pan, I highly recommend lining just the base of the pan and grease the sides well.
The last thing any baker wants is to get a super pretty cake in the pan, and then the cake becomes not so pretty simply because it sticks to the pan!
Serving the cake: simple is best
So how do I enjoy my old fashioned butter cake? Why plain of course! With a cup of a very strong black coffee, thank you.
When I was still a little kid, our birthday cakes are usually a butter cake, sliced in two halves, and dressed with buttercream frosting. So if you want to go that route and bake a birthday cake for someone, I am sure it will be well received 🙂
Creating new flavors based on this basic butter cake
1. Pandan butter cake
If you love pandan and have access to fresh/frozen pandan leaves, you may want to try my pandan coconut butter cake recipe. It is also a butter cake but using real pandan extract and bake with a water bath method. It has a pretty natural green color and has a strong fragrance of pandan and coconut.
2. Orange butter cake
For an orange-flavored butter cake, use 1⁄4 cup of orange juice instead of 1⁄4 cup of milk and the zest of 1 orange instead of 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Additionally, add a teaspoon of orange extract or 1⁄8 teaspoon of orange oil for an intense orange cake.
3. Chocolate butter cake
For a chocolate butter cake, remove 30 grams from 180 grams of all-purpose flour and replace it with 30 grams of cocoa powder and use 17 tablespoons/250 grams of unsalted butter instead of 16 tablespoons/230 grams. Optionally, add a teaspoon of espresso powder to amplify the intensity of the chocolate flavor.
4. Coffee butter cake
For a coffee butter cake, mix a tablespoon of instant coffee powder with a tablespoon of hot milk/hot water to create a paste and mix it with the 1⁄4 cup of milk from the original recipe. Optionally, add a teaspoon of espresso powder to amp up the coffee flavor.
5. Marble butter cake
For a marble butter cake, use 17 tablespoons/250 grams of unsalted butter instead of 16 tablespoons/230 grams for the egg yolk batter. Transfer 1/3 portion of the egg yolk batter to a separate mixing bowl, and add 10 grams of cocoa powder and stir/fold.
Prepare the egg white batter as is, but fold 1/3 portion of egg white batter to the chocolate batter, and the remaining 2/3 portion of egg white batter to the plain (original) batter. Pour these two batters into your cake pan to create a marble pattern.
1. Help! My cake is dense, greasy, heavy, and/or soggy.
Please make sure that the butter is soft and at room temperature. You should be able to make an indentation on the butter with your finger and it will hold its shape.
If you can’t make an indentation, the butter is still too cold/hard. If the indentation loses its shape or even become runny, the butter is too warm/soft.
Butter that is too cold/hard won’t capture enough air when you beat it with sugar resulting in a dense and heavy cake. On the other hand, butter that is too warm/soft won’t be able to hold on to the air when you beat it with sugar and the cake will become heavy, greasy, and soggy.
2. Help! My cake is almost perfect but it has some dense gluey spots/streaks in several places.
This is most likely due to over-creaming the batter. Please set your mixer to medium speed when you beat together sugar, butter, and eggs. Then set it to a slower speed, or use a spatula, when you start adding flour to the batter.
Also, be sure to immediately stop mixing once you no longer see flour streaks. Even after you set the speed to low, or using a spatula to add the flour, you can still risk over-mixing and end up with a cake with gluey streaks.
3. Help! My cake was perfect when it just came out from the oven, but the edges shrunk once it cooled down.
If the cake is perfect in the oven and only starts to shrink around the edges after cooling it, you are probably cooling the cake in its pan for too long before removing.
The pan retains the heat from the oven, and this heat bakes the sides further and causes them to shrink. It is best to cool the cake for only 10-15 minutes in the pan before gently removing it from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack afterward.
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