Lucy’s basic butter cake

When I want to feel connected with my nan, I get out the special recipe book she made me when I first moved out of home and choose something to make. There are dinners and cakes, desserts and slices and lots of things in between. I’ll talk a lot about Nan’s book when I’m writing about food, and I’ll try to share some of her recipes, but I feel a bit precious about them ending up on the internet because they are so special to me. 

I’m taking the leap here though, and trusting that anyone who makes this will drop me a comment and let me know how it goes.

There’s one thing I want to tell you about Nan’s recipes before I share it and that’s that she expected a certain level of cooking knowledge. Her instructions are rudimentary a lot of the time, so with this cake there wasn’t any instruction about how hot the oven should be. I’ve added that in! She also called this a basic butter cake, but while it’s not hard to make, it has a ton of butter and uses multiple bowls, so it’s probably not what my definition of basic would be!

It’s nice that while I’m assembling the ingredients and reading through the instructions, I think about her in her kitchen, making whatever it is that I’m cooking. Or sitting at the table in her dining room, pouring over her recipe books to choose things for me to cook. She comes into the kitchen every time I open her special book, and for a little while, it doesn’t seem like she’s gone.

Lucy’s ‘basic’ butter cake


2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup custard powder
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250 grams butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Sift dry ingredients into mix master. Add melted butter, beaten eggs and milk and beat on medium speed for about eight minutes or until thick and creamy.

This mixture is quite versatile, so it can be poured into a large tin and iced however you wish, or divided into cupcake pans. Bake in a moderate oven, 180 degrees Celsius (or equivalent) for around 40 minutes or until the cake/cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centre.

For the cakes in the pictures, I made cupcakes, hollowed out the middles and filled them with a really tart lemon curd and iced with a rich buttercream frosting. The lemon in the middle nicely balanced the teeth-shattering sweetness from both the cakes and the frosting.

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