butter cake (no. 2, and even better)

so I’ve written endlessly of my family’s love for loaf cakes, and this cake falls right smack into their favourites. a traditional butter cake texture – which means denser than a pound cake but still light with tender but tightly-packed crumbs – and the rich smell of butter wafting through the air, a not-quite-subtle hint of the moist deliciousness to come.

this recipe is also known as mrs. sk’s butter cake, and it has been floating about the blogosphere – most particularly in the asian blogosphere since many of us grew up on these flat-topped and brown-baked tender cakes bought from the neighbourhood bakery, where they are produced consistently in large quantities. this sort of cake, as well as their provenant bakeries are fading into nostalgia though, what with the eruption of artisanal (defined, really, by western notions) and celebrity cafes in singapore.

I’ve baked a couple of butter cakes and sponge cakes before, but I have to say this one turned out beautifully, and is also the most authentic one so far. I think it has to do with the indiscriminate use of lots of butter, as well as the fact that it really has been past down by what sounds like a really experienced asian baker. really tasty – and this entire loaf didn’t last past a lazy saturday afternoon.

just one last word on the beautiful dark brown of this loaf – older folks like my parents like a crust on cake as well as this sort of brown, and not many recipes survive the baking time it takes to reach this stage. this one did it beautifully.

traditional asian butter cake (adapted from Table for 2)

115g unsalted butter, softened but not glossy (if in singapore just remove it from the fridge 15 minutes before you want it)
2 medium eggs, separated
25g + 70g sugar
100g self-raising flour
0.25 tsp salt
30ml (30g) milk (I used skim)
0.5 tsp vanilla extract

    1. preheat your oven to 175C. line the base of a loaf pan and grease the sides.
    2. cream butter and 75g sugar until pale and fluffy. add the vanilla extract and beat before adding the yolks separately and beating well after each.
    3. (wash your beaters thoroughly if you are using the same one and) whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, before gradually adding the 25g of sugar and beating until you get stiff peaks.
    4. add the flour in three batches, alternating with the milk, sifting it directly into a bowl and folding it in thoroughly but gently.
    5. add in one-third of the stiff egg whites and mix to loosen the flour mixture. add the remaining whites in two batches, folding gently after each addition. 
    6. pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake until the top is bown and skewer comes out clean. either tent your loaf cake with aluminium or reduce the temperature to 150C if it is darkening too quickly.
    7. remove the cake from the oven, and cool it upside down (your cake will most probably fall out and that is fine) on your cake rack for it to get the traditional lines, and to ensure a flatter top. cool completely (or at least till just barely warm) before slicing.

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