Cakes can be elegant and elaborate like a three-tiered bridal or birthday cake, or they can be simple and made of natural ingredients, filling a kitchen with warmth and good smells while they are baking.
The following cakes belong to this second category - a banana cake with crunchy walnuts folded into the batter; a molasses gingercake with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg; a tangy loaf of lemon cake with a tart citrus glaze; and a warm streusel cake, moist with sour cream.
Only the banana cake has an icing, the others have crumbly toppings or smooth glazes, and they are all baked in simple square pans or loaf pans. They can be made easily in a half hour of free time and will keep well for several days.
The lemon and sour cream cakes also make wonderful breakfast cakes, brunch cakes, or late afternoon cakes, so make them at any time of day. Don't feel bashful about asking for a second slice of any of these - their sweetness is well balanced by the natural goodness of their ingredients. Banana Nut Cake 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup mashed banana 1/4 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon or orange peel 1/2 cup shortening 2 eggs 1 cup walnuts, chopped Lemon-Butter Icing: 1/4 cup softened butter or margarine 3 cups sifted powdered sugar 1/8 teaspoon mace 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons cream 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
In large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Combine mashed banana with milk, vanilla, and lemon or orange peel; add to flour mixture along with shortening.
Beat on medium speed of mixer 1 minute to a thick batter. Add eggs; beat 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Stir in walnuts.
Turn batter into greased 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 minutes or until cake top springs back when touched lightly. Remove to wire rack to cool. To make icing, beat together butter, sugar, mace, vanilla, and cream. Add lemon juice and peel.
Spread top of cake with icing. Serve each slice with a large walnut half and a banana slice. Makes 12 servings. Walnut Gingercake 2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 cup shortening 2/3 cup granulated sugar 2 eggs 2/3 cup light molasses 2/3 cup boiling water 1 cup walnuts, chopped Cheese crumbs: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup melted butter
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, soda, and spices. Cream together shortening and sugar; beat in eggs, one at a time, then molasses. Add sifted flour mixture alternately with hot water, beating to a smooth batter. Stir in 3/ 4 cup of walnuts. Turn batter into greased 9-inch pan.
Prepare cheese crumbs by combining flour, cheese, and sugar together. Stir in melted butter. Add remaining 1/4 cup of walnuts. Crumble cheese crumbs evenly over top of batter.
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan over wire rack. To serve, cut into squares. Lemon Walnut Cake 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 2 eggs 1/2 cup milk Rind of 1 lemon 1 1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped Glaze: Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 cup sugar
Cream sugar and butter together in large mixing bowl. Beat in eggs, milk, and lemon rind. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture , stirring just until combined. Gently fold in walnuts. Pour batter into buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 1 hour, until lightly browned.
To make glaze, combine lemon juice and sugar in small bowl. Remove bread from pan and place on wire rack with wax paper underneath. Pour glaze over bread, spreading along sides with small spatula. Sour Cream Walnut Cake 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 cup sour cream 2 teaspoons vanilla 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream butter and 1 cup sugar together until fluffy in large mixing bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add to batter and stir until smooth. Pour 1/2 of batter into a buttered 9-inch square baking pan.
Combine remaining sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle 2/3 of cinnamon sugar over batter. Top with remaining batter and cinnamon sugar. Bake at 325 degrees F. for about 50 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.