mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Another chance – a piece of cake?

In Desserts, Muffins and Cookies, on the side, Tea Party, Under 30 min! on May 18, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Despite what you might be beginning to think. I haven’t fallen through any hole and disappeared from the surface of this earth.  Though, I came pretty close to just that this past weekend.

Given the hectic work pace of the past month, a fleeting thought that this might be our last chance to find some time with a young son on the threshold of adulthood (and college), and the by-now oppressive Delhi summer, we decided to steal a quick trip into the neighbouring Himalayan foothills.  A few calls and we were booked for an extended weekend in the tea gardens of Palampur.

But I am not going to be able to tell you anything about the tea there.  We never made it that far.  We had a nasty accident just a few hours out of Delhi and are really lucky to have made it back at all!  It even seemed a bit surreal after the crazy moments of the actual crash for the first few seconds of which we did not even know what was going on.  There we were turned 180 degrees and looking at the giant trailer that had just fish-tailed us!  Thankfully, the truck loaded with reinforcement steel wasn’t going too fast and came to a stop without dragging us too far or crushing into us further.  It was all over in a matter of seconds.  I looked around – all seemed okay, got out of the car and walked over to the side…. I was pretty amazed at my steady steps!

Good karma. :)  And another chance at A Mad Tea Party!

A silver lining of the botched trip was that I was able to be in town for a visiting friend.  Shilpa was going to come over with her daughter and friends for A Mad Tea Party.

Or so she hoped.  The problem was that we were all still in the vacation mode, not inclined to move the slightest bit in any direction that remotely indicated that things were back on routine-track.  So late mornings over tea and paper were fine, as was sitting on the couch in front of the idiot box.  No, this is not what we do on a typical holiday.  In case you forgot, we did not get the holiday we had planned.  This was our brain pretending that there was no office upstairs.  Or, more likely, we were going through some psychological resolution stages to come to terms with what surely was some deep seated trauma of an accident that could have been much much worse and had stunned our brains  into believing that a good way to pass a hot day was to sit and watch whatever there was on TV.

A non-functioning remote coupled with a possessed television set that changed channels and other controls on its own meant we couldn’t really pick.  The fact that all channels were creating the same tamasha about the impending elections results meant we didn’t need to.  What a relief it was eventually to see all the pundits proven wrong by the Indian electorate when the actual results started to come in!

Shilpa’s call for directions to my place finally shook me out of my inertia.  I knew there could be no Mad Tea Party without food.  If it ruined their dinner, so be it.

4:00 PM – I scanned the fridge and pantry.  I was out of everything!  Sugar. Flour.  Even the crisper had only tomatoes (what can I say – I prepared well for the holiday!).  In the full heat of the 4 O’clock sun I sent the son to buy these two basic ingredients which he agreed to after extracting a promise that I would not attempt to make it any healthier than it needs to be.  In other words – “no whole wheat flour!”

It’s been a while since I baked a cake.  Almost a year I think.  And those last couple of times I have instinctively turned to search for a new recipe on the Net. As I did the same on the laptop by the couch realisation dawned that I did not really have the luxury of time to scan through dozens of recipes to come up with a list of ingredients.  Shilpa and Co. were on their way and would be here in 30 minutes with the worst Sunday traffic I could hope for!

In this day of food blogs one tends to forget that there are good old tried-and-tested-and-perfected recipes we swore by before the blogs came along!  There in lies the danger of actually losing some of these gems because, if you are like me, then you have never bothered to write them down anywhere.  I decided to trust the sluggish brain, ditch the search, and scurry into the kitchen.

I emptied the oven and turned it on, found the cake tin and oiled and floured it.  The son was back from the grocer with the flour and sugar.  I was all set to at least have the kitchen smelling as expected by the time Shilpa and friends arrived!

The flour was sifted, eggs, oil, and sugar whisked till creamy, flavourings added, everything combined and poured into the prepared tin and put into the oven. Phew.  4:30 PM.  Now to neaten the house some.  Sorry, no time.  The bell rang.  They were here.  Already!

Four smart looking girls had arrived and my maid hadn’t!  I took them upstairs to the terrace to bide some time show off my garden and to grab a bunch of fresh spearmint.  Why not quiz them about my other mint? Peppermint – sorry, no one guessed correct.

the vine

By the time we were back downstairs the maid had arrived! Yay!  She put on some water for tea and helped me prep for onions bhajjias.  Lucky for me, I did have enough besan!  Onions and potatoes were in stock but I let the potatoes alone for once – nothing like onion pakoras.  Fresh mint, hot home grown green chillies, and walnuts were whirred with some water and salt, removed to a serving dish; mixed with some yoghurt we had my Kashmiri Pudna Chatin, a tasty dip.  While the maid chopped the onions I fried some of my home made potato chips.  She took over the frying as I mixed the batter for the pakoras.  The cake was perfuming the house, and the tea was steeping…

Yes, we had a Party!

Here is the simplest of cakes anyone can bake.  If you have been afraid to attempt one, remember that, at least for this cake, a little inaccuracy in measurement is not going to ruin anything.  This is the recipe I used this Sunday to turn out a very impressive looking cake.  It is a recipe from memory so I doubt if I have ever made it exactly like so.  In fact, I am sure I have never made it exactly like this.

And even if something should go wrong with your first attempt (which it shouldn’t if you are using fresh ingredients at room temperature), remember that I have burnt my share of cakes to get here.  The oil crept into the recipe not in an attempt to make it healthier but as a substitute for the more-expensive butter – my mother used to get pretty mad at us (me and my younger sis) charring expensive ingredients.  In our defense, we were struggling with the most rudimentary of those old round box ovens which did not even have temperature control when I started to bake! It was a challenge to bake a cake that was not burnt on the outside and undercooked inside!

Substituting with oil also saved us from creaming butter and sugar till our fingers fell off (I didn’t have an electric beater at the time), though butter does impart a very rich taste.  If you decide to use butter make sure it is at room temperature. We eventully graduated to baking a cake in half hour with the same oven.  My mom would request one every now and then to take to school for tea with her colleagues.

My Tea-time Coffee Cake

1C + 1T maida (all purpose flour)
1t baking powder
1/3 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 medium sized eggs
3/5 C oil
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 heaped T instant coffee powder (optional)
3-4 T cold milk
1t vanilla essence
1/3 C slivered almonds

Sift flour with baking powder and soda. Mix in salt. Oil a 9″ cake tin, dust with flour; tap upside down to remove excess flour. Dissolve the coffee powder in the milk.
Turn oven on to Gas Mark 6.
In a mixing bowl whisk together eggs, oil and sugar with a hand-held mixer (not a hand-blender) till the sugar has dissolved completely. This takes a few minutes because our sugar here comes in large grain size.
Add the coffee-flavoured milk, and vanilla essence. Mix till combined. Keeping the mixer on the lowest speed add in the flour. Beat till well combined. Pour into the prepared tin. Sprinkle evenly with slivered almonds. Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool (if you have the time). Slice and serve with tea or coffee.

Sorry, no pictures this time. We were too busy partying! But I am going to bake this again soon, very soon. And if Shilpa took a picture and posts it on Flickr, I’ll be sure to link!

  1. OMG, that sounds scary! Glad that none of you were hurt! The aftershocks from an accident always tend to linger longer than expected😦 So yeah, laze around on that couch🙂 (thank God the election drama is over though!)

    Good that you had frnds visiting Anita… and for those home made chips and bhajjia’s, I need to plan a pitstop in Delhi the next time I come😀

    • and oooh, those were ‘puffy’ puris😛

    • I think we have been able to put it behind us cause we really had not a scratch or a bruise! The car was sent to the garage for bodywork the same day and we should be getting it back, as good as new, in a few days!
      I look forward to meeting you, Priya! This year I have now already met two people I got to know through the blog!

      • gr*asp a ragi*ng bull – edible italian shoots.
        knock knock! who’s there ? Cash. Cash’who ? I knew you were nuts😀
        heheheh, Could not stop myself😀 please don’t hit me with the keyboard.

        😀 Shoot! I knew what I had to scramble but for the life of me didn’t know there was anything called asparagi! OMG – plural for asparagus! Asparagus kept doing the rounds in my (trauma stunned) brain!
        Cashew? Does that fit?

  2. Glad to hear that you guys made it home safe. Pakoras with pudina chutney, tea and cake…wow !! nice way to entertain🙂

  3. Horrifying, but glad to know you and your family came through, Anita, and that you feel good enough to post about all this.

    And yes, what overkill on TV preceding the counting! I just didn’t watch.

    • They were really tripping over each other to somehow project what was likely…the bizarre combinations they were ‘creating’ and even more bizarre were the questions that they were all posing!
      Glad to be back in more ways than one!

  4. Glad to Know that you are okay now. Pakoras, Tea and cake..What more to ask.Yummm

  5. Sure that was some good karma! I admire your spirit of welcoming home a friend with so much warmth even after the nasty event. Cheer to you!

  6. Anita, glad to hear you are safe and sound and partying is lifting your sprits. Now for some onion pakoras.

  7. What? No tomatoes? And all this while you were pretending to be freezer queen when it came to tomatoes.

    Oh and some people would like to be credited with suggesting the meetup, please.

  8. phew!! that must have been terrifying. glad to see you back and blogging. and girlie, what is 3/5th? you memorise recipes that say 3/5th?

    • I was just wondering about that too, Bee.

      Anita, you have a 1/5 cup measure? You might as well have said 141ml. Sheesh.

      • Gee…Well…it is like this …it wasn’t quite half cup…and definitely not 1/3rd…It is not a memorised recipe – more like eyeballed and then written true!
        Hey if you can count the number of peppercorns and methi seeds, this is a piece of cake!😆

  9. So glad to hear that you are ok – reading about your cake, pakora party has made me very hungry.

  10. Glad you are all ok.Wow party wow food.Keep it up.

  11. some good karma that is!! so glad you are safe…and nothing like a party with all that great food to lift you off the couch…. take care

  12. Good God! You must be really strong to write such a post after that accident! And yeah we missed wonderufl post about your vacation but why not you plan again ? The party seems to be a galla time at home and the cake actually smells wonderful (could imagin the coffee cake aroma).

  13. What a relief to hear you’re all fine. So scary – we’re about to make our annual trek to the mountains so very nervous.
    See you soon
    xP

  14. Anita

    Good to read your posting, and that you are safe.

    Love the information about your country and your food. Most of all, about yourself and your family life.

    I made butter tarts for my family this weekend.

    It was our Victoria Day, weekend.
    Canada having once been part of the British Commonwealth, as was India. Correct?

    Lots of butter tarts. Loved by all.
    Grandmothers are most popular, I believe, when they bake.

  15. Whoa! Anitha, that is scary… I’m so glad you all are okay.

    Curious minds want to know – how on earth do you measure 3/5 C oil?? And what is gas mark 6?🙂

    Sounds like a great tea party!

  16. Oh my! That was a vacation misadventure. So glad you and yours are all ok. Did you get the car fixed? Did insurance pay up? So many things to take care of after a misadventure like this. But I am glad you took the time out to zone out in front of the TV and get your bearings afterwards.

    I am amazed at your efficiency at creating a scrumtious menu out of thin air, with almost minimal staples and almost no time. I remember the days of struggling with my mother’s round Bajaj oven! For you to master baking a cake in one of those in half and hour is remarkable.

    So how do you make home made potato chips? Any special methods or just slice and fry. How do you season them? Do tell all!

  17. How come your tea parties are so much fun! I think its the pakoras no?😛

    And hey, good to know you’re safe and all that. I’ve been in several accidents and know how bad it can get to escape by the whisker. ( Don’t ask my history with accidents. Its a family thing :D)

  18. Good to know you’re safe and in good spirit! I loved the way you’ve written this post…the enthusiasm and the joy of it is quite infectious🙂 The Chatin sounds really yummy…I shall make it for my mum soon. Any chance you’re going to be visiting Baroda again? Would be nice to meet. Best to you and yours…
    (I used to post on blogger as aspiring annapoorna, this is the new wordpress blog!)

  19. Well, it was all meant to be then! Glorious timing for everything…

    And I am glad that all are well and safe!

  20. It is amazing to see your enthu to cook up all those yummy party stuff.. after that accident and cancelled trip😦.. can’t imagine myself doing that! i would have been so disappointed…
    glad that you guys are safe and unscathed

  21. Gosh, that must have been horrifying. Glad to know you are all ok.

  22. Sorry to hear about your acident Anita. Thank heavens all is OK.

    I shall try the cake sometime soon🙂

  23. Visiting from Shilpa’s flickr stream.. Looks like you had a great time. Should try this cake some time🙂
    Asha

    Welcome to the Party, Asha!
    Do try. Don’t the ones with raised eyebrows on the fifths measurement scare you off!

  24. Glad everyone is safe!
    3/5th C! ayyo!!!
    Sounds like a gr8 tea party! cake , bhajia and tea!!aah!

    • Thank you.🙂 I didn’t realise that 1/5 was so different from 1/4th!! I have been using a set of measuring cups only for the last 15 years… I have been cooking much longer with my eyeballs😀 …I must be odd I guess!

  25. Glad to know you all had a lucky escape. After just having done a long drive to Kerala and back, I’m shocked to see the number of accidents we saw on the way.

    Just took a peek at the cake. Its always fun to meet fellow bloggers.

  26. oops! that was really scary! thank god u got off without a scratch!! god bless…
    by the way, your blog is fabulous! i tried the pumkin kootu and it came out very well!

  27. That should be a great tea party!

  28. I am baking this right now, and its smelling so yummy. Love your recipes and the garden too🙂

  29. Anita,baked this cake for afternoon tea. It tasted delicious – very soft, moist and I would say don’t omit the coffee pwdr. It gave the cake a unique taste without being overpowering. Thank you for a great recipe. I will be making this again.🙂

  30. Anita, just read about the accident… so sorry to hear about it and am glad that you all are doing well.

    The party and the party food sounds like a lot of fun.

  31. Thank heavens that you and your family emerged safe and sound from that – it must be the scariest thing ever! Now everytime you open the Delhi papers you will read about a similar accident and remember yours!😦

    Thanks for that tried and tested recipe!

    Miri

  32. Time for more cake! Happy Birthday, Anita!
    🙂 Thanks, M!

  33. Happy Birthday, Anita!!! Have a wonderful day and joyous year!🙂

    Thanks, Kay!

  34. Wow.. pretty nasty accident that.. and thank god for no injuries
    🙂 I can almost taste the cake – with the coffee flavor!! Is there anyway I can bake it without the eggs?

    Aparna, try Google for a an eggless cake recipe and see what you can replace the eggs in this with.

  35. WOW!!!!
    VERY WELL WRITTEN AND A SURE TRY CAKE FOR A PERSON WHO LOVES TO BAKE

  36. […] waiting its turn was a small bottle of kakvi (liquid jaggery), that Shilpa had brought me on her visit here a few years ago!  It may not be the same but it seemed like the ingredient meant for such a […]

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