Not-so-plain ol' Vanilla Cake
I don't generally bake cakes; not because I don't love them, but simply cause I'm way to lazy to slice into them. A cookie or nicely portioned out brownies are my pick — especially when you're stumbling about the kitchen at 3 in the morning, tryna grab a quick munchie without waking everyone else.
The product that most stood out to me was this little jar of Kondo Japanese honey salt (read: salted honey). Domestically produced in Japan, this delicate floral honey is combined with a mineral-rich crystal salt from the Amami Islands, resulting in a mildly salty honey that's nicely balanced and utterly delicious on its own. When I've got such a fabulous standalone honey, what I wanna do is just liberally drizzle it over a simple, blank canvas — in this case a good vanilla cake.
Which brings me to this not-so-plain ol' vanilla cake. It's not your regular sponge cake, fluffy and light, made by creaming your butter and sugars. If you're looking for that sort of cake, well this ain't it. What you're looking at here is a denser cake, something more akin to a pound cake without the intense richness and butteriness. It's tender-crumbed, moist, best enjoyed warm with lashings of labneh or whipped cream. And of course, a generous drizzle of this beautiful salted honey.
It's also an extremely simple stir-and-bake cake, which means zero equipment: just one bowl, a wooden spoon, and some elbow grease. Using oil instead of butter here also means you can whip this up whenever the cravings hit, without having to wait painfully for the butter to soften. Minimal dishes + pantry staple ingredients + 45 minutes = a delicious vanilla cake. What more can you ask for?
The beauty of this cake though, is how crazy versatile it is. Swap out the granulated sugar for light brown sugar, molasses, even coconut sugar for a more toffee-like sweetness. No coconut oil? Canola oil or even a really mild tasting olive oil will work equally well. When out of vanilla, fold in some citrus zest instead! No yogurt? Use sour cream, coconut cream, or even mayonnaise. Sounds weird, but my favourite chocolate cake's got mayo in it and everyone loves it.
I like to have this cake warm, topped with some housemade labneh and fresh fruits, but you can doll it up any way you see fit. Sprinkling fruit on top before baking or stir some through, top it off with whipped cream or a citrus cream cheese glaze — anything you're in the mood for will work here. This cake keeps really well in the fridge too, much longer than your average cake in fact, so you can try lots of toppings really; every slice is a new adventure. My only mandate is to give it a quick 20 second blast in the microwave right out of the fridge — having this warm is the best way to enjoy it.
Now if you wanna try this out but find yourself out of baking ingredients, and Phoon Huat's 2-week wait for a delivery slot is definitely too much of a hassle, Shopee's S-Mart makes a fabulous alternative platform. They've got TONS of food and beverages products, from your daily groceries to ready-to-eat items like Kim Choo rice dumplings. You can check out their range here, and use the promo code SHOPEEXCEB that will give new Shopee users $7 off a minimum spend of $15 (valid till 11 November 2020 23:59).
Not-so-plain ol' Vanilla Cake (for an 9" square pan)
Adapted from Jami Curl's Vanilla Sour Cream Cake
2 2/3 cups (400 grams) cake flour 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar 2 tablespoons baking powder 2 teaspoons salt 2 eggs 1 cup yogurt 1/2 cup coconut oil 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 1/3 cup boiling water
1. To make the labneh, all you need is a cheesecloth or any old clean cloth (I use a tea sock), 24 hours, and some Greek yogurt. Place the Greek yogurt, however much you want, on the cheesecloth/clean cloth/tea sock, and suspend that over a glass/bowl. Place that in the fridge for 12-24 hours. It'll get thicker and creamier the longer you strain it for. Discard the excess liquid.
2. For the cake: heat the oven to 175C. Line the bottom of a 9x9" pan with parchment paper.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use a sturdy spoon to stir them all together.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and sour cream with a fork, mixing until smooth. Add the oil and vanilla and use the fork to mix until they’re incorporated. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and continue to stir until the dry ingredients are mostly incorporated. The batter will turn very thick.
6. Add the boiling water and stir until the batter is smooth and uniform with no traces of unmixed ingredients remaining. Be careful to not overmix the batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, until it’s golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely, or steal slices warm from the oven like I did. Smear on some labneh and drizzle the salted honey, then tuck right in.