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The truth about cakes!

Marryam H Reshii | February 25, 2005

Eighteen years ago, Renu Malhotra's children would return from birthday parties complaining to their mother that the cake they eyed so longingly wouldn't go down their throats.

After hearing enough of these piteous complaints, she decided to take matters into her own hands and get into making birthday cakes for children.

Strawberry cake"In all my years in the business, at least I know that my cakes go down real smooth," is her boast.

Malhotra only bakes chiffon cakes. But the other cake bases are sponge, Genoa sponge and tea cakes.

Sponge benefit!

If you have ordered a birthday cake from a well-known bakery, chances are you will get a sponge cake.

It's the favourite of all commercial bakers, because it has no butter so it is easier to decorate with icing, stays for a longer time and is less delicate, so you can really pile on fresh strawberries, kiwis, chocolate ganache or enough whipped cream to horrify your cardiologist.

Sponge cakes have a slightly dense texture owing to their dryness. If have a dietary restriction, sponge is what you
should be opting for.

Be warned, though. Commercial bakeries use artificial products to fluff up their sponge cakes. Ladies who undertake orders from their home kitchens have another trick up their sleeves: they moisten the sponge with sugar syrup and/ or rum.

It's surprising how many different results you can achieve with eggs, sugar, flour and butter.

Kiwi cakeThe Genoa sponge: what's that?

By whipping the butter to incorporate as much air into it as possible and adding it to the other ingredients at the end, you have a Genoa sponge.

It is richer than a regular sponge cake because of the butter, so the icing doesn't have to be quite as rich.

There is the question of spoilage, though. The cake batter also has to be treated with kid gloves on its way to the oven.

One hard knock or clumsy move, and some of the air goes out of it, so that the cake doesn't rise quite so much, or worse still, sinks in the middle: the hallmark of all novice cooks.

By separating the eggs, whipping the whites into stiff peaks, and folding (not beating) them into the batter at the end, you will have the lightest end result.

It is probably Renu Malhotra's secret, but she is not telling.

She is not saying how she achieves her cooked sugar icing either, but it is a hit with her youthful customers alright.

The tea cake

Tea cakes consist of every possible goodie you can imagine.

Battenburgs, brownies, marble cakes, madelines -- they are all made by the simple expedient of creaming together butter and sugar, then adding eggs and, lastly, flour.

Their texture is dense. And nobody would nudge a frisson of lightness and fluffiness into them by adding commercial stabilisers to them, because dense is the way they are supposed to be!

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