the cake formula


For national cake day, I thought I’d share with you my method of cake baking. You see, I use the same basic recipe for most cakes I bake. It’s always a one-layer cake- that’s just enough for everyone to have some without too many leftovers. I’ve got the basic formula memorized, and many of the variations as well. I’ve done this with other baking too, which seems to fascinate people who come to visit me in the kitchen while I’m cooking, as I don’t often get my cookbook off the shelf anymore.

(I use old-fashioned abbreviations in my recipes. If you’re unfamiliar– c. is cup, tsp. is teaspoon, T. is tablespoon, oz. is ounce.)

*Edit: You can veganize these and other recipes you find on my blog (and please do), with these substitutions:
•choose from this list of vegan sugars in place of sugar
•use maple syrup in place of honey
•use Earth Balance vegan butter or coconut oil in place of butter
•use coconut milk/cream in place of sweetened condensed milk
•any vegan milk can be used in place of dairy milk
•to make vegan buttermilk, add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of soy milk and leave at room temperature a few minutes
•see this list of 5 Vegan Substitutes for Eggs in Baking
•use vegan chocolate


1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. to 1 c. milk (or buttermilk)
4 T. oil or melted butter
½ tsp. vanilla (or other extract)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix dry ingredients. Add egg, butter, vanilla, the variation ingredients, and then just enough milk to make a medium-thick batter. Stir to combine. Pour into a greased pan. Bake 10 minutes for mini-cupcakes, about 20 for regular cupcakes, or 30 to 40 minutes for a cake. For all variations, cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Makes 24 mini-cupcakes, 12 full sized cupcakes, or a 1 layer cake.

(Incidentally, if you reduce the sugar to a third cup, you get the right amount of sweetness for muffins or breakfast bread.)


Banana Nut – add 1 c. mashed bananas and ½ c. chopped walnuts.

Berry – add 1 c. fresh or frozen berries (chopped, if berries are large). Optional: stir pureed berries into frosting.

Coconut – use coconut milk/cream in place of regular milk. For the frosting, use cream cheese frosting and top with coconut.

Piña Colada – add 1 small can drained crushed pineapple and ½ c. coconut.

Caramel – add an extra egg, use 1/3 c. sour cream in place of milk. Frost with caramel icing.

Spice – add 1 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ginger, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, & dash of white pepper.

Gingerbread – substitute molasses for ½ the sugar, add gingerbread cookie spices (1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ginger, and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg).

Lemon – add 1 tsp. lemon extract to batter.

Apple Spice – add 2 peeled chopped apples, ½ tsp. cinnamon and a dash nutmeg.

Pumpkin Spice – add 1 c. canned pumpkin, 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spices, ½ c. nuts.

Chocolate Chip – add 1 c. mini chocolate chips and nuts if desired.

Chocolate – add ¼ to ⅓ c. cocoa powder to dry ingredients.

German’s Chocolate – top a chocolate cake with pecan-coconut frosting.

Devil’s Food – make as for chocolate cake, but double the cocoa, increase sugar by ¼ c., and add ½ tsp. baking soda.

Red Velvet – add 1 ½ tsp. cocoa, 1 ½ T. red food coloring, and ½ T. white vinegar to batter. Frost with ermine icing.

Mississippi Mud – Top warm chocolate cake with a layer of mini marshmallows, then chocolate glaze, then chopped pecans.

Peanut Butter – add ¼ to ½ c. peanut butter.

Carrot – add 1 tsp. cinnamon to dry mix. Add one more egg and use brown sugar instead of white. Add 1 c. grated carrots and ½ c. chopped nuts to batter.

Ambrosia – add ½ small can of drained mandarin oranges. Top cooled cake with a mixture of sweetened whipped cream, crushed pineapple, & shredded coconut.

Kool-aid – add unsweetened drink mix to dry ingredients for color & flavor. –Add watermelon kool-aid to chocolate chip cake for watermelon cake.

Pecan Praline – use brown sugar for ½ the sugar. Mix ¾ c. chopped pecans into batter. Top baked cake with praline icing.

Hummingbird – add 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1 mashed banana, and 3 oz. crushed pineapple. Top cooled cake with cream cheese frosting and chopped walnuts.

Pound Cake – use only ¼ c. milk, 3 eggs, increase butter to ½ c. Beat ingredients 10 minutes. Bake in a loaf pan at 325°F for 40 minutes or more.

Sponge Cake – leave out milk, vanilla, baking powder, and oil. Use just a pinch of salt and increase eggs to 4. Beat eggs till thick, gradually beat in sugar & salt, then fold in flour. Add juice of ½ a lemon/orange (or 2 tsp. cocoa). Bake at 350°F.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake – melt 1/4 c. butter in baking pan (instead of using it in the batter) and sprinkle 1/2 c. brown sugar over it. Over this, place pineapple slices and maraschino cherries, also lining sides with halved pineapple slices. Half the amount of sugar used in the cake batter and carefully pour batter into pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 375°F.

the cake formula | Ozark Pagan MammaAnd for the frostings…

Basic Glaze
1 ¼ c. powdered sugar         
3 T. milk or juice
1/2 tsp. flavoring extract (optional)
Combine ingredients and drizzle over cake. Makes about 1/2 cup of icing.

Chocolate Glaze or Frosting
3 T. cocoa
2 T. butter, melted
1 c. powdered sugar
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
3 T. warm water
Melt butter. Add other ingredients except water. Stir until well mixed. Add water a little at a time until you get desired consistency. Stir till smooth.

Buttercream Frosting
1½ c. powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp. flavoring extract
1/2 to 1 T. whipping cream
Whisk together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Caramel Icing
3/4 stick butter
12 oz. evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Add butter, evaporated milk, and sugar to saucepan over medium heat until everything has melted together. Leave over medium to low heat stirring periodically for 1/2 hour or longer (watch the entire time to make sure it does not burn) until thickened and caramel has darkened to a beautiful golden brown. It should also coat the back of a spoon to ensure thickness. Be careful to watch, adjusting heat temperature to not let it burn. Remove from heat and add in vanilla extract. Cool for about 15-20 minutes before icing the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use. Frosts a one-layer cake or 12 cupcakes. –Variation: add 2 to 4 T. cocoa powder for chocolate cream cheese frosting.

Praline Icing
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. evaporated milk or half and half
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Boil 2 minutes. Pour over warm cake.

Pecan-Coconut Frosting
6 oz. evaporated milk
1 egg, beaten slightly
1/4 c. butter
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans (plus extra for topping)
In a heavy 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, cook the milk, egg, and butter, and sugar 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until bubbly. Remove from heat, and stir in the coconut, pecans, and vanilla. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before spreading on cake.

Ermine Icing
5 T. flour
1 c. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
Over medium heat, whisk flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer, stirring frequently until it becomes very thick and almost pudding-like. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and salt. Pour into a bowl to allow it to cool completely. Put plastic wrap on the surface to keep a skin from forming. Use a mixer to cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the cooled flour mixture a little bit at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture becomes light and fluffy and resembles whipped cream.


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