Cakes are a perfect special-occasion treat. Sweet, moist and almost guaranteed to inspire a smile, they come in many different varieties. If you're always short on time but want to whip up an easy cake, you need to keep a few key ingredients around the house.
If you have flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs or bananas, butter or oil and some flavoring, you can whip up a cake in no time.
Flour provides the structure for cake. The most commonly used types of flour in baking a cake are white and whole-wheat.
White flour is the ground inner kernel of the wheat berry; whole-wheat flour is ground hard wheat that is high in gluten. As white flour does not contain nearly the same amount fiber as whole-wheat flour, these are not interchangeable in recipes. However, you can usually substitute up to half the amount of wheat flour in a recipe that calls for white flour.
For those who are gluten intolerant, many alternatives for wheat flours exist. Chickpea, rice and tapioca flour are all common substitutes.
Use caution, however. You may need to adjust other ingredients if substituting any other flour than the one called for in the recipe.
Sugar adds sweetness to cake and holds moisture in once the cake has been baked.
The most commonly used sugar for cakes is white granulated sugar. If you keep white sugar around, you will be able to make most easy cake recipes.
In a pinch you can use part brown sugar, powdered sugar, agave nectar or honey.
If substituting a liquid sweetener, however, you may have to adjust the levels of other liquid and non-liquid ingredients like water and flour.
Both baking soda and baking powder form carbon dioxide, which makes the cake rise.
If using baking soda, you also need to have a little salt on hand.
Eggs, banana and flaxseed are also used for leavening. Use them in addition to baking soda or powder for leavening and for a tender and light texture. They are also very important for binding other ingredients together.
Liquid carries the flavor and moisture throughout your cake and contributes to the overall tenderness of your cake once it's cooked.
Cake recipes that call for liquid usually call for milk, soy milk or water. Whereas you may use dairy milk and soy milk interchangeably, do not substitute water for milk. They have a different viscosity, and water may make your batter tacky and dense.
Fats like butter, margarine and oil add moistness and tenderness to cake.
If your fridge has butter or a soft margarine spread, and your pantry has vegetable or coconut oil, you will have the ingredients to make a cake.
Applesauce can also be substituted for part of the fat if you want a cake that is lower in fat but still moist.
Common flavorings to have around include vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon flavor. Adding just a teaspoon of flavoring to your recipe will add a really nice touch. If you have any other kinds of flavorings or extracts, feel free to experiment. Ideas include mint, orange, chocolate and banana.
Other ideas for additions include chocolate chips, fruit pieces and nuts. Adding any of these to you cake will jazz it up enough that no one will know how easy it was to make.