An oldie but a goodie! 1234 Cake

19 Aug

Earlier in the week I got back from a lovely cruise trip to the Bahamas. As it happened to be, one of my coworkers had just come back from his cruise to Mexico. I had asked him if he would be so kind as to bring me some Mexican vanilla extract, as it had been quite a few years since I had a chance to visit Mexico. Upon his return he presented me with a very large 500 ml bottle of wonderful Mexican vanilla!

If you’ve never tried different varieties of vanilla, I highly suggest it! It will seriously rock your baking world. There are so many types of vanilla out there, and all are great in their own way. However, I find that when purchasing vanilla at the grocery store you often get vanilla extract that has a bunch of ingredients listed. Pure Vanilla extract really should only have two ingredients: vanilla (or vanillin) and alcohol. Sometimes they will have water, and that’s ok too. There really shouldn’t be anything else in the ingredient list!

Anyways, I was really excited to make something with my new Mexican vanilla extract.  Just smelling it brought back memories of having pastries in South America, because they often tend to use Mexican vanilla extract in their baked goods. The smell is almost floral, and very very sweet.

Ok. I’ll stop talking about vanilla… for now anyways, because I intend to do another post about it later since I’ve now been inspired to create my own vanilla!

In order to test out my new lovely ingredient, I decided to make a quick and easy cake, the 1234 cake. One of the first cakes I ever made was when I was about 5 years old, and it was the 1234 cake. This cake is very simple, and one of the best cake recipes out there! Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s really the ideal cake base for any type of cake. I like this recipe because it delivers a cake that’s moist, spongy, yet firm enough that it could be used on a heavy duty cake being covered by fondant, or buttercream without caving in.

You’ll need:

2 bowls
Electric Mixer
Measuring cups/spoons
Optional: Zester/Grater

1 cup of butter (two sticks) – room temperature
2 cups of white granulated sugar
3 cups of self rising flour
4 eggs
1 – 1 1/4 cup of milk (depending on how moist you want your cake)
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Optional: the zest of 1-2 lemons

* I like to use salted butter because I love that sweet/salty taste. It’s very mild, but you may of course use unsalted butter. If you use unsalted butter, you can also add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt if you’d like : ).
* If you don’t have self rising flour, you may use all purpose flour and add a tablespoon of baking powder.

You’ll notice that a lot of my recipes sometimes won’t have exact measurements because I believe that a lot food should be cooked to your taste!  I will of course always give you proper measurements for ingredients that are part of the integral structure of the recipes, but I want you to feel free to explore when it comes to some of the ingredients that are a bit more flexible.

Alright, onto the cake!

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

In one bowl sift your flour, and if needed your tablespoon of baking powder.

In another bowl, take your butter (which should be soft at room temperature) and cream it with the sugar with your electric mixer.

Add to your butter/sugar mixture your 4 eggs (preferably one at a time) and mix with electric mixer.

Take your dry ingredients (flour/baking powder) and pour some into your wet ingredients (butter/sugar/egg mixture) and mix.

Now take some of your milk and add it to your wet ingredients and mix.

Alternate this process of adding flour, and milk to your butter/sugar/egg mixture until everything is fully incorporated.

The batter should be thicker than let’s say… a box mix cake (much thicker actually), but not so thick as dough.

At this point add your lemon zest and vanilla. The lemon zest as I said earlier was optional, but I love lemon zest in pretty much everything : )…

Now pour your batter into your buttered pan of choice (remember your batter should only fill your pan about half way, or maybe even 3/4, if it fills it higher than that, you might need a bigger pan!) and pop it into the oven for 35-45 minutes.

While the cake was baking I made a couple of things.  I wanted to make a garnish, so I decided to make candied lemon peels to go on top of the cake. This is very simple!

Candied Lemon Peels

You’ll need:
small pot
wax paper
cookie sheet
equal ratio of water and sugar (I used half a cup of each)
2 lemons, peeled with a vegetable peeler to produce little strips

Place your pot on a burner at medium heat.  Add water and sugar and stir till dissolved.  Allow for themixture to come to a simmer.  This will take a few minutes.  At this point, add your lemon peels.

Continue to cook at medium heat.  You’ll want to leave your lemon peels in the water/sugar mixture until they become translucent and the water/sugar mixture has thickened to a thin syrup.  You’ll want to make sure you stir your mixture every few minutes.  As the lemon peels cook (10-15 minutes), place some wax paper on a cookie sheet. This is where you’ll put your peels to dry.

When your lemon peels look ready, carefully strain the mixture to remove the syrup.

Place your fresh candied lemon peels on the wax paper, careful to separate them before they dry, or they’ll be stuck together permanently.

And that’s it! Some people like to roll them in sugar after they’ve dried a bit, but I like them just as they are.

Note: Don’t throw away your syrup! Bottle it up and use it to sweeten your tea or juices : )

Our last part of this cake is our buttercream.

You’ll need:
Electric Mixer
half a cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)
half a cup of shortening
3-4 cups of powdered sugar (I tend to use less as I like my buttercream soft)
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon – 1/4 cup of milk (I like to use whole milk or heavy cream for my frosting)

Begin by creaming your butter and shortening.

Slowly add in powdered sugar (I usually do it one cup at a time)

At some point, your buttercream will become too thick for you to mix (but you’ll know that you’ll need to add more sugar because it probably still just taste like butter), at this point begin adding some milk. Buttercream is definitely something that should be done to taste, some people like really thick buttercream, and some like it a bit creamier (like me!).

And most importantly, add your vanilla!

Now that you have all the pieces, assemble your cake!

Now normally, I’m all about making a cute cake by layering it, and frosting it properly… but as it was late on a work night when I made this, I decided for simplicity, and just frosted it right in the pan lol.

Add your lemon peels, and you’re set! I should note that after I added the candied lemon peels, I was too excited to try some cake and not really thinking, I cut right into it…  Bad idea! The cake was still too warm, and thus I got a not so clean cut with crumbs everywhere >_>;  So yea, be patient, and wait for the cake to cool : ).

I hope you enjoyed this post, and remember that you can use this cake base with just about any flavor variety (just switch out the vanilla for your favorite extract, or use orange zest instead of lemon, etc.), the possibilities are endless : ). Thanks for reading, and happy baking!

– Nikki


2 Responses to “An oldie but a goodie! 1234 Cake”


  1. Pear and Almond Tart with Pear Iced Tea « Science and Macarons - 09/18/2012

    […] how I said not to throw out that pear syrup?  If you read my previous post where I candied some lemon peels I told you to keep the lemon syrup to put in your beverages such as tea.  Well this pear […]

  2. Camo Cupcakes | Science and Macarons - 06/09/2013

    […] favorite vanilla cake recipe (such as the a vanilla 1234 cake) Your favorite chocolate cake recipe Green food […]

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