Tuesday, October 18, 2011
If you've watched Ratatouille (my absolute favorite animation ever, really, do I even need to tell you this?), you'd remember that scene where the jaded, skeletal and grim-reaper-like restaurant critic Anton Ego tasted Remy and Colette's creation of that humble French Provencal dish and was instantly transported back to the back door of his mother's kitchen, bringing a smile to his otherwise permanently frowning face. I experienced the same transporting power of loving food while learning how to crimp the traditional pineapple tart at Nazrah's mother-in-law, Neni Rose's kitchen months ago, after taking a bite off her neglected homemade marble butter cake.
The cake was largely neglected because Naz used unsalted butter and didn't add salt to the batter. For me though, after the first mouthful, despite the lack of salt, I was back home at my childhood dining table, cutting into one of my mother's many cakes (including this one), not quite cooled from the oven, impatient with glee and greed for some delicious comfort. The buttery, fluffy vanilla cake interjected with bursts of rich, cocoa inserts was without doubt, the product of a traditional recipe, possibly passed down through generations, sourced from a completely unassuming 'makcik' (this is how we address homey, middle-aged Malay ladies here) somewhere. This is not me waxing lyrical just to convince you, for the recipe from Naz's MIL's dog-eared, heavily stained and almost falling apart notebook looked like this.
So as soon as I downed a second piece of Naz's disappointment, I grabbed my phone and stole it in a total broad-daylight-robbery manner. Of course Naz and her (totally rocking) MIL were more than happy to share, just like Remy was. Written in old Malay, some of the ingredients were not even written in exact measurements, just like how some old French women don't really measure accurately when they baked. This was how our mothers and grandmothers wrote their priced recipes - 'sedikit' means 'a little' and 'sudu lauk' literally translates to 'serving spoon'. So you see, quite obviously, it would be a crime to allow something like this to be forgotten.
Marble cake recipes are usually associated with the classic pound cake but I'm reluctant to call this a pound cake because not all the ingredients are in pound-to-pound ratio. This is, however, definitely a satisfyingly rich, buttery cake, with a base of which ignoring the cocoa, you can fiddle around with flavors like citruses, coffee and other things which your head would imagine having a great time with butter. If you've never made a marble cake before, don't let the whole marbling business give you any grief. The less you stress about it and just blob the batter around, the better it'll turn out. Don't have too much fun swirling with the skewer though.
As my friend bakes her way through her mother-in-law's treasure, I reckon chances are high this recipe would make it to your own collection, waiting to be passed down to those whose bellies you've blessed. In my case, I'll be bringing back my own mother's tattered recipe book when I return to Kuala Lumpur this weekend. We'll see if I can bake through her book and do more of her recipes justice since her pandan chiffon already caused quite a storm.
Marble Butter Cake [Printer Friendly Version]
Recipe from Nazrah's mother-in-law, Neni Rose, who apparently got it from Kak Aiton.
Yield 1 8-inch round 3-inch high cake in this preparation
Cooking time 1 hour Prep time 30 minutes
Note: You may convert the cake to your available tin size or even bake them in 2 loaf pans. Baking time will vary, I'd checked mine at the 40 minute mark (earlier if using loaf pans). I used salted butter and salt in my cake and didn't find it too salty. The ratio of chocolate versus vanilla batter is really down to your own preference; however it will be easier to achieve a nice marble effect with more vanilla batter so the 3:1 ratio worked well for me. I use two mixers (a KA and a hand held) for this cake - if you only have one, I'd suggest whipping the egg whites by hand and lose some calories you'd gain from the cake in the process.
- 8 large eggs, separated
- 9 ounces castor sugar
- 12 ounces unsalted butter
- 9 ounces all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven at 160°C (convection fan on) with a wire rack in the middle. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with parchment, butter and flour. Sift flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment till light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar till light. Gradually add this into the butter and beat on medium speed till just incorporated. In a separate bowl, with a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites till stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in the meringue into the egg yolk mixture in 3-4 batches. Add in the dry ingredients gradually until just incorporated.
Divide the batter into two, 3/4 in one batch and the rest in another bowl. Sieve cocoa powder over the lesser batch and fold to mix well. Pour batter into tin, alternating between the two mixtures, starting with the yellow batter and ending with the cocoa mixture. Rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. With a long skewer, swirl around the batter to create the marble effect. Bake for 40-55 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean.
Cool on wire rack completely before serving. Cake keeps at room temperature up to three days and can be frozen up to 3 months.
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