Winter with a bit of vanilla

Treat your family with home-baked desserts this holiday season.



There is nothing sweeter than baking a cake at home during the holidays and presenting it to your guests, your family and in my case, my in-laws.

Winter becomes even more fun with family when you make hot chai along with sweet home-made treats, which is exactly why I’m sharing my recipes. Everybody will love the smell and the velvety texture of these cakes; and the best part is, they’re incredibly easy to make. Since I’m not a fan of chocolate, I’m always on the hunt for a good vanilla-based cake recipe. Here are three of my all-time favourite recipes — I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Butternut bliss

PAT-A-CAKE: The mixture should not have any lumps. The trick is to keep the beater or stand mixer running.

You will need

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 stick of butter

1 cup granulated white sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butternut flavouring (available at Agha’s Supermarket or Hyperstar). To substitute, use 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla and almond essence with 1/4 teaspoon yellow food colouring


1. Start by setting the oven to 160 degrees Celsius

2. Take butter, which should be at room temperature and slice it into cubes

3. Get your hand mixer ready and start beating the butter till it’s airy

4. Add one cup of granulated white sugar into the butter and beat till it’s light and fluffy

5. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated properly into the butter and sugar

6. Add butternut flavouring to milk, creating sweet milk. If you can’t find butternut, add the vanilla, almond essence and food colouring with milk to the butter and sugar before you add the eggs.

7. Add flour and baking powder to the mixture in three parts

8. The mixture should not have any lumps, the trick is to keep the beater or stand mixer running

9. For an even, smooth texture make sure to keep whipping

10. Bake to perfection for one hour in the pre-heated oven

A Bundt cake pan is perfect for this cake, but you can use whatever is convenient. Make sure to butter the pan and then dust it with flour in advance. This cake is perfect for tea and is an impressive one to present to evening guests.

Lemon heaven

cake01-PHOTO-SARAH MUNIR-express

LIGHT: This cake is especially popular for an after lunch dessert; give it a try with your children too!

You will need

2 cups white flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 stick of butter at room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon lemon essence

4 eggs

The juice of half of a lemon

For frosting, you will need

1 cup of granulated white sugar

2-5 tablespoons of lemon juice


1. Beat the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy

2. Add vanilla essence and lemon essence

3. Add the eggs one at a time (don’t worry if your mixture looks curdled, it’s supposed to)

4. Add the flour, baking powder and lemon juice in three additions and beat till you get the desired consistency

5. Put the mixture into the oven for 40 minutes; check it after 35 minutes with a wooden skewer. It should be light gold on top, with browning edges

6. Take the cake out and get started on the frosting

7. Take half of the sugar and add lemon juice to it, mix till it’s pasty. You need to pour this frosting over the cake, so it should not be too dry or too runny. Add lemon juice and sugar according to consistency

This cake is especially popular for an after lunch dessert; give it a try with your children too!

Turn your frown around with Pineapple Upside Down Cake

cake02-PHOTO-SARAH MUNIR-express

DELICIOUS: I like to use pineapple chunks because it gives a more festive look and makes the cake easier to cut.

You will need

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

1/2  cup milk, use skim for a lighter cake


6 table spoons brown sugar

3 table spoons of butter

1 can of pineapple chunks or sliced pineapple.

Here’s how you should get started on this cake:

1. It’s best to line up all your ingredients first

2. Have a hand mixer or stand mixer ready

3. Make sure your oven is working properly

Start off with putting your oven on to 180 degrees Celsius. There are two steps to this awesome cake, the topping and the batter.


1. Drain and pat dry the pineapple. I like to use the chunks because it gives a more festive look and makes the cake easier to cut. Evenly arrange your pineapple on top of the sugar.

2. In a warm saucepan on a medium flame put in the brown sugar and butter to melt. Do not over mix this. It’s done when it starts to bubble on the sides.

3. There is no need to butter the baking dish because the topping has enough butter already. Just take the bubbling hot sugar and butter and drop it onto the bottom of the pan letting it spread to all the corners, by moving the pan around.

Remember to be quick with this, as the sugar solidifies pretty fast!

For the batter

1. Take half cup of butter with the one cup of granulated white sugar (which is just sugar made fine in a small chopper), beat until its light and fluffy! The aim is to make it airy, so the cake is light. Now add the vanilla.

2. Add your eggs, don’t worry if the mixture gets lumpy or too thin; keep beating it till the batter reaches consistency.

3. Put the flour and baking powder into a bowl and run a fork through it. This is just as good as sifting the flour.

4. Have the milk ready in a mug to pour. Now, in three parts add flour and milk. The batter should be velvety smooth and not too runny.

5. Pour it over the pineapples and let it bake for exactly 30 minutes. If you open it before that time, your cake won’t rise.

Finally, the cake is out of the oven, give it 20 minutes to cool and pull away from the sides of the pan. Run a knife around the sides once the cake has cooled, quickly flip the cake pan onto the serving dish, holding both dishes together securely.

This cake serves eight to 10 people; bake it in a nine inch oven tray.


• Set your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Please use oven mittens when handling ovens, the burns can be severe.

• For an even, smooth texture make sure you get a good amount of whip into your cake!

• Never ever place your baking dish directly on top of the fire; it will burn right down the middle.

Happy baking!


Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2012.

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Amin Rahmatullah | 8 years ago | Reply

WOW, I can vouch for the delectable Pineapple upside down cake that Laila baked for us on Thursday 2/07/2013. It was AWESOME :)

Laila Dharamsey | 8 years ago | Reply @Z: 230 grams
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