I make a pledge earlier this week to Leah to attempt to bake a tiny cake. Knowing what I have available in my pantry, I pledged to scale my fruitcake recipe, even though I still have over a kilo of 5-month-old booze-soaked cake in my cupboard. However, I also really like fresh fruitcake, so it was not pure madness.
Step 1: spend an hour shopping for a tiny cake pan
Since it is Valentine’s tomorrow and Easter is soon, it was easy to find heart, bunny and teddy bear shaped pans. Boo! Galeria Kaufhof also had small-but-not-small-enough “Kinder” sized spring forms. I seriously considered metal panna cotta forms. I bought a couple small ragout fin dishes since they were only 1 € each (even though I already own a pair of teal Le Creuset mini cocettes).
Then it hit me so hard I felt just plain stupid: I should buy a muffin tin. I could then have the muffin tin for future muffin and cupcake use, and just restrict myself to using one cup for mini recipes. D’uh. Though, instead of a muffin tin, I opted for a silicon pan that makes 6 mini bundt cakes, because, I hardly need to say, mini bundt cakes are way cuter than muffins.
Step 2: do the math
I suppose I could have tried to google mini cake recipes, but where is the fun in that?
I measured the capacity of the pans that my usual recipe fills and found it to be 3 litres (12 cups). A single mini bundt form is 1/3 cup, or 1/12 of a litre. Even if I made 6 mini cakes, I’d have to make only a 6th of the original recipe. That would be convenient, since the recipe calls for 6 eggs. But screw that. The aim is to make Just One Cake. My original recipe could make 36 mini cakes. I would need to use 1/6 of an egg for my recipe.
Looking at the quantities for the dry ingredients, I made a decision: I would mix the flour, leavening agents and spices in the amounts given, and then use only 1/36th of the mix. I could use the rest for something else, like spiced pancakes.
Some useful conversions, for limited definitions of “useful”:
- 1 US cup = 48 US teaspoons
- 1 US cup = 16 US tablespoons
- 1 medium egg = 3 tablespoons, or 9 teaspoons*
- 1 stick of butter = 1/4 of a pound = 1/2 cup = 8 tablespoons
* which means 1/6 of an egg is half a tablespoon, or 1.5 teaspoons
Step 3: assemble all the ingredients
I tried to avoid buying items especially for this experiment. I already had candied ginger, but I bought a bag of unsalted mixed fruits and nuts, and a package of dates. I was not about to make a fresh batch of candied orange peel for one stick so I sadly resigned to leave it out. I needed butter and brandy, two things I could easily use elsewhere, but had a hard time deciding if molasses was important. Since it keeps, I bought it (though here in German I have to use a substitute, Zuckerrübensirup, which is so much like molasses that I consider it the same.) I bought a fresh lemon and an orange, and I was ready to go.
Step 4: mise en place
i) Sift together:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
[I was out, so I doubled the nutmeg]
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
I concluded that I needed only ONE tablespoon of the above mix.
ii) Chop into tiny bits:
- one date
- one walnut
- a bird’s portion of dried fruits
- a cube of candied ginger
The date is important. Be sure to use a few dark raisins, or a dozen dried currants. I chose the amount of fruit by seeing what would fit in the cake form, since the batter merely fills the cracks between the fruit and nuts. Ultimately, I used a 1/4 cup of finely chopped dried fruits and nuts.
Step 5: finish and bake
You can do the above two steps ahead of time. Before you continue, you should pre-heat the oven to 300°F (150°C) and grease your cake form.
iii) Make the butter/sugar/egg mix:
- 1/2 tablespoon of butter, whipped until creamy
- 1 tablespoon of packed dark brown sugar, whipped with the butter until light in colour and texture
- 1/2 tablespoon of egg, beaten into the creamed sugar-butter
- flavour by beating in: 2/3 teaspoon of molasses, 1/3 teaspoon of fresh lemon/orange juice and a touch of zest
If you, like me, are not using candied orange peel, then be a bit generous with the zest.
- the sugar-butter mix
- one tablespoon of the dry mix
- 2/3 teaspoon of brandy
Add the dry mix and brandy in parts to the sugar-butter, alternately, mixing well after each addition.
v) Stir together until just combined:
- the batter
- the nuts and fruit
vi) Scrape the batter into your tiny greased cake form, and bake for 15-20 minutes in a 300°F (150°C) oven. You better keep a close eye on it though. At this size, times could vary wildly.
vii) Let it rest. Before you unmould your twee cake, let it cool. Despite how amazing cookies are straight from the oven, a cake is not done baking until it cools.
Complete success. It tastes like yummy fruitcake, and looks cute.