Why 99? It could have also been 78 or 104, who counts when it comes to favorite cakes. And I do have many many favorite ones: the quick poppyseed cake is one of them (no matter if baked the original way or in a jar), this chocolate cake as well as this Nutella banana combo and its little sibling, the peanut butter cake. Oh, and don’t forget my strawberry or rhubarb favorites and my grandma’s sponge cake roll!
But then I also do have a very weak spot for easy sheet cakes. Usually prepared for a larger crowd, they were regulars on our table during my childhood. One of the nicest traditions. I do thank my grandma for her unwritten law that there had to be at least one home baked cake each weekend. And since almost no weekend passed by without a handful of surprise guests showing up for her coffee table, her choice often was a large sheet cake – to ensure everybody could have at least second helpings.
Do you have a top-of-the-list cake? I’m sure you do. But what makes a favorite cake a favorite cake? For me there are a couple of must haves, it has to be dead easy to prepare – you can make them with your eyes shut like Barbara would say – , you don’t need a plate to eat a piece and (very importantly!) the cake gets even better on its second and/or third day. All of these requirements come together in this old favorite: The yeast dough is easy to work with, the bottom is soft and gets not too chewy on the next day and the topping has the right balance of fruits and creamy juiciness, similar to a cheese cake. Oliver prefers his slices still warm from the oven, I like mine best the second day, straight from the fridge, when the topping is well chilled (makes a great summer snack, too).
But since I’m always on the hunt for my next favorite cake, what is yours? Do you have very fond memories of a special cake your mum or grandma baked for you?
For the batter, pour flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crumble the yeast into the well, sprinkle some sugar over it and pour enough of the lukewarm milk over it to cover the yeast evenly. Briefly stir the yeast milk, then cover the bowl with a dish towel and let the sponge rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes until the first bubbles become visible.
Add the rest of the milk, the remaining sugar, butter, egg and salt. Knead the mixture with the kneading hooks of your kitchen machine (or by hand) until the dough can easily be lifted from the side of the bowl. If the dough is still very sticky, add flour by the tablespoon. Lightly dust with flour, then cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour (if you’re in a hurry, then 30 minutes will also suffice).
Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Briefly knead the dough once more, roll out on a floured work surface until it is approximately the size of the sheet and about 0,5 cm (0,25 inch) thick. Then spread out on the sheet and pull into shape. Keep covered with a dish towel.
Prepare the topping: In a bowl mix together the three eggs, schmant (substitute with sour cream or curd) and vanilla sugar, then evenly spread over the prepared yeast dough. Finally distribute the cherries on top.
Bake in the oven (middle rack) for 20 to 25 minutes, but make sure that the bottom doesn’t get too dark. Take out, let cool and cut into square pieces.
Yeast cake with cherries and schmant (sour cream)
Recipe source: grandma's recipe, adapted
Prep time: ~20 minutes, rising time: ~1-1,5 hour, baking time: 20-25 minutes
Ingredients (yields one baking tray, ~34x34 cm/~13x13 inches):
375 g all-purpose flour, possibly a bit more
20 g fresh yeast (cake)
50 g sugar
125 ml lukewarm milk
50 g butter (at room temperature)
1 egg (medium, at room temperatur)
a pinch of salt
3 eggs (medium or large)
400 g Schmant (substitute with sour cream or curd)
50 g vanilla sugar
350-400 g cherries (canned and pitted)