The Perfect Butter Cake

The Perfect Butter Cake
The Perfect Butter Cake

On her page “Meet Radhika,” Radhika of Sinsations writes, “I started baking at 11 or 12, with my mom.” As I read this one line, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. I so wanted to bake my mother’s butter cake and I did!

While Amma and I cooked together all the time, baking held a special place in our hearts. Baking a cake was a major family occasion, involving my brother, mother, and me. We would shop and plan in advance; clear out the kitchen; and as the time to bake neared, Anand (my brother) and I would be all agog with excitement. We wanted to do everything, yet were afraid of runing the cake with our inexperience. Amma had her hands full keeping us in-line and yet not dampening out enthusiasm. 🙂

Stove Top Oven

One of the major preparatory tasks for baking a cake was to get the oven down from the kitchen attic. Why was our oven in the attic, you ask?

Well, when we were young, electric ovens were uncommon in India. What we had was a stove-top oven and it was quite large. So when it was not in use, the oven was dispatched to the upper echelons of our kitchen.

Next was to get all the equipment and ingredients in order. The temperature gauge, the cake pan, the mixing bowl, the spatula, the butter paper, the sieve, the flour, the baking powder, the butter, the eggs, the vanilla essence, the milk, the sugar….

And oh! an old newspaper to spread on the kitchen floor.

Then came the time to make the cake under Amma’s eagle but benevolent eye. Amma would have us measure, sift, whisk, and fold the ingredients into the magic cake batter. Just the aroma of the batter was enough to set us drooling. We would try to sneak a taste or two while making the batter, much to Amma’s pretend-disgust! 🙂

A bonus for being well-behaved would be a chance to lick the mixing bowl at the very end! Well, we got to do that even if we were not particularly well-behaved. 🙂

In the meantime, Amma would set the oven on the burner and pre-heat the oven to just the right temperature. One thing we were not allowed to do till we were in our teens, was handle the hot oven.

Once the cake was in the oven, Anand and I were designated to watch the temperature gauge and ensure that the temperature remained in just the right range. At the appropriate time, Amma would test the cake for readiness. By this time, Anand and I would be hopping about asking “Is it ready? Is it ready?” till Amma threatened to banish us from the kitchen.

Then came the cruel hour that Amma would set the cake out to cool. We could see but not touch. 🙁 How cruel that seems to a 8- to 10-year old! Today, I behave in this same “cruel” fashion and not let anyone touch the cake till it is sufficiently cool.

However, all the wait was worth it when we came to the magical moment when we had the first bite of the yummilicious cake! Amma would cut a generous piece and feed both her children with her own hands.

It is close to a decade that we lost Amma but this is one of our most precious memories of her. Darn it, all memories of her are precious!

Having waxed eloquent and long, let me share the recipe of this simple yet wonderful cake with you.

Before I forget, do visit Sinsations; Radhika’s cakes are truly to drool over!

Ingredients for 1 x 10″ Perfect Butter Cake

  1. Refined Flour – 2 Cups + 1 tbsp for
  2. Sugar – 1.25 Cup
  3. Unsalted Butter – 2/3 Cup + 1 tbsp for greasing the pan
  4. Milk – 2/3 Cup
  5. Eggs – 3 Large
  6. Baking Powder – 2/3 tsp
  7. Baking Soda – 1/3 tsp
  8. Salt – 1/2 tsp
  9. Vanilla Essence – 2 tsp


  1. Ensure that the milk, butter and eggs are at room temperature.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 165°C.
  3. Use about 1 tbsp butter to grease a 10″ Bundt Pan.
  4. Ensure that every inch is well-greased. 🙂
  5. Lightly dust the pan with 1 tbsp of flour.
  6. Ensure that the entire inner surface of the Bundt pan is coated with a thin flour.
  7. Dust off the extra flour.
  8. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  9. Sieve the flour mix.
  10. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and the butter.
  11. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk with a light hand till the eggs are well-incorporated.
  12. Add the sieved flour mix 1 tablespoon at a time and mix well.
  13. Ensure that there are no lumps.
  14. Add the vanilla essence and milk.
  15. Mix well with a light hand.
  16. Pour the batter into the greased Bundt pan.
  17. Bake at 165°C for about 45 minutes or till a skewer or toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  18. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for about 45 minutes.
  19. After the cake has cooled, use a butter knife to loosen the cake along the edges.
  20. Cover the Bundt pan with a large plate and overturn.
  21. Gently tap the Bundt cake pan to loosen the cake.
  22. Gently lift the Bundt cake pan.
  23. Slice the cake and enjoy!
A Slice of the Perfect Butter Cake
A Slice of the Perfect Butter Cake


  • Do not leave the cake in the oven after the toothpick/skewer test. The cake will dry out in the residual heat.
  • Do not attempt to take the cake out of the pan before it cools. If you do, the cake will break apart.
  • Be generous with the butter; it is, after all, a butter cake.
  • If you use salted butter, then reduce the quantity of salt to 1/4 tsp.
  • Do not omit the salt; it serves to enhance the flavour of the cake.


  1. I love your cake and the memories associated with it. Mommy is a special gift for everyone! We never baked as my mother was not familiar with the idea but there was a lovely bakery to fill the gap and make us cake crazy. i am fascinated by that rustic oven.

  2. I can so relate to your childhood… and yes, even we had those stove top ovens!! They made amazing cakes, naankhatais and naan-kulchas! My mom still has it.
    Very explicit and fine writing. And cake looks deeelish!

  3. – Your stove-top oven brings back memories of mine too!
    When we returned to Iran from Japan, we did not have an oven and a friend loaned us her stove-top oven. Unfortunately, our cakes never turned out right and we gave up. Maybe we really didn’t know how to use it! 😉
    – Your cake looks so~ yummy… you had me at ‘butter’! 😛

  4. Hi Aruna, I woke up this morning really sad, because my diva left last night, to find this in my reader! Thank you for the mention.
    Memories of time spent with mom are really precious.
    And your cake looks fabulous! Golden and yummy!

      1. Oooh! What festival goodies did you have in mind? What all do you make?
        That’s something my mom did not teach me….she made terrible ladoos and mysorepak 🙂

        1. Well, I kick-off the season with Varalakshmi Vratam… Pulihora (Tamarind Rice), Garelu (Vada), Sengalu (Black Chana Sundal), Payasam (may be moong dal this year), Kobbari pachadi…

          Then comes Krishnashtami along with its butter and atukulu (poha) laden menu. 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Do leave me a comment.