I am back in Italy, enjoying my summer vacations. I’m back where I started this blog one year ago – WordPress was reminding me that it’s been a year since this account was created. I’ll be celebrating one year since my first post sometime in July, but the blog was started a few weeks before I began writing; a few weeks in which I was trying to figure out the layout, menus, post categories and other stuff. Then, in the middle of my vacation, I started posting and the blog went officially live.
Just like last year, I am finding myself in Rome at the same time as the summer heatwave is scorching the city. Yet, the 32 degrees we have outside are not stopping me from sweating in the kitchen with the oven on and a cake baking in it. Why am I baking? Well, right now it’s so hot that the strawberries we bought at the market today had literally started cooking in their own juices and I needed to do something with them. Some of them were so soft they were not good anymore for a fruit salad (which was plan A), so I decided to throw them into a cake.
I have my mom’s fruit cake recipe which is always very good and decided to stick with it. I used about 300 g of fresh strawberries and the zest of one lemon from the lemon tree in the garden (lemon trees in the garden. This is what I miss from Italy). I mixed vegetable oil and light olive oil because I spontaneously decided to make this cake without shopping for it and found out there was not enough sunflower oil in the house, so I had to mix (lemons from the garden and olive oil. Definitely giving this cake a Mediterranean twist). And then, since I was spontaneously preparing this cake just to do something with the strawberries, when I had already decided to bake it and promised my boyfriend’s grandparents a strawberry cake for their after-siesta coffee I discovered there was no baking powder in the house.
I have never baked a cake without baking powder. I use yeast for pizza. But I have never had to substitute baking powder in a cake before. I always have baking powder in the house. Too hot to go out just to go and buy baking powder (and it was just after lunch, so the shops would probably have been closed for siesta) I decided to experiment and try to use what was there in the house. Soda, for instance. A quick online research and I learned that soda can perfectly substitute baking powder, but unlike I thought, soda alone will not do the trick. Soda needs to be paired up with something else, like apple cider vinegar. For my strawberry cake I substituted baking powder with the following:
- 1/4 tsp soda
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 100 g milk
The three ingredients need to be combined in a cup. I poured this mixture after the oil, when I was still mixing the cake with the hand mixer. Since I added about 1/3 cup of extra liquid, I added 3 tbsp of extra flour to make the cake batter thicker. I linked the recipe above, just substitute the blueberries and nectarine with fresh strawberries.The cake rose perfectly, so the alternative to baking powder worked great! Despite being aware that the combination of soda and vinegar is part of the original red velvet recipe, I had always chosen to use baking powder (often because I’m never short of baking powder, and in the past I used not to have any vinegar other than aceto Balsamico which is not ideal here). This time I had no other choice so I had to give in to soda. And prove myself that this method works. And it was a good choice, because it gave me space for experimenting, even when dealing with a trusted recipe that I usually execute blindly.