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Loaf Cakes: One Simple Recipe With Five Variations

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Make these delicious cakes in just one bowl.

Make these delicious cakes in just one bowl.

If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter.

— Jacques Pepin

Can You Make a Cake in Just One Bowl?

Simplicity. That is the beauty of this recipe and the four alternate versions that follow. There is no creaming of butter and sugar or pre-sifting of dry ingredients. Everything is done quickly and easily in one bowl, with just a spoon or spatula. That's right—you don't even need to get out your mixer for this one.

Apples for the apple-cinnamon loaf.

Apples for the apple-cinnamon loaf.

Apple-Cinnamon Loaf With Apple Cider Glaze

Ingredients for the Basic Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Apple-Cinnamon Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons apple cider

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, 1 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl.
  4. Stir the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons brown sugar into this reserved mixture and set aside. This will be the topping on the loaf.
  5. Mix baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture. Add the apples. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in another bowl. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the apple mixture and stir just until combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the batter.
  7. Bake until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
  8. To make the icing whisk together the powdered sugar and apple cider and drizzle over the loaf.
Ginger-Pear Loaf

Ginger-Pear Loaf

Pear-Ginger Loaf

My next-door neighbor has a pear tree that each year rewards her with a generous supply of firm, sweet, juicy pears. She was kind enough to leave a few on my front porch, and I returned the favor by giving her one of these fragrant sweet loaves.

A few simple adjustments are needed to the above recipe:

Adjustments to the Basic Loaf Recipe

  • Reduce cinnamon from 2 1/2 teaspoons to 2 teaspoons.
  • Add 1/4 cup minced candied ginger.
  • Delete the 1/2 cup powdered sugar and apple cider at the end—instead of making a glaze I simply dusted the baked loaf with powdered sugar.
  • Change 1 pound of apples to 1 pound of Anjou pears (don't use Bartletts in this recipe--they are too juicy).
Lemon-cranberry loaf.

Lemon-cranberry loaf.

Lemon-Cranberry Loaf

Some things just naturally go together—salt and pepper, bacon and eggs, pancakes and syrup, and the flavors of lemon and cranberry. Cranberries are so pretty and are a familiar element in winter baking. You know this loaf would be welcome on any holiday table.

Ingredients for the Basic Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Lemon-Cranberry Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, 1 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt, and in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl.
  4. Stir the chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons brown sugar into this reserved mixture and set aside. This will be the topping on the loaf.
  5. Mix baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture. Add the fresh cranberries. Whisk together the buttermilk, lemon juice, vanilla, and egg in another bowl. Add the buttermilk mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir just until combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the batter.
  7. Bake until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
  8. To make the icing whisk together the powdered sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the loaf.
Stirring cherries into the batter.

Stirring cherries into the batter.

Chocolate and Sour Cherry Loaf

Ingredients for the Basic Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Chocolate and Sour Cherry Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • One 14.5-ounce can red tart water packed cherries, drained
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, 1 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl.
  4. Stir the almonds into this reserved mixture and set aside. This will be the topping on the loaf.
  5. Mix baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture. Add the drained cherries. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in another bowl. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the chocolate/cherry mixture and stir just until combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the batter.
  7. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool slightly.
Dried apricots.

Dried apricots.

Apricot and White Chocolate Loaf

Ingredients for the Basic Loaf

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Streusel Topping

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Apricot and White Chocolate Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup rum (or increase orange juice to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Mix flour, 1 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer 3/4 cup of the mixture to a small bowl.
  4. Stir the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons brown sugar into this reserved mixture and set aside. This will be the topping on the loaf.
  5. Combine dried apricots, orange juice, and rum (if using) in a small microwave-safe mixing bowl; microwave at full power for 30 seconds. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  6. Mix baking soda and baking powder into the remaining flour mixture.
  7. Drain the apricots and stir into the sugar/flour batter.
  8. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in another bowl. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the apricot mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in the white chocolate chips.
  9. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the batter.
  10. Bake until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool slightly.

History of Quick Breads

If you read my other articles, you know that I either present a history lesson or a story from my life (and I'm old enough that the stories probably qualify as a history lesson as well).

Quick breads are breads made with a leavening agent other than yeast or whipped eggs that have been around for several centuries. (Leavening agents are the stuff that makes baked goods rise and become light and airy).

  • We know that the indigenous people of North America use pearl ash as a leavening agent in their breads.
  • Homemakers in Great Britain relied on ash water to leaven their soda bread.
  • In 1846 baking soda was commercially produced by Church and Dwight (famous for the Arm & Hammer line of baking soda products).
  • And in 1869 Eben Horsford (a chemist at Harvard) invented baking powder—a combination of mono-calcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and cornstarch.

Therefore, the muffins, scones, biscuits, cakes, and loaf cakes that we have come to know and love have been with us for about 150 years.

© 2016 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2016:

Lawrence - It would be difficult for me to select one favorite--unfortunately for my waistline I enjoy them all. It has been a long, long time since I have made bagels--I need to do that again. They ALWAYS taste much better when freshly made at home.

Perhaps you've given me the inspiration for another hub. Thanks.

Lawrence Hebb on November 09, 2016:

Linda.

The lemon and cranberry looks awesome.

My favorite to bake used to be bagels but I haven't made any for a while.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 27, 2016:

Bravewarrior - For one loaf I used canola oil, and I actually used a very mild-flavored (extra virgin) olive oil for the chocolate-sour cherry loaf. I think any neutral flavored oil would work.

Although I know that applesauce is used in place of oil in some recipes (brownies, for example), I'm not sure if it would work here. There is already so much fruit. Maybe reduce the oil by half and replace with apple sauce. If you do that, and it's successful, please let me know. I'm always looking for ways to improve my recipes.

Thanks for stopping by. I know I can always depend on your support.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 27, 2016:

The apple cinnamon and ginger pear loaves sound yummy. In fact, I'm eating a pear right now! My mom would love the chocolate sour cherry loaf. One of her favorite candies are chocolate covered cherries.

Question on the vegetable oil: can another oil be substituted? I haven't used anything but olive oil, coconut oil and grape seed oil for years now. Taking it a step further, could applesauce be used in place of oil?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 26, 2016:

Thank you Alicia. My favorite is the apple/cinnamon. My husband is a chocolate nut (so you know which one is his fave), younger daughter loves anything with candied ginger, and me? I love white chocolate and apricot. If you happen to try one of them, please let me know. I would like to get your feedback.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 25, 2016:

I love all the variations that you've included in this article. They all sound delicious. Loaf cakes are one of my favourite things to bake, so this article is a great resource for me.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 14, 2016:

Eric, yes absolutely...unless that dark and dismal day is due to severe wind storms which knock out power and you cannot cook.

No, that didn't happen here (yet), but we are holding our breath for tomorrow. Anticipating gusts up to (at least) 80 mph.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 14, 2016:

Is it possible that a dark and dismal day is made lighthearted and shiny by cooking for loved ones?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 14, 2016:

Flourish - I would not compare these to a granola bar--lots of sugar, but I tell myself that there is also a TON of fruit in these (...as I reward my effort with a dollop of whipped cream). I'll bet apple-cinnamon would be a winner, especially if you weather is anything like mine right now. (SHIVER!!!) Autumn/Winter has hit with the full fury of the devil. Looking at winds sustained at 35 with gusts to 80 or more. Twister spotted earlier today in the SW corner of the state.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 14, 2016:

Bill, the chocolate-cherry loaf came out of the oven yesterday at just about this time. I'm surprised you weren't able to follow the aroma from your home to mine.

Bev is correct--yes, you can do this. Let me know which one you select and how it turns out.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 14, 2016:

Eric - It is so good to hear from you, and honestly, these are so easy I know that you can pull any of them off in style. All of them have been taste-tested by the Carb Diva family. At the moment we are working on the chocolate-cherry version (and oooh, it's good warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top).

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 14, 2016:

These sound divine. I love to make these types of treats as quick grab-n-go breakfasts for my teenager for school mornings when she's running late (which is more often than not).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2016:

I'll bet is smells like heaven in your house. You know, the least you could have done was deliver one of these loaf cakes to me for my birthday. I'm a little offended that you would brave the weather for a quick drive down to Olympia in honor of my special day. LOL

I'd give these recipes to Bev but she'd just hand them back to me and say "get busy, big boy." LOL

Stay dry and warm, my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 14, 2016:

Linda I just got back from a few days with no internet and spotty at best cell reception. I saw your hub almost first thing and did not walk to it but ran to it.

Of course I read it through with skepticism as I am not a fancy cook. But as of now this is printed and on my refrigerator I have some fresh apples from the trip -- but I think I will go Apricot first. And as always thank you for some history.