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Loaf Cakes: One Simple Recipe With Five Variations

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
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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

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