Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of requests from readers to help them figure out why their cakes haven’t been coming out nicely. One tells me that the cake slumps in the middle, another that it expands over the edge, making a big mess, and a third that while the outside is nice and crispy, the inside remains uncooked.Simple cakes really shouldn’t require too much attention, but do refrain from overmixing, so that the cake doesn’t come out too dense.Cake batter is prepared from the following basic ingredients: flour, sugar, oil, liquid, spices and toppings.It’s enough to alter one ingredient – juice instead of water, or whipped cream instead of sweet cream, butter instead of margarine – to create a completely new concoction. You can also add lots of fun extras, such as dates, nuts, raisins or cranberries.POPPY SEED CAKEMakes 2 loaf pans1½ cups light spelt flour, sifted 2 packets baking powder1 cup poppy seeds, ground or whole ½ cup coconut ½ cup blanched almonds,coarsely ground 4 eggs 1 cup Demerara sugar1 cup canola oil 2 packets vanilla sugar 1½ cups orange juice 1 tsp. orange liqueur or brandy Alternative:Add ½ cup of chocolate chips, grated chocolate, candied dried fruits, walnuts or raisins.Topping: ½ cup of powdered sugar In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, poppy seeds, coconut and walnuts. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Gradually pour dry ingredients into wet mixture.Mix well. Grease a pan and pour in batter. Flatten.Bake in an oven that has been preheated to medium heat for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry and clean. Remove from oven and let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.If a cake overflows, it was probably TIPascale If a cake overflows, it was probably baked at too high a temperature.Cakes with lots of extras are sometimes heavy and dense. To counteract this, whip the eggs with the sugar and only then add the other ingredients.To keep cakes fresh, once they’ve cooled, wrap with plastic and then a layer of foil on top of that and seal tightly.To cut down on calories, replace oil with applesauce.All dairy products can be replaced with soy products.WHATEVER’S-IN-THE-PANTRY CAKEAdd a whole bunch of ingredients to this basic cake, and it always comes out tasty. Sometimes I add sesame seeds or sliced almonds. You can also vary the pan used to bake the cake. I like to double the recipe and prepare 6 or 7 loaf pans, so that I can give my kids cakes to take with them.Makes 3 loaf pans 200 gr. butter, softened1½ cups sugar2 packets vanilla sugar 1 tsp. rum 1 tsp. brandy3 eggs 1 cup flour, sifted 1½ cups whole-wheat flour, sifted 2½ tsp. baking powder 1 cup parve cream½ cup almond or soy milk2 Tbsp. cocoa powder 2 Tbsp. Nutella 2-4 Tbsp. almond or soy milk Additions: ½ cup candied nuts, or sesame seeds mixed with 1 Tbsp. silan (date syrup) Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the vanilla sugar, rum and eggs and mix until smooth.Lower the speed and gradually add the two types of flour, baking powder, cream and soy or almond milk.Pour about a cup of the mixture into a separate bowl and add the cocoa powder, Nutella, and soy milk and mix until smooth.Pour the rest of the batter into a greased pan.Take a teaspoon of the chocolate mixture and push it into the batter in the pan in evenly spaced increments.Sprinkle the nuts or sesame seeds on the batter. Bake in an oven that has been preheated for 45-50 minutes.Cool on a metal rack.TIPascale For a nice variation, swap the chocolate for dried fruits or nuts.To make the cake a little richer, ice the cake with chocolate frosting.MARBLE CAKE This is one of the tastiest and easiest cakes to make. The only downside of making this cake is that it disappears so quickly. I especially love sending my soldier sons back to their base with this cake. This recipe is perfect for baking in aluminum loaf pans.You can personalize a cake by adding dried fruits or nuts, or add chocolate chips instead of the cocoa powder.Makes 2 loaf pans200 gr. butter, softened 1½ cups sugar 2 packets vanilla sugar 3 eggs 3 cups baking flour, sifted 1 container yogurt 2 Tbsp. milk 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder 3 Tbsp. milk or water Whip the butter in a mixer on high speed. Gradually add sugar and vanilla sugar. Mix for 2-3 minutes and then gradually add eggs. Whip until light and smooth.Lower speed and alternately add flour, yogurt and 2 tablespoons of milk. Pour half of the batter into a pan.In a separate bowl, mix cocoa powder with 3 tablespoons of milk. Add this to the second half of the batter.Mix well. Pour dark batter on the light batter in the pan.Take a spoon or skewer and draw a figure eight in the batter. This way, the cake will look like marble when it is cut.Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 170°-180° for 45-50 minutes.Let cool on a metal rack.Translated by Hannah Hochner.