HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Birthday Cake without a mixer

My son's birthday is approaching, and I am without a mixer of any kind but I do have a wisk. Yesterday I managed to find cake pans, so that is a start. He would like a traditional chocolate cake with vanilla icing. I have baking powder, but I have been unable to find baking soda, so the recipe needs to have only baking powder. Does anyone have a recipe for a traditional chocolate cake that can be made by hand and doesn't require a ton of creaming of butter and sugar? Maybe a chocolate cake made with vegetable oil? The icing shouldn't be a problem since I have found confectioners sugar here in Cairo, and my husband brought vanilla when he came to visit. Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't have a mixer or baking soda either so am always on the lookout for recipes that can be made without either.

    This is for small cakes but I think it could be made as a large cake: http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/06/cho...

    Alternatively you could adapt another yogurt cake to add chocolate: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...
    Both make very moist cakes.

    1. For creaming butter and sugar, I use a fork. Just mush it down and it will all cream together nicely. Yes it takes a while and my arm feels like it will fall off after, but it works. :)

      1. I have an old tool from my nana (think it may be from her nana). It's a creaming spoon-- like a metal slotted spoon but the edges of the slots are a little sharp, if that makes sense. I often use it when creaming butter and sugar when I don't feel like dealing with the mixer. So I wonder if a slotted spoon would work more quickly than a fork?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Procrastibaker

          This little gadget sounds wonderful! You wouldn't happen to have a photo of it by any chance would you? I tried a google search but it came up with nothing resembling it.

          1. re: rockability

            a machine shop should be able to tooth the edge of a regular stainlees steel slotted spoon for you, especially if you promise to bring them in a cake after using it.

        2. weird that you can't find baking soda? it's useful for so many other things than baking, and dates back to ancient civilzations. baking powder is a more recent development.

          the crazy cake recipe i use, which is cocoa and oil based, uses baking soda, sorry.

          however, you can make a genoise cake, which will require a bit of egg whisking, but no creaming and no soda or powder.

          how will you make icing without a mixer? just wondering?

          7 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            I'm just planning on making a confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla, & cream frosting. I just spoke to someone today who claims she can get me baking soda -- available, aparently, at a specialized spice store. It's weird the things I can't find -- like hot pepper flakes, and/or Aleppo pepper. I haven't seen corn syrup (how to make my Thanksgiving pecan pie?), or molasses -- no spice cookies, I guess... I also suppose that I can make my own buttermilk? I found an oil-based chocolate cake recipe that requires both baking soda and buttermilk. I have seen cocoa, which is good...

            1. re: roxlet

              if you can get baking soda, i have made this chocolate cake a million times. it's delicious and foolproof.


              i sub yogurt for buttermilk all the time with no discernible difference. i would think corn syrup might be a novelty though, yes, lol. with the plethora of dried spices in the area's cuisines, i bet there is a way to make honey spice cookies, rather than pulling out your hair looking for molasses.

              if you're just whipping cream for topping the cake, i'd use regular sugar. it dissolves in the cream and you don't get that grainy texture.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                When you sub the yogurt, do you use any milk to loosen it up?

                1. re: roxlet

                  nope. i use plain, either greek style, like fage, or "european style' from trader joe's. neither have pectin so they are not as stiff as american yogurts.

              2. re: roxlet

                for pecan pie, look for lyle's golden syrup. Ask one of the british expat's in cairo if there is anywhere that specifically stocks british products and they might have lyle's there.
                works as well as corn syrup.

                1. re: missmasala

                  Thanks for that suggestion, missmasala. Today I scored Lyle's as well as baking soda! Yippee!

                2. re: roxlet

                  also, if you can get baking soda, this is a great party cake. it literally takes 20 minutes to whip up from start to finish (no mixer or butter required) and it tastes great. i leave out the nuts for kids and have frosted with white frosting before.


              3. From the Joy of Cooking:
                To cream butter, "work 70 degree shortening lightly with fingertips -- or use the back of a wooden spoon."
                Also indicates that 200 strokes by hand beating is the equivalent of 2 minutes with an electronic mixer at medium speed.

                1 Reply
                1. re: masha

                  One of the problems with creaming butter here is that it is so darned hot! I made a pie crust and I had to constantly sling the dough back into the freezer.

                2. If you do find baking soda, and have access to cocoa, Hershey's Black Magic cake is a quintessential old-fashioned chocolate cake that's oil-based, so you can whisk it up. It calls for coffee (heightens the chocolate flavor, but doesn't read as coffee in the baked cake) and buttermilk (for which you can substitute milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar). It's very moist.


                  1. So much seems to hinge on Baking soda, so I am hoping that Nouran's mother gets some as promised!

                    1. I have been an avid unregistered reader of Chowhound for years, but you have inspired me to register to rescue a fellow Cairo baker. Baking soda is widely available in Cairo- just not in supermarkets. Go to any pharmacy (and most little spice shops) and ask for carbonat. (rhymes with pot). It's really cheap- it should cost about a pound for a little bag of it. IT's amazing how many things you can get in Cairo if you stop thinking that the westernized supermarkets chains are the places to look. I'm not in Cairo myself anymore, but feel free to message if you're trying to find anything in particular!

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: cbrunelle

                        Thank you so much, cbrunelle! i asked someone if I could get it in a pharmacy, and they said no, but obviously they were wrong. I am in Mohandeseen, and I am wondering if you have any thoughts about where to get corn syrup, or whether it is even available. I would also like to get molasses, but I don't know if these exist here. I went to Maadi the other day, and had no luck in the markets there, which frankly surprised me since there are so many Americans living there. Even though I am in Mohandessen, I would travel to whereever to get my ingredients!

                        1. re: roxlet

                          Maybe you could get a date syrup that had a high enough sugar content for a molasses replacement.

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Molasses is available in most corner markets. They called it 'asl iswad (black honey). Look in the honey section. As for corn syrup, I think I've seen it from time to time at a market in Maadi, but I can't be absolutely sure. If it was anywhere, it was at a place I think is called Massoud's (if you take the metro to the Maadi stop, go to the street on the same side you get off the train, then look right, you'll see a big traffic circle. One of the shops right on the circle is the one I'm talking about. I think it's Massoud's- my friends and I called it Americaville.).

                            The other place to get imported US products is Kimo market in Maadi- ask a taxi driver to take you to midan victoria (3-6 pound ride from the Maadi metro stop, depending on your Arabic skills). At midan victoria just ask for Kimo market, and someone will point you to it. It looks tiny from the outside but is bigger inside.

                            Corn syrup also might be something you're more likely to find around the holidays- around November a lot of places start importing products that there's a particular demand for in the expat community for the holidays.

                            1. re: cbrunelle

                              Thanks again! No Metro for us, alas. I don't believe that it is on this side of the Nile. going to Maadi for us is a special occasion -- usually reserved for Fridays, so we will try Kimo Market when we are there next. I will also ask about the 'asl iswad. Is that actually honey or is it Molasses? BTW, the taxi situation here has improved dramatically. All the old scungy taxis are being replaced by new white ones that have -- yes! You guessed it! Taxi meters! What an innovation.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                No problem-
                                The asl iswad is definitely molasses- I'm not sure why they call it black honey. Taxi meters in Cairo? What is the world coming to?

                                And also- the market I was talking about isn't metro- it's a few doors down from Metro supermarket in Maadi by the Maadi metro station, so try them both. Massoud's carries almost entirely imported foods (and entirely imported prices)

                                1. re: cbrunelle

                                  No, I meant Metro, as Subway or train, not the Metro Market. I go to one in Mohandeseen. It's just OK. Fine for basics, but nothing that interesting or surprisiong. But there is no train on this side of the Nile, I think. At least I haven't seen one... Is Masood's on a corner? I might have been there on Friday. They had capers, which made me happy. Putanesca is possible!

                                  1. re: cbrunelle

                                    Today I went to a market in Maadi called Mariam's. Someone had told me that they get stuff that the American Embassy Commissary has too much of. I scored molasses, canned pumpkin, who berry cranberry sauce (for Thanksgiving) and untold numbers of other ingredients. It was an incredible find. Now I think I'm all set to go!

                          2. This Cuisine at Home recipe is still the best chocolate cake I have ever had. It looks perfect for you.


                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Becca Porter

                              This is an old, standard recipe - variously known as wacky cake, crazy cake, Amazon cake, and by other names, I've read it originated during the Great Depression; because it doesn't use butter, milk, or eggs, it's a pantry recipe that doesn't call for fresh ingredients that may have been expensive or in short supply. I first made it from an old community cookbook when I was a child, and everyone was surprised at how good it was, consideringwhat it doesn't have. It's also become the standard cake recipe in vegan cookbooks.

                              As you can see, this one from Epicurious is almost exactly the same:

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Most of the people I am inviting for birthday cake have never had a real, American birthday cake. They have pseudo French cakes that are pretty cottony and tasteless, so I really want to make it classic and special. This one seems almost too simple! Is it really that good??

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  same recipe i linked to above, lol. and yes, it is very good. very traditional texture and flavor. sometimes we feel like a recipe has to be arduous to be delicious, but this proves the opposite.

                                  you can slice it and make layer cake or bake it in several diferent size pans to make a tiered cake.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    I have made a million cakes, from simple to fancy, this is the best plain chocolate cake I have found, especially for birthdays. It is very moist and just chocolate enough for a birthday cake.

                                2. re: Becca Porter

                                  Interesting, a lot of these recipes are variations--from Epicurious's double chocolate layer cake to Hershey's black magic to Ina Gartens chocolate Bette cake. Some call for hot water and espresso/coffee, some coffee. Buttermilk or milk and vinegar. It's a great basic recipe.

                                3. I made a cake yesterday from my cookbook without using a electric or hand mixer. The recipe did not require baking soda. Baking took almost 2 hours, but it is a lovely cake and it did have oil instead of butter in the recipe. I can check the same cookbook for a chocolate cake recipe.