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Busy Day Cake

This version of Edna Lewis’ Busy Day Cake is such a winner – simple ingredients come together to make the most perfectly tender, lightly sweet cake that can be served plain, with whipped cream and fruit, or with a shower of sifted powdered sugar.

Easy Busy Day Cake Recipe

This busy day cake recipe is adapted from Edna Lewis’ “The Taste of Country Cooking” and is such a lovely and simple cake to put together. Lewis describes the cake, also called sweet bread, thusly: “Busy-day cake was never iced, it was always cut into squares and served warm, often with fresh fruit or berries left over from canning. The delicious flavor of fresh-cooked fruit with the plain cake was just to our taste and it was also refreshing with newly churned, chilled buttermilk or cold morning’s milk. ” (p. 86)

This cake is reliably good every time, and is a testament to the belief that from simple things can come an extraordinary result! Busy day cake is lovely when you need a quick dessert – you can dress it up with ice cream or whipped cream, sliced strawberries are a definite must, or just dust it with a little powdered sugar. It’s also great for days when you would like a little sweet bite without a lot of fuss.

Ingredients for busy day cake are shown labelled and portioned out: butter, flour, baking soda, salt, eggs, vanilla, sugar.

What You Need to Make This Recipe

This easy method makes a tender, delicious cake you’ll make again and again! Here’s what you need for this busy day cake recipe – the full ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the end of this post.

  • Butter – Unsalted butter is best so that the salt doesn’t compete with the sweetness of this cake.
  • Granulated sugar – There’s a decent amount of sugar called for, and you can make it a bit less sweet by reducing the sugar by ⅓  cup if you wish.
  • Eggs – Most baking recipes are developed using large eggs, and this recipe is no exception. Large eggs are best.
  • Vanilla
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt – I always use fine sea salt in my baking recipes.
  • Ground nutmeg – This is optional, but I love the hint of warmth it gives this cake.
  • Milk – Use whole milk or 2% milk.

How to Make Busy Day Cake

See how to quickly put this cake together via the photos below. You can find the detailed instructions in the recipe card lower down.

  • Prep: Preheat the oven to 375℉ and butter and line a 9-inch round cake pan.
  • Cream: Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs: Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.
  • Make dry mix: Whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  • Combine: Add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture in three additions.
  • Stir: Starting with ½ cup of flour and ⅓ of the milk, and end with the remaining flour.
  • Mix: Stir well after each addition.
  • Add batter to pan: Spoon the batter into the cake pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake: Bake for about 30 minutes, then cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before turning it out to cool completely.
A slice of gluten free busy day cake on a plate.

Serving Ideas

Busy day cake is delicious plain – kind of the point of this cake is its simplicity, so please do enjoy it plain with a cup of tea or coffee! You can also add fruit or other toppings, such as:

  • Whipped cream. Dollop individual slices of cake with homemade sweetened or unsweetened whipped cream for the perfect accompaniment.
  • With fruit. Throughout summer, take advantage of good fruit season and serve busy day cake with fresh fruit! All kinds of berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are perfect with angel food cake. Or add sliced stone fruit like peaches, cherries, nectarines, and plums.
  • Add fruit! You can also add fruit directly into the cake. I love making busy day cake with sliced strawberries stirred right into the batter, and I have a feeling blackberries or blueberries would also be amazing.
  • Cinnamon. Add a pinch of cinnamon to the cake along with the ground nutmeg for extra warmth and flavor.
A gluten free busy day cake on a white background.

How to Store

This cake keeps pretty well, another point in its favor. It’s fine kept at room temperature for a few days, and popping it into the fridge will help it last even longer. Here’s how to store your cake:

  • Counter – Cover the cake with foil and keep it on the counter for up to 3 days.
  • Fridge – Refrigerating busy day cake will help it keep longer. Cover the cake tightly with foil, or place it in an airtight container, and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer – Freeze the whole cake or slices of cake by wrapping them in a layer of plastic wrap then foil, and storing them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the cake thaw in the fridge before serving.

More Simple Cake Recipes

A flowered plate with a slice of busy day cake on a white background.

Busy Day Cake

Nicole Spiridakis
This version of Edna Lewis’ Busy Day Cake is such a winner – simple ingredients come together to make the most perfectly tender, lightly sweet cake that can be served plain, with whipped cream and fruit, or with a shower of sifted powdered sugar.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 329 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 ⅓ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup whole milk, at room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375℉. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, blend the butter and sugar with a mixer, or by hand, until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  • Add the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture in three additions, starting with ½ cup of flour and ⅓ of the milk, and ending with the remaining flour. Stir well after each addition.
  • Spoon the batter into the cake pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before turning it out to cool completely.

Nutrition

Calories: 329kcalCarbohydrates: 58gProtein: 6gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 236mgPotassium: 83mgFiber: 1gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 291IUVitamin C: 0.001mgCalcium: 109mgIron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe?Let me know in the comments how it went!

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