Unending stretch of meadows dotted with a million flowers line up the pathway to the cottage.

 Some Cosmoses too, show up between the dainty flowers that outnumber all other wild flowers in the Valley. 

There is a sound..... It seems to be some kind of hum….very cosmic, very incomprehensible. Soon the source is discovered. A thousand bees or more, swarming on the wildflowers generate the reverberating murmur that pervades the air. It is a rare experience these days and we savour it while treading on the meandering path that leads to the veranda of Norah Richard’s art centre in Andretta village in Himanchal. Another enchanting spectacle greets us as we pull our cane chairs and drink the beauty of the snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges in the backdrop of the forest.

 It was a lovely evening walk. Back in the room, we sip steaming tea with Eggless Vanilla Tea Cake that was made for the trip.

This is a very simple cake. Best enjoyed with tea. This can be also be served with ice cream or custard or mango puree as dessert.

I have baked this cake several times. For guests, on birthdays and sometimes for snacking.

The cake has a moist crumb. The recipe never disappoints. Dress it up with ganache or just plain, it is always delicious.

Eggless Vanilla Tea Cake / Butter Free Tea Cake


  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ to 1 cup castor sugar (quantity depending on preference for sweetness)
  • 1 cup thick yoghurt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • A handful of roasted and chopped nuts of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line, grease and dust one 6 ½ inches round cake pan.
  2. Beat yoghurt till smooth. Add baking powder and soda. Mix well. Keep aside for 3 minutes. The mixture will start bubbling.
  3. Add oil, sugar and vanilla essence and mix till uniformly incorporated.
  4. Add flour in parts. Mix gently till just combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Level with a spoon, sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly on top.
  6. Bake at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 175 degrees and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges by running a knife along the sides and remove the cake from the pan. Cool in the rack.
  8. Slice the next day.

It is late morning. The sky is overloaded with clouds. Hopes of a down pour and relief from heat take  wings. A cool breeze shakes the tree tops.

A purple sunbird settles on a Mussaenda branch and raises alarm. He has spotted our cat in deep slumber under a fish tail palm,   camouflaged in the dry vegetation. Soon we discover the reason of this alarm. One of his baby birds has just left the nest. It has taken its maiden flight and is perched in the lower branches of the Neem tree. “Cheep”, “Cheep” goes the baby bird. The female bird swoops down midair, catches an insect and feeds the baby. Soon the male joins his partner and they take turns to feed the fledgling.

Soon there is a good downpour…scent of the wet earth suffuses and the parched Earth greedily sucks in every drop of rain that falls on it
For dinner, a bread is being baked. 50% wholegrain bread is going through bulk fermentation. It is an   easy to bake bread that rises well and has a great crumb.

50% Wholegrain Bread
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup coarse cornmeal (makki ka atta)
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 ¼ -½ cup warm water
Whisk together first six ingredients in a deep bowl.
Stir honey in 1 ¼ cup warm water. Add this water to flour mix and stir. Keep adding more water till you get a shaggy dough. Transfer the dough to a kneading plate or a counter. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes. By the end of kneading, the dough should be slightly sticky, elastic and soft. Form a ball and transfer to a greased bowl. Turn the dough around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Keep in a warm place to rise  until double or for 1 hour.
Grease one 8 x 4 x 4  inch loaf pan.
Punch dough and knead it again for a minute or two.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle not bigger than the width of the pan you are using. Roll the dough towards you, tightly. Pinch seams to seal. Place the roll in the greased loaf tin with the seam side down. Cover and keep it to rise for 1 hour in a warm place or until it crests above the rim of the pan.
Bake in the preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top turns brown and the bottom of the pan sounds empty when tapped. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent the loaf loosely with a foil.
Remove from the loaf tin after 10 minutes. Cool in the rack.
Slice when cold.

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