Cake making is not difficult but having an understanding of the role
ingredients and technique play in the quality of your finished cake
will help you to have consistent and excellent results every time.
You may not know the differences between the two types of cakes;
foam and butter, and the different techniques used to make them.
Cake making usually begins by trying a recipe that catches your
interest and whether it is a sponge cake, butter cake, chiffon cake,
or genoise doesn't matter at first, only how it tastes and looks
matters. But as you gain more experience, you start to develop
definite taste preferences. Frustration often results when a recipe
doesn't work or meet your expectations. This is when you need to
learn about technique and cake types so you can become better at;
choosing recipes that match your preferences, avoiding mistakes, and
even changing a recipe to suit your own taste.
There are two types of raised cakes:
1. FOAM Cakes -( No fat )
Foam cakes have a high proportion of eggs to flour. They are
leavened solely by the air beaten into whole eggs or egg whites.
They contain very little, if any, fat and have a spongy texture.
The two categories of foam cakes are:
i) Those that contain no fat
- Angel Food Cakes, Meringues, and Dacquoises.
ii) Those where the only fat is from egg yolks
- Sponge Cakes, some Biscuits, Roulades
2. BUTTER or SHORTENED Cakes These cakes contain fat (butter, margarine or shortening)
plus egg yolks.
- Genoises and Chiffons and rely on a
chemical leavener (baking powder, baking soda) for their rise. They
are flavorful, and have a good texture and volume. The
American-style butter cake evolved from the English pound cake
recipe of 1 pound of flour, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of butter, and
1 pound of eggs. The French called the pound cake "quatre-quarts"
which translates to four-quarters, meaning
¼ of the recipe is
¼ butter and
¼ eggs. The first pound cakes had
no artificial leavener and volume was obtained through the mixing
(aeration) of the batter.
Other examples of butter cakes are the white and yellow cake, coffee
cakes, teacakes, and fruitcakes. Some butter cakes are rich and
flavorful enough to stand alone (fruitcakes, teacakes) or with a
sifting of confectioners sugar or drizzled with a glaze. Others,
layer or sheet butter cakes, taste even better with a layer of
frosting, lemon curd, jam and preserves, nuts, or even ice cream.
Butter cakes consist of taking the most basic of ingredients butter,
sugar, eggs, flour, and a leavening agent (baking powder or baking
soda) and transforming them into a baked good with a wonderful taste
Self Raising Flour vs Plain Flour
Generally, it is always preferable to use self raising flour
or cake flour for making basic cakes without any icing or
decoration. This is because self raising flour has a much lower
gluten level than plain flour and this will also produce a much
lighter and fluffy cake. Unless specified in the recipe like Banana
Cake which requires a heavier batter or you are making a decorative
cake with several tiers and icing which requires a more firm cake
base, then it is better to use Plain flour plus baking powder or
leavening agent. Plain flour has a much higher level of gluten.
How to make your butter cake light & fluffy
(creaming method most popular)
Step 1: Place softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Use an
electric beater to beat until pale and creamy.
Step 2: Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time (this stops it
curdling), and beat until just combined. Do not over beat.
Step 3: Add the flour to the mixture and use a spoon or spatula to
gently fold until just combined.
There are actually three methods used in making butter cakes and the goal of
each method is to incorporate the maximum amount of air into the
batter (produces the volume and texture of the cake), to restrict
the development of gluten in the flour (provides tenderness, texture
and volume), and to have a uniform batter.
1) Creaming Method - Most American-style butter cakes are prepared using one of three
The creaming method is the most popular
of the three. This
is the easiest and produces the lightest cake with the best volume.
2) One Bowl, Quick or Blending Method - The one bowl, quick, or blending method is the quickest and easiest
cake to make and produces a melt-in-your-mouth texture but it is
denser with less volume than a cake made with creaming method.
3) Combination Method - The combination
method is similar to the creaming method but involves
whipping the egg whites separately from the yolks and then adding
them to the batter. Example - chiffon cake, angel cake
The creaming method
The Creaming method is the most common
of the three methods, and
produces the lightest cake with the greatest volume. To start, the
butter should be unsalted, of good quality, and at room temperature
(65 - 70 degrees F) (18 - 21 degrees C). Butter that has a high
butterfat content produces more air bubbles and tends to produce
less curdling. The type of sugar used can vary by recipe from
regular granulated white sugar to superfine (castor) white sugar.
Mixing the sugar and Butter
Creaming or 'to Cream' - How often have you seen a recipe begin with
the words 'cream the butter' or 'cream the butter with the sugar'?
This mixing or beating technique not only combines ingredients to
make a uniform mixture, but also incorporates air into this mixture.
A whisk, wooden spoon, or electric mixer with paddle attachment can
be used. The butter should be at room temperature so it incorporates
the sugar sufficiently to produce a smooth and creamy batter that is
light and fluffy. Follow your recipe's instructions, as this step
can vary in length from seconds to minutes, depending on how much
air needs to be incorporated into the batter so it rises properly in
To begin, place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and start
beating these two ingredients on LOW speed. The creaming of the
butter and sugar produces air bubbles in the fat created by the
rubbing of the sugar crystals against the fat. These holes will get
larger and multiply as you continue beating. Starting on
and then gradually increasing the speed allows the air bubbles to
form and strengthen. Starting at too high a speed could damage or
break the fragile air bubbles which will cause the finished cake to
be heavy with a compact texture. The goal is to have maximum
aeration, that is, lots of air bubbles in the fat. A well aerated
batter means a cake with good volume and a soft crumb. Beating time
can range anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes so be sure to follow your
Butter and sugar have different jobs in cake making. Butter provides
flavor, tenderizes the batter and provides volume. Sugar, on the
other hand, helps to tenderize the batter (slows down the gluten
development in the flour) but also sweetens the batter, moistens the
batter which helps keep the cake fresh, and helps with browning.
Adding the eggs - when and how
At the point where the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy,
room temperature eggs are added. (The use of cold eggs will reduce
the volume of your finished cake. ) You may have noticed that there
may be curdling of the batter at this stage. This is particularly so
when the recipe is for a high-ratio cake (see below). This is caused
by the addition of more liquid (eggs) than the batter can handle at
one time. Once the flour has been added it will smooth out the
batter so don't worry. One solution is to add the eggs to the batter
more slowly as opposed to one egg at a time as most recipes state.
Lightly beating each egg first and then slowly adding the egg down
the side of the bowl as the mixer is running will help. If you see
curdling, stop adding the egg and beat the batter a little to smooth
it out before continuing the addition of more egg.
Eggs play a major role in cake making. Not only do they add needed
aeration to the batter, they also provide structure to the cake,
help to bind the ingredients together, keep the cake moist, add
flavor, and tenderness.
When to adding Flavorings
Once the eggs have been combined and you have a smooth batter,
flavorings, such as extracts are added.
Adding the flour, Baking powder and Milk or Water
First, the flour is sifted
with a leavening agent (baking powder/baking soda) and salt. This is
done not only to aerate the flour and remove any lumps, but to
evenly distribute the leavening agent and salt throughout the flour.
If the leavening agent is not evenly distributed throughout the cake
batter, holes in the baked cake can occur. Baking powder's role is
to enlarge the bubbles created in the fat during the creaming of the
fat and sugar.
The flour mixture and room temperature liquid (milk, water, etc.)
are added alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture
to ensure a smooth and light batter. It is very important
over mix the batter at this point. Over mixing will develop too much
gluten in the flour and the result will be a tough cake or your
cake will sink in the centre. Mix only to
incorporate the ingredients. The first addition of flour will be
fully coated with the fat and does not form gluten, so it is a good
idea to add the largest amount of flour in the first addition. When
you add the liquid any uncoated flour will combine with the liquid
and form gluten. Continue adding the flour and liquid alternately,
making sure you mix on low speed just until blended. This will
enable enough gluten to develop to provide structure but not enough
to make a heavy and compact cake.
Liquids are used in butter cakes to dissolve the salt and sugar, to
add color and richness, and to not only moisten and therefore
activate the baking powder/baking soda in the batter, but to also
create steam when the cake batter is placed in the oven so the cake
will rise and reach its full volume.
The one bowl or quick method
The one bowl or quick method produces a cake which is very moist,
dense, with a fine and velvety texture. As the name implies, this
method is faster and easier than the creaming method as the creaming
step of the butter and sugar is eliminated.
All the dry ingredients
are first put into a mixing bowl and then soft butter and a little
liquid are added. This is thoroughly beaten together and then the
eggs, flavoring, and remaining liquid are added. Since the liquid is
added after the butter and flour are combined, it reduces the gluten
formation in the flour because the fat has had a chance to coat all
the flour before the toughening action from the liquid can take
place. This is why this method produces a melt-in-your-mouth cake
(less gluten is formed).
However, using the one bowl method does not
produce a cake with as much volume as the creaming method. This is
because the butter tends to melt into the batter, so it doesn't form
as many air bubbles needed for maximum volume as in the creaming
method. The temperature of the ingredients plus the mixing speed are
very important with this method so be sure to follow your recipe's
The combination method The combination method when whipped egg whites are added to the
creamed ingredients. This method gives additional volume and light
texture to your cake. Some recipes that call for the creaming method
can be changed to this method by simply separating the eggs, beating
the whites separately with a little of the recipe's sugar, and then
adding the whites to the finished batter.
With all three methods, once the batter is mixed it is then placed
in greased and floured pan(s) (sometimes lined with parchment
paper). The batter should fill approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the cake
pan(s) to allow room for the batter to expand. See the Pan Sizes
page if you wish to change the size of the pans called for in your
recipe. If you have a problem with over browning of the edges of
your cake, you can place reusable Bake-Even Strips (available at
most cake supply stores) around the outside of the cake pans. Make
sure you take into account that dark and/or dull colored pans absorb
more heat than aluminum and/or shiny pans and therefore the batter
will bake faster. Lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F if
using a glass pan to prevent over browning.
The oven temperature affects both the texture and look of the cake.
How hot the oven temperature determines how long it takes for the
batter to set. The longer it takes for the eggs, milk and flour to
coagulate, the more time the air cells in the batter have to grow
larger and produce volume in the cake. Too hot and the outer edges
of the cake will set before the middle has a chance to fully bake.
This is why it is important to have an accurate oven temperature.
Having a free standing oven thermometer in your oven will give you a
proper reading on temperature as some ovens are not calibrated
Fan and conventional oven.- The general rule is that you subtract 20°C (about 36°F)
when using a fan oven.
The oven should always be preheated about 15 minutes before placing
the pans in the oven. If baking more than one layer at a time,
arrange the cake pans so they are about 2 inches (5 cm) apart and 2
inches (5 cm) from the sides of the oven. This ensures adequate air
circulation and promotes even baking. Do not open the oven door,
especially during the first 15 minutes of baking, as the oven
temperature drops about 25 degrees F every time the oven door is
Butter cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the
cake comes out clean. Remove the baked cake from the oven and cool
on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before releasing.
There are formulas for butter cakes that professionals follow and
deviations from these formulas of about 20% can be supported. This
is why you have so many different recipes for one type of cake. Some
alterations in using eggs can be made. Egg whites and yolks play
different roles in cake making and changes in the balance of whites
and yolks will affect the baked cake. For example, in layer cakes
you can replace one whole egg with either 2 egg yolks or else 1½
egg whites to change the texture. Using yolks will produce a more
flavorful cake with a darker color, but a cake with less structure.
Using whites will produce a softer cake because egg whites do not
firm up as much as egg yolks when baked. Types of fats (butter,
margarine, shortening), sugars (regular, superfine or brown) and
flours (all-purpose or cake) used also affect the cake.
If you have a recipe that is not working compare it to these
formulas to see if there may be a problem with the proportions of
the ingredients in the recipe.
Formula for regular butter cake:
- Weight of sugar is equal or less than weight of flour
- Weight of eggs is equal or greater than weight of fat
- Weight of liquids (egg and milk) is equal to weight of flour
Formula for high ratio butter cake:
- Weight of sugar is equal or greater than weight of flour
- Weight of eggs is greater than weight of fat
- Weight of liquid (egg and milk) is equal or greater than weight of
Leavening: (This is a general guideline as the other ingredients
used in a recipe also affect the amount of baking powder/baking soda
1 - 1¼ teaspoons of baking powder for each cup of flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda for each cup of flour
Substitution Double action baking powder -(Rule of Thumb: 1 teaspoon for
every 1 cup of flour)
1 teaspoon =1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of
tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons single-action baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, sour milk
or yogurt to replace 1/2 cup (120 ml) non-acidic liquid
Single Action baking powder 1 teaspoon = 2/3 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4
Baking soda ( Bi carbonate of soda)
Rule of Thumb: 1/4 teaspoon for every 1 cup of flour)
1/2 teaspoon = 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder (must replace
the acidic liquid in recipe with non-acidic liquid)
1/2 teaspoon potassium bicarbonate
Troubleshoot Butter cake
Sometimes our butter cakes don't turn out the way we expected. Maybe
they are domed, or sink in the middle, or are too heavy, or have
holes. There are many reasons that cakes fail and understanding
these reasons will help to prevent the next disaster.
When baking butter cakes, as with all baking, it is very important
to accurately measure or weigh all your ingredients. Having too
little or too much of any one ingredient will affect the outcome of
the cake. Also, the correct oven temperature is paramount to a
wonderful cake. A perfectly measured and mixed batter will fail if
your oven temperature is incorrect. Therefore, if you find your
cakes are done before the specified time, invest in a good
freestanding oven thermometer to accurately measure the temperature
of your oven.
Proper mixing of the batter will also affect the outcome. With the
creaming method, creaming the butter and sugar develops air cells in
the batter, which helps give cakes their volume and texture. Sifting
the flour with the baking powder/soda prevents uneven distribution
of the leavener which can cause holes in the finished cake. When
adding the flour to the batter, do not over mix or it will produce
too much gluten. Too much gluten causes a cracked and domed top.
Some common problems and their causes are:
OVER CREAM OR OVER BEAT Definitely do NOT over beat or over cream the butter and sugar.
At the point where the butter and sugar mixture is light and fluffy,
eggs are added. Over beating eggs with
the butter and sugar mixture will make it turn watery and loses it's aeration and cause it
to break and collapse resulting in a sink cake in the center. Roughly about 10 mins is more than enough for
your small beater and for big beaters, 8 mins is enough.
When the eggs and sugar are beaten, it should thick rather than
watery. Suggest instead of pouring in one short, sift the flour into
the egg and sugar mixture then fold.
Whisking the eggs and sugar is simple. whisk till it's
thick and creamy. The difficult part is folding the flour into the
egg mixture. At this juncture, you might deflat the air bubbles and
thus get a flat cake instead. Mix or fold only to incorporate the
DOMED or CRACKED SURFACE and/or TUNNELS -
- batter over mixed
- wrong type of flour or too much
- too little baking powder/soda or sugar
- oven temperature too hot
CAKE SINKS IN THE CENTER -
- batter over mixed
- too much fat and/or sugar or leavening
- not enough liquid
- oven temperature too low
CAKE DIDN'T RISE (COMPACT TEXTURE)
- improper mixing
- butter and eggs wrong temperature
- too much or too little fat
- too little baking powder or baking powder is too old
- oven temperature too hot
- wrong pan size
TOP CRUST IS TOO DARK OR HARD
- over baked
- wrong oven temperature
- too much sugar, baking powder/baking soda
COARSE GRAIN AND DRY
- oven temperature too low
- too much baking powder/baking soda
- too little liquid
CAKE FALLING APART
- too much baking powder/baking soda, sugar, or fat
- improper mixing
- oven temperature too low
Icing sugar and
granulated sugar Sometimes you are in a hurry and you run out of either
Icing or granulated sugar. Instead of running out to the store ,you
can make your own powder sugar or substitute them.
Make your own powder/Icing sugar
Powdered sugar, also known as confectioner's sugar or icing
sugar, is a finely grained sugar that dissolves quickly in water. It
is used mostly for icing on cakes and is called for in many recipes.
Powdered sugar is typically more expensive than regular sugar so
you’ll save money as well.
When substituting powdered sugar with granulated sugar, take 1 cup
of granulated sugar and 1 tsp of cornstarch for every 1 cup of
powdered sugar needed, and grind them in a blender. Make sure to use
a blender, because a food processor won't work for this. The
cornstarch is used to keep the powdered sugar substitute from
clumping up during storage
To substitute granulated sugar with Powder or Icing
1.Determine the amount of granulated sugar that the recipe requires.
2 Multiply the amount of granulated sugar needed by 1.75. It takes 1
3/4 cup of powdered sugar to substitute for 1 cup of granulated
3.Ensure if the addition of cornstarch will negatively impact
the recipe. Powdered sugar contains corn starch to make it flow
freely. This will not be a problem if baking, but it could cause a
sauce or pudding to become overly thick.
How to make whipped cream. Ingredients
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cups sugar. (icing sugar mixes in more easily)
1 pinch salt
1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract
The cream will expand into more so be careful how much cream you
e.g. if you put in 1 cup it will multiply into 2 cups.
1. Pour the 1 cup of heavy cream into a large bowl.
2. Add in about a 1/3 cup of sugar and a tiny pinch of salt.
3. Adding more sugar will help thicken the mixture, but don't add
too much.3/4 a cup to a cup is too much.
4. Using a wire whisk or beater, whip the mixture together until you
get soft peaks.
5.Let it chilled in fridge to cool.
The longer you whip the frothier it becomes, but whip it too long
and it becomes butter.
Add food colouring for special events.If it tastes tart, add more
Alternately, use powdered sugar, or your favorite artificial
sweetener, and sweeten to taste. You can certainly use less sugar.
The key to truly tasty whipped cream is vanilla extract (about a
You can also add different extracts or liquor for extra flavors.
Substitution for Whipping cream 1.Butter and Milk
Mix 1/3 cup softened butter with 3/4 cup milk for a whipping cream
substitute. Using an electric mixer will help achieve the desired
consistency. This is not a dairy-free option, but it works if you
are out of whipping cream and need it for a recipe. This ratio is
the equivalent of 1 cup of cream. This substitute works for baking
2.Dry Milk, Lemon Juice and Vanilla
Using an electric mixer, combine 1/3 cup ice water with 1 1/4 tsp.
lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Once the ingredients are mixed
thoroughly, slowly add 1/3 cup dry, nonfat milk. Beat at a medium
speed for five minutes and check the consistency. If the mixture
needs to stiffen a bit, continue to mix for another five minutes.
Sprinkle in 2 tbsp. sugar and beat for another minute or two.
3.Banana and Egg White
For those who want to avoid the dairy in whipping cream, beat one
ripe banana with an egg white. Keep an eye on the mixture so that
you can stop beating when it reaches the desired consistency. If
needed, you can add sugar to sweeten the final product.
4.Chilled Evaporated Milk
Chill 13 oz. of evaporated milk in the refrigerator overnight, or at
least 12 hours. Combine the chilled evaporated milk with 1 tsp.
lemon juice and beat with an electric mixer. Continue whipping until
the mix reaches your desired consistency or stiffness.
5.Milk, Cornstarch and Flour
For a low-fat, low-carb alternative to whipping cream, whisk
together 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk with 2 tbsp. of
cornstarch. When combined, continue whisking and add 1 tbsp. flour.
You can also use almond or rice milk. This substitute works best in
recipes that call for whipping cream as a thickening agent.
Tricks and Tips
Instead of lining your cake tin with wax paper, you can also grease
you cake tin with ordinary vegetable oil and dust with flour before
pour in your cake mixture for baking. This will enable your cake to
be easily taken out after the cake is done.
- The most suitable flours for producing dried cookies are low
- The ideal baking temperature for cookies is dependent upon the
sugar level. The standard is at 160°C for 20 minutes.
- Apart from flour, other important components in baking cookies are
icing sugar and margarine.
- Dose of baking powder and bicarbonate should exceed 0.3%-0.4% the
total weight of used flour.
- To make egg yolk smoother during layering, mix it with a little
- When adding peanuts into the dough, heat them up first in a pan.
- To prevent chocolate chips from easily melting, refrigerate them
for at least an hour minutes before using. Maintain the oven
temperature at 170°C.
Why do some cookies crumble easily?
Because too much butter and/or eggs are used.
Why do some cookies turn soggy, even wet?
Because it’s too thick, oven temperature too high, or use of the
wrong type of flour.
Why do some cookies become oily after baking?
Try not to polish the baking tray with too much butter before
Why do cookie molds or patterns crumble from the widening of
Because margarine and sugar are mixed for too long or from lack of
flour. Sugar and margarine should only be stirred, not blended.
- To prevent burning, avoid storing the baking tray too close to
fire source. Also try not to set the oven temperature too high.
- Cover the base of the baking tray with bread paper sprinkled with
flour (without margarine), because it will thicken the paper and
make it easier to peel off.
- Thin cakes are best baked at a higher oven temperature (± 200°C),
while thicker cakes will need a temperature of 180°C.
- Wrap cake with aluminum foil and store in freezer, and it will
stay edible for more than five weeks.
- Make sure the oven is preheated before baking and that water is
already boiled properly before steaming.
- Sieve chocolate powder together with wheat flour to produce a
smoother and less grainy mixture.
- To maximize cake’s volume, liquid food coloring has to be inserted
the first time dough is stirred.
- Cool off liquid butter before adding it to dough to prevent the
cake’s texture becoming rough.
- When adding butter cream, ensure that cake is already cooled off
for two hours to prevent it from melting.
- Poundcake is the most suitable dough for making a fruitcake.
- Don’t use fruits with high water/slime content because it will
make it difficult to preserve.
- When using broiler chicken eggs, making sure they’re not more than
three days old. If eggs have become to thin, try adding cake
- Do not use eggs that have just been taken out of the fridge,
because they will not capture air when stirred.
Why is it so hard to make muffins bloom?
It requires at least 25 minutes at 200°C oven temperature to bake a
muffin properly. If not, muffins will not bloom.
Why do roll cakes often crumble and can’t be rolled properly?
Because of not high enough oven temperature and too much baking
time. Roll cakes usually require 12 minutes of baking at 220°C.
Why do cake fillings turn hollow or rough?
Too much egg white or too little margarine.
What causes thick clods in cakes?
Too much use of margarine, too much or uneven stirring.
Why is the cake’s middle layer not as well-baked as its exterior?
Oven temperature is too high.
Why is cake hard and dry?
Because of not enough use of sugar, margarine and eggs. Or from too
much baking powder. On the other hand, cake can be too runny also
from lack of emulsifier or flour, or from too much egg white.
Which wheat flours are suitable for making cakes?
Those with low protein, or those made from mixing medium-protein
flour with maizena flour.
What’s the difference between chiffon cake, pound cake and sponge
Chiffon cake is made by mixing egg yolk, oil, flour and baking
powder, whereby egg white is first mixed and braised with sugar
before other ingredients are added. Pound cake is a cake that has
the same ratio of egg, sugar and flour, which weighs about one pound
each – about 450 g. Sponge cake is made by braising eggs with sugar,
followed by wheat flour and lastly margarine or butter.
Why does cake surface become grooved?
Not enough wheat flour in the dough, or vice versa.
Why does cake surface crack?
Too much sugar and wheat flour or because the wrong type of flour is
used. Other causes include baking tray being too small or not high
enough oven temperature.
Lastly and most important is to choose and understand the correct
type of flour used for your cake.
flour and the varies type of flour
before you start.