How to bake a cake at home

You want to learn how to bake a cake? But the recipe looks too complicated? Let me lead you through the steps to creating a delicious cake of any type.

As a beginner many recipes can be confusing. They often start by saying... prepare your cake pan (or tin). But they don't tell you how! I have included that information at the bottom of this page.

I will also cover the basic methods of mixing your cake, how to tell if it is cooked and how to cool it before enjoying your delicious home baked cake.

Try out your new cake baking skills with what my family consider to be the best carrot cake ever!

Basic methods of cake making

Rubbed in method

For this type of cake first the fat is rubbed into the flour with the fingertips, until it looks like breadcrumbs. You need cold hands to do a good job of this or otherwise the fat will start to melt!

Learning how to bake a cake this way is good as it is economical and used for easy cake recipes such as Rock Buns.

Creamed method

This is perhaps the most common method used when baking a cake.

The first step is to beat the fat and sugar together with a wooden spoon (or electric mixer) to create a creamy mixture. Normally the same quantity of fat and sugar is used for this type of cake.

Cakes that are made in this way include the Victoria Sandwich cake, Madeira cake and fruit cakes such as our family's traditional Christmas cake.

Whisked method

The first ingredients combined in a whisked sponge are the eggs and sugar. Often these are more expensive to make as they include more eggs than other cakes.  They are also perhaps not the best introduction to how to bake a cake as they need a very light touch when adding the flour to the whisked mixture.

They are best eaten while fresh as they don't keep as well as other types due to the low fat content.

A jelly roll (or swiss roll) is made using the whisked method, as well as sponges.

Melted or boiled

A saucepan is used here, for melting the fat, sugar and sometimes golden syrup or black treacle, before adding the other ingredients. 

Cakes made from the melted method will keep for quite a long time and the flavor tends to improve over a number of days. It is used for cakes such as gingerbread and moist fruit cakes.

All-in-one or Quick Mix cakes

As the name suggests, for this type of mixture you add everything to the bowl and then mix it together, usually with an electric mixer, such as a Vitamix


How to line a cake pan

Cake pans or tins come in many different shapes and sizes - from a simple circular pan to a square, rectangle or even heart shaped pans! 

Whatever their shape, often the first thing to do is to grease and line them to stop your cake mixture from sticking. Each shape is handled slightly differently. 

The instructions below will say paper, please note this can be either greaseproof paper or baking parchment. 

When I say grease, you can use either

  • melted butter or margarine
  • oil

My mother always used to use the wrapper that the butter came in, as it often had enough butter on the inside to do the job.

If you are using silicon cake pans then you can get away with no preparation as your cake won't stick to them.

Bun or patty tins

All these need is a light greasing.

Round sandwich pans

Preparing a round tin depends on the cake mixture you are going to put into it.

For creamed cake mixtures you can get away with greasing the bottom then placing a disc of paper onto the greased surface. Then grease the top of the paper, and the sides of the pan.

For a whisked cake you would grease it, then sprinkle with an equal quantity of flour and caster sugar. No paper needed here.

Deep round pans

These are often used for fruit cakes. For a cake that will be cooked for a longer period, such as a Christmas cake, you would want to use a double thickness of paper.

Start by cutting a disc of paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Grease, lay the paper on top, and then grease again.

Now cut a long strip of paper, wider than the height of the pan, which will fit around the inside of the pan. The easiest way to do this, if you don't know the measurement, is to take a piece of string and wrap it around the outside of the pan, hold the string where it meets, and cut the paper a little longer than that.

Fold over about an inch on the long edge of this strip, and cut slanted lines up to the fold line. Grease the inside of the pan and then put your strip in place, folded edge down and the cuts will allow the paper to fit neatly in place. Cover with a second circle of paper, then grease the whole inside of the pan.

Deep square or rectangular pans

To line a square or rectangular cake pan, you will need two long lengths of paper. Take one piece and lay it over the top of the pan from one side to the other. Tuck it down inside the pan, so that it lines the bottom and the two opposing sides. Do the same in the other direction, so you create a type of cross. Grease well.

Is it cooked?

One of the trickiest steps when learning how to bake a cake is knowing when it is cooked. There are a number of different methods of doing this, depending on the type of cake.

Sponge - test by pressing with your fingertips, if it is springy then it is done

Fruit cakes - these should have slightly shrunken away from the sides of the pan, and no cake mixture should stick to a skewer (or think bladed knife) when it is pushed into the center.

Cooling

This is the time where you need self control!

Cooling small cakes - Leave for a short while before placing onto a cooling rack.

Cooling large cakes - Remove from oven and leave to cool before removing from the tin. 

I like to lay the cooling rack over the top of the pan, then holding both the rack and tin securely I flip the whole lot over. The cake should drop out easily if you prepared the tin properly. Lastly remove the paper and allow to cool completely before decorating or storing.


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