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How to Make a Cake: A Beginner's Guide

Updated on April 7, 2015

In the realm of home cooking, cake baking can seem like somewhat of an intimidating milestone, however it really needn’t be and here I’ll fill you in on how to make a cake for beginners, with handy and creative tips for those looking to make cakes that are that little bit more challenging.

After we’ve covered the basics we’ll then go on to some specific (and rather delicious) instructions for how to make a sponge cake , fairy cakes, chocolate cake and carrot cake.

The basic concepts of how to make a cake

Regardless of whether you want to make a beautiful fluffy sponge cake for perfect afternoon teas or are opting for a rather naughty chocolate cake as a perfect winter warmer, the basic concepts behind making a cake remain the same.

In the most basic terms this comes down to a simplistic process of creating batter through either the beating of butter or by shortening with sugar until you've created a mixture that has a fluffy texture. This method is used to create cream cakes (so called because the base ingredients of butter and sugar are mixed until they merge together and become creamy.

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How to make a cake: The (basic) ingredients

  • 120g Butter
  • 120g Fine Sugar
  • 120g Flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • Icing (if required)

How to make a cake in fifteen easy steps

  1. Choose a recipe - Whilst the steps outlined here will form the basics behind how to make a cream cake, recipes will expand upon the information here with additions such as icing, decorations and topping types.
  2. Choose your pans carefully - To make a delicious cake you don’t need any fancy or expensive pans, rather a simplistic baking pan with a non-stick coating and suitable size and shade will suffice. One point you may want to keep in mind however is the colour of the pan. When baking a white sponge cake shinier pans tend to create a golden finish, whilst the darker pans require that you turn down the heat a little earlier to avoid burning.
  3. Arrange your ingredients - and let them warm to room temperature. A lot of recipes will instruct you to place your ingredients on the side to allow them to reach room temperature; this is generally due to chilled products having drastically different behaviour, such as eggs not giving way to rising and butter that makes the whole batter process a lot more difficult.
  4. Preparing your pans - Whilst you may have the best non-stick pans in the world, the extended baking time that cakes require and the consistency and stickiness of cake mixture can make for an out and out nightmare come tapout time. So be sure to line your tins with a thin layer of butter for a cake that’ll slip readily and easily out of its tin.
  5. Preheat your oven and be sure you set the correct temperature -This step, whilst the most simplistic step of all in how to make a cake, is an all too often overlooked one, and is very often the culprit of cake baking gone terribly wrong. So be sure to heat your oven to the correct temperature for 10 minutes, minimum, before placing your cake mixture inside.
  6. Time to mix up those ingredients - Now it’s time to introduce the dry ingredients (this will generally be flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and soda).
  7. Mix together your butter and sugar - Once the dry ingredients are mixed it’s time to whip up the butter and sugar into that creamy texture that we discussed earlier. To ensure a mixture that will make for a super fluffy cake you should use an electric mix on a high speed to beat the butter and sugar for around 30 seconds. Throughout this you should add in the sugar in relatively small measures.
  8. Now for the eggs - Once the mixture is to a creamy texture it’s then time to add in the eggs. It’s vital that at this point you add the eggs one at a time, and beat them into the mixture fully before you add in the next egg.
  9. A bit of flour, a bit of milk… and repeat - Once the eggs are all in it’s then time for the milk and flour. When adding these substances you should add a little of each alternately, being sure to beat the mixture on a low speed.
  10. Now it’s time to bake - At this stage you’re ready to add the mixture to the pan for baking. When doing this be sure to use equal amounts for each tin (if, that is, you’re creating more than one layer). You should also make sure that your cake mixture reaches the edges of the pans, as you'd otherwise have an uneven and possibly oddly shaped cake.
  11. Overseeing the baking process and the secret behind making a cake that is moist, not dry - Be sure through cooking to check back with the cake regularly. The defining difference between how to make a moist cake or ending up with a dry one is to ensure that it doesn’t overcook. To do this you can use a toothpick to test the centre of the cake, if it slides out free from dough then the cake is ready.
  12. Cooling off - Once you’re happy that your cake is cooked it’s time to leave it to cool. Generally speaking around 60 minutes should suffice.
  13. Putting it all together - Once the cake layers are cool it’s then time to put them all together. A top tip for a super smooth finish is to gentle brush down each layer with a dry basting brush; this gets rid of any otherwise unsightly dust.
  14. Apply the base coat of icing - The base coat of icing serves to provide a relatively smooth foundation from which to work; it therefore needn't be thick.
  15. Topping up your icing base with perfect patterns - Now for the final (and rather fun) step in our how to make a cake guide; it’s time to apply generous amounts of icing! You needn't be super neat here, instead loading your table knife up with icing and making swirling motions over your cake as you apply it.

How to make a cake: A video tutorial

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: 1 Large cake - Approximately 8 servings

How to Make a Cake (and the calories that it'll cost you)

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 100g
Calories 297
Calories from Fat36
% Daily Value *
Fat 4 g6%
Saturated fat 1 g5%
Unsaturated fat 1 g
Carbohydrates 58 g19%
Sugar 20 g
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 7 g14%
Cholesterol 170 mg57%
Sodium 228 mg10%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Moving on to the baking of specific cakes

Now that you know the basics of how to make a cake, it’s time to take a look at some other cake types to see how the baking process differs. Each of the following cake recipes are however suitable for beginners, with instructions that allow for the traditional (and easy) route for cake creation, or to add in a little twist for those who want to experiment follow the challenge tips that come at the end of each recipe.

How to make fairy cakes

Fairy cakes make for a fun way to begin baking and if you’re just getting to grips with cake creations then this serves as the perfect place to start. Once more however I have added a few extra ideas at the end for making the recipe that little bit more challenging.

How to make fairy cakes: The ingredients

  • 1 Egg
  • 75g Golden caster sugar
  • 75g Butter
  • 100g Self raising flour
  • 75ml Milk
  • 200g Icing sugar

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 20 min

Ready in: 45 min

Yields: 1 Large cake - Approximately 8 servings

How to make fairy cakes in six steps

Step 1: Line your cake tin with your cases and set the oven to 180c.

Step 2: Mixing the butter and sugar

Just as with a cream cake you need to mix the butter and sugar together until you achieve a creamy consistency.

Step 3: Adding the egg

As you mix your sugar and butter you should gentle add in the egg; if you see the mixture looking like it’s going to curdle then you should add in one spoon of flour.

Step 4: Mixing the remaining ingredients

Now it’s time to add in the flour and baking powder; these should be carefully folded into the now creamy mixture with the gradual addition of milk so that the batter is brought to a consistency that falls from the spoon in dollops.

Step 5: Dividing your mixture

Divide your mixture as equally as possible between the cases

Step 6: Bake your mini masterpieces for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

How to make fairy cakes with an inventive twist

Fairy cakes may be traditionally known as an easy option for cake making, however you can introduce plenty of sophistication into your fairy cakes with a topping of cream or icing and fresh fruit (with strawberries proving to be a particular favorite). For those with an extra sweet tooth why not inject some cream or jam into the middle of your cakes?

Jamie Oliver's Zesty Fairy Cake Recipes

How to make chocolate cake

Chocolate cake is a timeless classic and makes for the ultimate pick me up during the worst of winter nights. What’s more it’s also pretty versatile, and so perfect for the newbie baker to experiment with.


How to make chocolate cake: The ingredients

  • 200g Flour
  • 75g Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking powder
  • 2 Eggs2 Tablespoon Vanilla extract
  • 250ml Water
  • 250ml Milk
  • 320g Caster Sugar

Watch a video of how to make easy chocolate cake

This chocolate cake presents a somewhat more challenging recipe in that it consists of three tiers, as well as white chocolate filing and chocolate icing.
This chocolate cake presents a somewhat more challenging recipe in that it consists of three tiers, as well as white chocolate filing and chocolate icing. | Source

How to make chocolate cake in 5 steps

Step 1: Preparing your oven

Heat your oven up to 180c and leave at least ten minutes between turning it on and baking your cake to ensure that it’s sufficiently heated.

Step 2: Getting the ingredients together

Add all of the ingredients, asides from the water, into a bowl and mix them into each other with a wooden spoon.

Step 3: Add the (boiling) water

Bring your water to the boil and then add it to the mixture, being sure to only add a little bit at a time.

Step 4: Pour the mixture out evenly into your tins and bake

Bake your cakes for around 20 to 25 minutes, checking throughout whether the top has hardened and become firm (if so, do the toothpick test).

Step 5: Remove and cool

Remove the cakes and allow them to cool


How to make a sponge cake with an inventive twist

The most wonderful way of creating a challenge for the traditional chocolate cake recipe is to add in a rather underused additional ingredient: chilli! Chilli is somewhat of a partner in crime when paired with chocolate, but should be experimented with gradually (and with gloves for the de-seeding part!)


How to make carrot cake

Carrot cake makes for a pretty easy recipe to follow and comes with a little less guilt than you have following the devouring of a chocolate cake!

How to make carrot cake

Carrot cake makes for a pretty easy recipe to follow and comes with a little less guilt than you have following the devouring of a chocolate cake!


How to make carrot cake: The ingredients

  • 220g Self raising flour
  • 350 Caster sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 300ml Vegetable oil
  • 300g Grated carrots
  • 100g Dice walnuts

Source

How to make carrot cake in 4 steps

1. Preheat your oven to 180c and leave ten minutes between heating and cooking
2. Mix together…

Your flour, cinnamon and sugar, then add in the oil and eggs gradually. Once these are nicely blended add in your grated carrots and nuts. Your mixture is then complete and can be split between your two tins.

3. Bake for between 25 and 30 minutes

Once cooked you should leave your cakes to cool for around 60 minutes before applying any icing or toppings.


How to make a carrot cake with an inventive twist

Carrot cake is so versatile, and the perfect example of this is a twist of carrot cake popsicles (where the mixture is added to 12 fairy cake casings) and topped with cream cheese frosting and almonds.

How to make a carrot cake: A step by step visual guide

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    • ShelleyHeath profile image
      Author

      Shelley Heath 2 years ago from Birmingham

      Hey There,

      Thanks very much, and I hope it goes well! Is it your first attempt? Pressures on if so as it's a special occasion :) Good Luck!

    • Mandeeadair profile image

      Mandeeadair 2 years ago from California

      Wow...what a great hub! Love the step by step. Perfect timing...I will be attempting to make a cake for my daughters birthday. :)

    • ShelleyHeath profile image
      Author

      Shelley Heath 2 years ago from Birmingham

      Thanks Peach, and no trouble at all :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wow, i like your beginner cake recipes, i must try the carrot cake, thanks

    • ShelleyHeath profile image
      Author

      Shelley Heath 2 years ago from Birmingham

      Thanks! And I'm really just starting out with baking so it's plenty of pracitce for me. Generally speaking whatever turns out well and as it should then becomes my favourite recipe for the week! :)

    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 2 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      I like the step-by-step instructions for a flop proof cake . I would agree there's so many versions of carrot cake ; the cream cheese topping is the one for me though .