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Old Fashioned Cake Baking Secrets & Recipes

Updated on September 23, 2013

Secret Techniques for Making Delicious Homemade Cakes

How many movies have you seen featuring an old fashioned picnic or state fair with beautiful prize-winning cakes? Or maybe you're lucky enough to remember your mom's or grandma's delicious cakes on special occasions? Forget the cake mix. Roll up your sleeves and put on that apron. With some basic ingredients and the secrets of the best cake makers from the good old days, you can surprise your family and maybe yourself with a to-die-for old-fashioned homemade cake. By the way, these recipes make delicious cupcakes, too.

Vintage Images: Files of Nancy Oram

Prize Winning State Fair Cakes

Prize Winning State Fair Cakes
Prize Winning State Fair Cakes

The Secrets

Did you know there are only TWO types of cake?

When you learn to make the two basic cakes, you can make endless variations of cakes. Every cake is a variation of one of these two. Every cake begins by being either a butter cake or a sponge cake.

Cake Secrets by Janet McKenzie Hill

A Rare Glimpse Into a Professional's Techniques

Cake Secrets
Cake Secrets

Janet McKenzie Hill, renowned expert of her day, takes the mystery out of producing cakes people ooh and aah over by sharing her secrets and techniques of cakemaking.

If you really want an old-fashioned cake made authentically, this vintage/antique Cake Secrets cookbook is the gold standard.


Biggest Cake Secret

There are only two types of cake:

1. Butter Cake

2. Sponge Cake

The Recipes

Regulation Butter Cakes

Basic Butter Cake Recipe


1/2 C butter

1 C sugar

2 C cake flour

3 teas. baking powder

3 egg whites

2/3 C milk

1 teas. flavoring extract

Method of Making

First Mixture: Beat or work the butter with a slitted wooden spoon until it has a whitish appearance around the edges. Then gradually add the sugar to the butter, beating the mixture meanwhile.

Second: Sift the flour, measure, add baking powder, and sift three times.

Third: Beat the egg whites until very light and fluffy. Dry-beaten egg whites make a dry cake. Use a wire whip, which leaves the eggs moist.

To the creamed butter and sugar add alternately the 2/3 C milk and the flour with the baking powder. Thoroughly beat the entire mixture until smooth. Add flavoring. Fold in the egg whites. Do this carefully with a wooden spoon so as not to break down the air cells in the beaten egg whites.

Grease a pan, 8 x 8 inches, sift a little flour over the grease, tap the pan on one edge to remove extra flour. Put the batter into the pan and let bake about 35 minutes. Have the heat moderate until cake has risen, then have strong heat until three-fourths of the baking time, then gradually reduce the heat.

Butter Cake Secrets

Work butter to a cream before adding any sugar.

Flour and milk should always be added alternately, beating hard after each addition.

See How It's Done - Today's Secret Cake Making Techniques

This video is incredible. Pay close attention to the order the ingredients are added, the way they're incorporated, and how much time the cake is mixed after each step.

Regulation Sponge Cakes

Basic Sponge Cake Recipe


5 eggs

1 C sugar

1/2 lemon, grated rind and juice

1 C cake flour

1/4 teas. salt

Sift the flour before measuring; grate the lemon rind into the sugar; extract and measure the juice--there should be two tablespoonfuls.

Beat the yolks with egg beater until light colored and thick, gradually beat in the sugar and grated rind with the wooden spoon, then add the lemon juice.

Beat the whites with wire whip until very light.

Cut and fold part of the whites into the yolks and sugar; cut and fold in the flour and salt; cut and fold in the rest of the egg whites. Do not stir or beat the mixture.

To bake a sponge cake, divide the time into four quarters of 15 minutes each. At the end of the first quarter the cake should begin to rise. In the second quarter it should rise to full height and brown slightly. In the third quarter it should brown all over. In the fourth quarter it will finish baking and settle somewhat in the pan. The heat should be rather low until the cake has reached its full height, then increased for 15 minutes while browning, then decreased until it is done.

A clean toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, inverted. In this way the moist cell walls are made firm while elongated, and the light, airy texture is maintained.

Sponge Cake Secrets

Always beat and fold ingredients, never stir, as it breaks down the air and makes a heavy cake.

Recipe for Marble Cake

A Variation of a Basic Butter Cake

Marble Cake

Follow the recipe for the basic butter cake above. Divide the mixture and leave one half plain.

Into the other half beat:

2 squares (ounces) of melted chocolate,

1/2 teas. ground cinnamon,

1/4 teas. ground cloves,

1/4 teas. soda.

Put the two mixtures, alternately, by large spoonfuls into a loaf pan.

On the mixture may be set 15 marshmallows in three rows, sprinkling the surface with 3 tablespoonfuls granulated sugar and 1/2 teas. cinnamon.

Bake about 25 minutes. Serve cut in squares, a marshmallow on each square, eliminating the need for icing.

Recipe for Jelly Roll

A Variation of a Basic Sponge Cake

Jelly Roll Cake

Bake regulation sponge cake in a large flat pan; line the pan with a greased paper that hangs over the ends. Turn the cake on a damp towel, and remove the paper. Cut off the crisp edges. Spread the cake with fruit jelly beaten smooth. Roll and turn on a cake rack to cool.

The Cake Bible

The Cake Bible
The Cake Bible

The Cake Bible


Cake Cookbooks - Live Auctions Right Now

A chance to pick up some cake cookbook bargains.

Your Favorite Cake - Sometimes It's Hard to Choose Just One!

My favorite has to be Devil's Food, but a close second is Sponge Cake with Chocolate Icing! I also love Lemon, Black Forest, German Chocolate, Boston Cream, White with Strawberries, Carrot Cake. . . .

Did I leave anything out?

What is your very most favorite cake?

See results

Photos used with permission are credited in individual modules. Every other photo on this lens resides in original form in my personal collection.

A Call for Cake Lovers - Have you Ever Made a Cake From Scratch?

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    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

      I love baking and now enjoy teaching my children how to bake as well. My favorite has to be chocolate cake.

    • profile image

      Pamela2Heaven 8 years ago

      Love your I am hungry!!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      This is a lovely lens - the cake that is my favourite not listed above is Sachertorte which is just chocolate heaven.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      You're making me hungry!

    • profile image

      MrMarmalade 8 years ago

      I am a confessed chocoholic and endeavour to make most chocolate cakes Your are a #5 in my books

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      you are the reason why my blood sugar gets high! lols! i love chocolate cakes...

      5 stars--

      Blak Prince

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I am looking for a Red Velvet cake receipe. It was simply THE BEST especially layered with 7 minute frosting(beat egg whites in double boiler etc..)but all I can find is with a cake mix NO WAY!!

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image

      thepartyanimal2 8 years ago

      Yahoo you are a winner in The Squidoo Home for The Holidays Lens Contest So Go Grab your badge.

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image

      ctavias0ffering1 8 years ago

      I used to bake so much when my children were young, thanks for the inspiration 5*

    • jimbo10 profile image

      jim 8 years ago

      I love cakes I will have to try these cake recipes.


    • jimbo10 profile image

      jim 8 years ago

      I love cakes I will have to try these cake recipes.


    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Simply delicious lens!

    • perfumereviews lm profile image

      perfumereviews lm 7 years ago

      Of the classic cakes you've listed, I absolutely love German chocolate. But personally, I'm extremely partial to an Italian apple cake. It's extremely moist, dense, and it's perfect with icecream. :)

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, I really did. It was from the Martha Stewart Baking Cookbook and I did it for my daughters birthday. She said it was the best cake she ever had! Love your lens, especially all the "secrets".

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I really enjoy making a cake from scratch. Blessed by a Kitchen Angel today (

    • Joycevoice profile image

      Joycevoice 6 years ago

      Yes, I made my friend's coconut cake from scratch. It was a huge hit. I think that guests appreciate anything homemade.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      Yes, I do. Delicious lens. Congratulations.

    • profile image

      huvalbd 6 years ago

      It has been a long time since I made a cake. I can't have sugar any more, and without sugar it is hard to get the texture to turn out right. Substitutes just don't behave the same way.

    • natashaely profile image

      natashaely 6 years ago

      I love cakes, baking and eating them. I've made a few for special occasions and they can always be relied upon to make people smile! Lovely lens, enjoyed reading it :)

    • profile image

      Murphypig 6 years ago

      I like baking. my favourite cake is cheesecake :-).

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

      I learned some things about making cakes. Well done!

    • Kandy O profile image

      Kandy O 6 years ago

      They are all from scratch. My kids wouldn't know what to do if they were given a store bought cake for a birthday. = ) Great lens!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      I love to bake for other people since I do not eat cake much. Sounds strange.

      Thanks for sharing this lens.

    • profile image

      GenesisLabs 6 years ago

      @Murphypig: That's my favorite too. But I really, really like all the others as well. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The jelly roll is a memory I had totally forgotten till right now.

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      Thanks for the recipes. Great lens.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      Fantastic recipes! - excellent lens

    • profile image

      whaleriders6 6 years ago

      Magnolia Bakery has one of my fav cupcake recipes! Lovely lens!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I have baked from scratch, but my cakes are never as good as the ones made by our local Italian deli. I just go there and point to the most delicious and decadent looking cake. We are never disappointed!

    • sushilkin lm profile image

      sushilkin lm 6 years ago

      Its very nice to read your lens. Thanks for sharing. Contribute your like for -PRAY FOR JAPAN

    • sushilkin lm profile image

      sushilkin lm 6 years ago

      Nice work on lens. Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge with all and come to squidoo. PRAY FOR JAPAN

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We always had an angel food cake for birthdays growing up and often with whipped cream and strawberries. I made cake from scratch many moons ago before box mixes became popular. I didn't know that there are only two types of cake until now, butter and sponge but wow the variations those two can morph into. Loved the sticky not secrets.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      I don't believe I ever have made a cake from scratch. Did a pie once, and it was quite the undertaking. (I'm not much of a cook)

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 6 years ago

      What a fun lens! Any cake is a great birthday cake. Which old fashioned cake are you eating today??

    • Nancy S Oram profile image

      Nancy Oram 6 years ago

      @LoKackl: Well, unfortunately I love any kind of cake. But I think I would have to pick Devil's Food with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Although on Mother's Day I was served Angel Food with Strawberries and Whipped Cream and it was so good! And much healthier, which gives it points.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      Great lens. Shouldn't have looked at it at lunch time! Happy Birthday today! I also have some recipe lenses.

    • victorianpassage profile image

      victorianpassage 6 years ago

      Red Velvet is our favorite! And yes I have made cakes from scratch ~ that's about the only way i ever make a cake. Loved your delicious lens! =)

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      Great work on this lens! These cakes look delicious!

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 6 years ago

      you have got me totally drooling ... :)

    • Chris-H LM profile image

      Chris-H LM 6 years ago

      Wow! Thanks for all the interesting information about cakes. I had no idea there were basically only two types of cake. That's pretty cool :)

    • fionajean profile image

      Fiona 6 years ago from South Africa

      I actually love baking - can't cook worth a darn but bake very well - it's so relaxing. Thanks for this great lens.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 6 years ago from New Zealand

      Yes I have made a cake from scratch, but love your lens, yes you have made me want a piece of cake and I have none in the house, maybe I had better go and make one. Thanks

    • ultimapalabra profile image

      ultimapalabra 5 years ago

      The Jelly roll is also great with dulce de leche, this is how they do it in South America. Great lens!

    • The Great Conve profile image

      The Great Conve 5 years ago

      I love baking from scratch. Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This Lens is just dleicious Nancy, no wonder it won a purple star! Super old fashioned tea time treats, and I'm going to add them to my new Memory Lane Lens.

    • anaamhussain profile image

      anaamhussain 5 years ago

      cake yup sugar free all the time for my dad. But from scratch sugar free never turn out good although neither a sugarfree recipe has ever given me a satisfactory cake!

    • profile image

      RecipePublishing 5 years ago

      Isn't cake great.

    • profile image

      XperiencCraigers 5 years ago

      Oh man I love the cake! Great Lens

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 5 years ago

      Love the cakes and the lens

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

      Yes, I make cakes from scratch all the time. My recipes are basically the same as yours, adding different ingredients depending on the flavor cake. Yum!!

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      The video was really helpful. Thanks.

    • PurplePansy LM profile image

      PurplePansy LM 5 years ago

      I have a lot to learn when it comes to baking and cooking. Thanks for teaching me!

    • APackageAtTheDoor profile image

      APackageAtTheDoor 5 years ago

      Always bake from scratch! But looking forward to incorporating some of these tips! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm a sucker for carrot cake, love the stuff, spice cake too.

    • WaynesWorld LM profile image

      WaynesWorld LM 5 years ago

      Butter or sponge? I guess cheesecake is on the butter side. I wonder how my pumpkin pie cheescake would fair as an actual cake?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great tips and information.

    • flutestar123 lm profile image

      flutestar123 lm 5 years ago

      Great looking recipes. I'm not a cake person, I'm more of a cookie person. Whenever I bake a cake, it always seems to turn to liquid.

    • spartakct profile image

      spartakct 5 years ago

      Nice informative lens!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I didn't know about the 2 kinds of cakes or the proper method for making them. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love it! Nothing beats home baking! More please.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Absolutely marvellous. You had me intrigued from beginning to end. Great lens and wonderful recipes.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      They look so wonderful, and I didn't know there were 2 basic cakes to build from. Very helpful.

    • profile image

      seosmm 5 years ago

      Very nice lens!

    • elsiesflat profile image

      elsiesflat 5 years ago

      Great lens! I especially enjoyed the wedding cake video.

    • profile image

      ladykida 5 years ago

      I love baking from scratch! Delicious lens!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      Always! :) Blessed!

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 5 years ago

      Nice lens! It's (going to be when I publish it) featured on my lens: What I want to be when I'm older.

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 5 years ago

      @Annamadagan: I'm sorry, there's been a mistake, this lens is not featured on my lens.

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 5 years ago

      @Annamadagan: I'm sorry, there's been a mistake, this lens is not featured on my lens.

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 5 years ago

      Yes. I only make butter cakes, and because I've memorized the basic recipe, my family thinks I'm a lot smarter than I really am. I bake butter cakes from scratch without having to refer to the recipe and it never ceases to amaze my husband and my kids. I'm not sure where cheesecake fits into the cake world, LOL, but I make that, too.

    • profile image

      PecjakJN 5 years ago

      MMMMM Njami

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      I make everything from scratch, it's how I prefer my food. Wonderful lens and tips! :)

    • yourselfempowered profile image

      Odille Rault 5 years ago from Gloucester

      Wow, these are such excellent and clear instructions - and great tips - I'm going to have to have a go.... :)

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      I love tortes of every type! My aunt used to make this one with coffee, chocolate and meringue - it was yummy!

    • TTMall profile image

      TTMall 5 years ago

      Beautiful and informative lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I love creating cakes from scratch - and really appreciated your lens. I hadn't though of the 2 cakes notion - my favorite is sponges. I love angel food cake. Actually, it is very easy/ Thank you for this lens!

    • makemoneyonline5 profile image

      makemoneyonline5 5 years ago

      fab lens! Always handy to find information and notes like this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Looks delicious. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    • biggking lm profile image

      biggking lm 5 years ago

      someone should make a 3rd kinds cake

    • profile image

      dream1983 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens, well done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      THIS really looks delicious

    • OliviaDaughter LM profile image

      OliviaDaughter LM 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens

    • poorwendy lm profile image

      poorwendy lm 4 years ago

      A good cake makes for a great afternoon.

    • Celticep profile image

      Celticep 4 years ago

      Oh my gosh I'm hungry after reading this yummy lens!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      I"m hungry too

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I have, but it's been awhile.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 4 years ago from Concord VA

      Yes, I have. I make one that doesn't have eggs for my mom. I mostly make them with a mix now, but scratch made are the best! Yum!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing these great cake baking secrets. They are very useful! *blessed*

    • Carashops profile image

      Cara 4 years ago

      Quite often, I do enjoy baking.

    • melissiaoliver profile image

      melissiaoliver 4 years ago

      Lots of times, usually for friends' birthdays!

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Not many times and never as good as these you've shown me. I do like cakes but it's not my speciality. I admire someone who can bake a great cake. Maybe someday.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      Yes! I used to do it.... now I don't eat sugar... so like to have recipes for rare occasions... Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      thanks for sharing

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I have to say, I used to make okay cakes but since moving to France I've become a really good baker. The flour here seems lighter and makes really airy cakes. Yum.

      I love the tips you've listed on this page.

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 4 years ago

      I have only tried cake mix. But there's nothing better than a cake made from scratch. these steps are easy to follow. will go to the grocery later. lets bake some cake!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      sounds delicious!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes, cheesecake.

    • KandH profile image

      KandH 4 years ago

      Yes, I've been baking cakes from scratch ever since I was raising funds for my high school graduation :)

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 4 years ago

      Yes Many Times

    • Aster56 profile image

      Aster56 4 years ago

      Very nice lens. Thanks.

    • profile image

      CalobrenaOmai 4 years ago

      I sort of made a cake from scratch when I was little; turned out okay except all I used was self rising flour and sugar and butter. The most recent one was when I was helping my mom who made two cakes from scratch; 1 double chocolate and 1 vanilla, both 3-layers with homemade frosting. I know the chocolate was rich and delicious; had to be savored. Got to give these a try.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 4 years ago from US

      Yes and now I am very hungry. ;)

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      It has been a long time since I have made a cake at all but used to enjoy it. My favorite kind of cake is Devils Food with chocolate icing.

    • salele profile image

      salele 4 years ago

      I have not. but now I'm thinking of giving it a try.

    • dumpstergourmet profile image

      dumpstergourmet 4 years ago

      Quite often...I actually have a lot of problems with all things "boxed mix" - just never seems to come out right.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I don't know how to bake cakes (well, now I do, thanks) but I do know that I love eating them. Especially chocolate ones of any kind.


    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I remember this...I learned that there are only two types of cake here a while back and returning to congratulate you on being in the top 100!

    • profile image

      Suunnyy 4 years ago

      I love to bake and yes I made a lot of cakes from scratch already. I am always looking for new techniques and recipes :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What happened to Red Velvet??? Yummy. Now I am going to go out and get me a cake! Thanks for sharing!

    • newbizmau profile image

      Guided Abundance 4 years ago from Mobile, AL

      Who doesn't love a good cake! Notice I said good.


    • profile image

      KobayashiFiction 4 years ago

      So hungry now.... Looking at cakes after dinner.... -Q-......

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 4 years ago from London UK

      Yep!It's my son's birthday on Monday- time to bake a cake I think! :0) Love this lens -yummy recipes - I think the Black Forest is going to wins your pole!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      I've tried a few, but I am not really a master:) You make it seem simpler:)

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      I love your recipes, old fashioned cakes are my favorites. I often make Black Forest, I like it so much.

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 3 years ago from Here

      Yes, I did. It was very fun to do! Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful lens and the recipes!

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 3 years ago

      I like making cakes and always looking for new recipes and tips so I really enjoyed this lens!

    • profile image

      CulinaryQueen 3 years ago

      enjoyed this lens

    • Andromachi profile image

      Andromachi 3 years ago

      Yes I have. It wasn't perfect but my family loved it. Thank you for sharing your recipes

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