Making Cakes

There are various basic ways of making cakes. Rubbing in is the simplest, with or without eggs; creaming is the method used for rich cakes; the whisking method produces fat-free sponges and the melting method moist cakes such as gingerbread.

Baking cakes is easy and satisfying but faults can occur sometimes, for the following reasons.

Badly shaped cake Tin unevenly lined; careless filling; wrong consistency.

Sunken cake Excess raising agent; oven too slow; under-baking; opening the oven door and letting in cold air. Close, heavy texture Oven too slow; underbaking; mixture too wet; insufficient raising agent.

Coarse, open texture Excess raising agent; uneven mixing in of flour.

Peak top or cracked top Tin too small; oven too hot; tin placed too high in the oven. Dry cake Insufficient liquid; excess raising agent. Speckled, hard sugary crust Excess sugar; oven too slow; sugar too coarse.

Uneven rising Tilted and unevenly placed in oven or oven may need adjusting.

Preparing the Cake

Tin Grease lightly with melted fat or oil and line with greaseproof paper or foil. For a rich fruit cake, which requires long cooking, use double greaseproof paper and surround the outside of the tin with a double sheet of greaseproof paper to prevent overcooking. Small paper cases can be used on a baking sheet for buns.


Butter or margarine are best for cake-making; they give a good flavour and longer keeping time to the cake.

Flour If self-raising flour is used there is no need to add any additional raising agent. For rich fruit cakes and whisked sponges, plain flour should be used, with a quantity of raising agent according to the recipe. Sieve together before use.

Raising Agents Use cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda in a 2 to 1 ratio to make baking powder. More often, buy it ready made. Yeast and eggs are other raising agents.

Eggs Eggs act as a raising agent and also help to bind the ingredients together in plait. Cakes.

Sugar Caster sugar is ideal for sponges although it is more expensive than granulated sugar. Brown or Demerara sugar makes good gingerbread and parkin and additionally gives a rich, dark appearance.

Fruit Wash dried fruit and glace cherries and dry thoroughly. Coat fruit in some of the weighed flour, to prevent sinking during cooking. Chop large pieces of candied peel, dates and nuts.

Baking Times vary and so do temperatures; see individual recipes.

Cooling Leave to settle for a few minutes before moving a knife around the cake tin. Once the cake is ready, carefully turn it upside down on to a rack to allow it to cool before filling or icing.

Storing Most cakes are best eaten fresh, but gingerbread and rich fruit cakes improve on keeping, and should be stored, wrapped in aluminium foil, and placed in air-tight tins. Never store both cakes and biscuits in the same tin, otherwise the biscuits will go soft. Refrigerate all cream cakes.


Use no more than half the ratio of fat to flour.

225 g (8 oz) plain flour

10 ml (2 teaspoons) baking powder

a pinch of salt

50-75 g (2-3 oz) fat

50-75 g (2-3 oz) sugar

50-100 g (2-4 oz) flavouring (nuts, fruit etc)

150 ml (¼ pt) milk

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder and spices) first; then rub in the fat. Add sugar and any dried fruit, according to the recipe. Make a well in the mixture.

Beat the eggs thoroughly and mix into the well of the cake mixture, with any liquid flavouring. Bake small cakes in a hot oven, large cakes in a slow oven.


Creamed cakes are made from equal quantities of fat and flour. It is important that the butter is at room temperature before you start.

100 g (4 oz) softened butter

100 g (4 oz) sugar

2 (size 3) eggs

100 g (4 oz) self-raising flour pinch of salt

Beat the butter and sugar together vigorously. Add the eggs one at a time and finally the dry ingredients sifted together. Bake at 180°C (350°F) Gas Mark 4 for about 25-30 minutes.


These are made by the creaming method, with the addition of dried and glace fruit and chopped peel. The quantities are from 100-650 g (¼-1 ½ lb) fruit and peel to each 225 g (8 oz) flour. Bake very slowly at 140°C (275°F)

Gas Mark 1 for 2½-3 hours. Make at least 2-3 weeks in advance to allow to mature. Store by wrapping in layers of greaseproof paper or fail.


Being fat free and, therefore, particularly light these sponges should be baked as soon as they are mixed.

75 g (3 oz) plain flour

a pinch of salt

3 size-2 eggs

75 g (3 oz) caster sugar

Sift the flour and salt on to greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together over hot water until thick and creamy. Fold in the flour. Bake at 190°C (375°F) Gas Mark 5 until just firm and lightly coloured, about 15 minutes.


Moist and sticky cakes are made by this method.

450 g (1 lb) plain flour

45 ml (3 tablespoons) baking powder

a pinch of salt

150 g (6 oz) sugar

150 g (6 oz) fat

150-300 g (6-12 oz) sweet flavouring (golden syrup, honey, marmalade etc)

275 ml (½ pt) milk

The sugar, fat and sweet flavourings are melted and then mixed into the sieved dry ingredients, with the milk. A beaten egg can also be added. Bake at 180°C (350°F) Gas Mark 4 until well risen (1 ½ hours). Allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning out of tin.

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