So many cakes, yet so little time to bake them all! (But you can have fun trying.)
Even with all the various cake recipes available, there are two basic cake types: butter cakes and foam cakes.
Melt in your mouth butter cakes are probably the most popular type of cake. Classic American cakes typically consist of two layers of a buttery cake that are filled covered with a sweet frosting. Butter cakes contain some form of fat, usually butter, margarine, oil, or shortening. Early cakes were leavened only by the air beaten into the butter and eggs during the mixing process. Most cakes today include some sort of leaveners such as baking powder or baking soda, along with proper mixing techniques, to produce a lighter textured cake. Pound Cake, along with white and yellow cake, fruit cake, and coffee cake are all variations of butter cakes. Butter cake recipes are easily doubled if you have extra baking pans, and any butter cake recipe can be baked as cupcakes.
In many recipes the first step in making butter cakes is mixing the sugar and fat together in a process called creaming. The recipe will normally state something similar to cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Creaming incorporates tiny air bubbles into the butter and sugar which expand during baking to help the cake rise. Next eggs and flavorings are beaten in. Eggs provide moisture, flavor, and color along with helping to aerate the batter. Finally the dry ingredients and liquids are added to finish the batter.
Instead of creaming, some cake recipes will use a one bowl method which means all the ingredients including the sugar and butter are simply mixed together in one easy step. These cakes usually have less volume than cakes using the creaming method; therefore they may be heavier and denser, but very delicious.
European cakes are normally referred to as tortes, and often have more layers and complex elements, such as a combination of a sponge cake, meringue, filling, and jam.
Foam cakes and sponge cakes are delicate cakes made with little or no fat such as butter, oil, or shortening, making them lighter and airier than butter cakes. Most foam cakes recipes have no little or no chemical leaveners such as baking powder or baking soda; instead they depend on a large amount of either whole or separated eggs that are whipped and filled with air bubbles to providing the leavening ingredient to make the cake rise during baking. Because foam cakes have a high proportion of eggs to flour they have a light and spongy texture not found in butter cakes.
The basic types of foam cakes are Angel food, chiffon, Genoise, and sponge cakes that have eggs separated. Angel food cake contains no fat and is made with only egg whites along with plenty of sugar to provide an extra sweet cake that is moist and tender. chiffon cakes are made with oil and separated eggs; the oil and egg yolk produce a tender crumb, and beaten
egg whites along with a small amount of chemical leaveners produces the light and airy rise. Genoise is a classic European cake; the eggs are heated with sugar then beaten until thick and lastly combined with flour. Separated egg cakes are the typical sponge; the egg yolks and egg whites are beaten separately then gently combined and folded in with the flour. both Genoise and separated egg cakes may contain butter to provide a moister and more flavorful crumb.
Foam cakes such as Angel Food and Chiffon are moist enough to be served without a soaking syrup added. Classic Genoise and Biscuit Sponge cakes start off drier but with a sturdy structure, making them able to drink and hold lots of moisture. The extra moisture is added by sprinkling a soaking syrup onto each layer after they have cooled. Soaking syrup is simply sugar and water boiled together, and then a liquor, juice, or extract is added in a flavor that complements the cake.
For more cake information and cake recipes see:
With so many variations of cakes you may already have a favorite. Here are a few cake types you may want to try baking.
Angel Food Cake: Airy and light and described by some as the “food of the angels.”Angel Food cake is made with no fat, therefore is cholesterol free, and has a light, fluffy, delicate texture that almost melts in your mouth. Stiffly beaten egg whites provide the leavening agent, which are gently folded into the other ingredients. Angel Food Cake is baked in a tube shaped pan that is ungreased, allowing the cake to raise high by clinging to the sides of the pan, and then turned upside down after baking so the cake does not collapse while cooling. You will love this cake simply served plain with fresh fruit and whipped cream, but you can also split into layers to add a filling, or cover with a light icing. See recipe for Angel Food Cake.
Biscuit: Biscuit is a classic sponge cake that contains no butter or fats but a large amount of separated eggs, initially making a biscuit lighter, drier, and tougher than a regular sponge-type cake. However, once a soaking syrup is added to the cooled cake, it becomes tender, moist, and the most ethereal of cakes. See recipe for Strawberries & Cream Layered Sponge.
Bundt Cake: (Pronounced “bunt” with the “d” being silent.) This cake is baked in a special pan called a Bundt pan, a ring shaped pan with fluted sided, originally created to prepare German Kugelhopf cake. National Bundt Pan Day is November 15th. The modern Bundt pan was developed by the Nordic Ware company in 1950, and its fame rose after a Pillsbury-sponsored baking contest in 1966. See recipes for Lemon Sour Cream Cake, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Orange Poppy Seed Cake, Bacardi Rum Cake, Pear Spice Bundt Cake.
Charlotte: A Charlotte is made by lining a mold with a biscuit or sponge-type cake, then filling the mold with a Bavarian or whipped cream mixture, a fruit mixture, a mousse, or sometimes a gelatin mixture. A Charlotte Royale is made with multi-layers of sponge cake and jam. Charlotte Russe is surrounded by ladyfingers. A Charlotte should be made at least 4 hours in advance, and is served chilled. There are a number of decorative molds available in kitchen stores, but a springform pan with a removable bottom may also be used. See recipe for Raspberry Charlotte.
Cheesecake: Cheesecake is a rich, creamy, smooth, and dense chilled dessert, generally made with a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, eggs, cream, and flavorings. Cheesecakes are normally baked in a springform pan, in a water or steam bath to keep the cake creamy, and un-molded before serving, Cheesecakes are made with a pastry, cookie, or graham cracker type crust, but can also be baked without a crust. Classic cheesecake is a delicious creamy vanilla flavor with the added tartness of lemon and sour cream, such as found in New York Cheesecake and served plain or with a topping of whipped cream and berries. There are unlimited cheesecake flavor possibilities ranging anywhere from chocolate, coffee, lemon, berry to fruit. See recipes for Cheesecake.
Chiffon Cake: A tender, moist, and rich tasting cake made with vegetable oil, along with eggs, flour, sugar and flavoring and is lovely served with fresh fruit or covered with a creamy frosting. The stiffly beaten egg whites along with baking soda or baking powder provide the leavening agent. Chiffon cakes are typically baked in a tube pan; however other shaped pans may be substituted, such as a heart shaped pan. See recipes for Chocolate Chiffon Valentine Cake, Walnut Chiffon Cake.
Coffee Cake: Served warm from the oven with a hot cup of coffee or tea, coffee cake can provide a relaxing respite from a busy day. A coffee cake does not necessarily contain coffee, but are typically flavored with cinnamon, apple, nuts, and fruits. Coffee cakes are simple, yet rich and delicious, perfect for family dinners or when friends drop by. Most coffee cakes have a crumb or streusel topping made with variations of sugar, nuts, spices, butter, flour and oats. See recipes for Streusel Coffee Cake, Pear Nut Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Cranberry Coffee Cake, Chocolate Glazed Sour Cream Coffee Cake.
Cupcake: Who can resist a cupcake? Sometimes called “fairy cakes,” these small and delightful cakes are made to serve one person. Almost any butter cake recipe can be used to bake cupcakes. Before the modern cupcake pans were developed, small cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, leading to the popular term “cupcake.” Today’s modern baker has the advantage of using a muffin or cupcake pan with or without a paper liner, or even the more recent innovation of silicone baking cups. See recipes for Cupcakes.
Dacquoise: (Pronounced da-KWAHZ.) A Dacquoise is a light, crispy nut meringue, made with no flour, and is baked slowly until crisp and dry. The meringue is usually piped in discs, and sandwiched together with whipped cream, mousse, or Buttercream fillings. A Dacquoise is normally made with ground almonds or hazelnuts to provide a delicious nutty flavor.
Devil’s Food Cake: Devil’s food cake is a chocolate cake, but moister and airier than other chocolate cakes and often uses cocoa for the chocolate flavor. Devil’s food cake incorporates butter, egg whites, flour and less whole egg than other chocolate cakes and is made using hot or boiling water as the cake’s main liquid instead of milk. This cake is usually baked in layers and filled and frosted with a rich chocolate frosting. See recipe for Devil’s Food Cake, Devil’s Food White-Out Cake, Devil’s Food Cupcakes.
Flourless Cake: is a European style cake, also known as a torte. Made either with little or no flour, these cakes instead are normally made with ground nuts or cookie crumbs plus eggs and butter to produce a cake with such a rich and delicious flavor that you normally want to serve in small slices. See recipes for Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake, Russian Mazurka, Triple Chocolate Pecan Cake.
Fruitcake:These colorful cakes are a wonderful treat associated with the winter holidays that most people either love or hate. Fruitcake is generally dense and heavily laden with dried or candied fruit and nuts, and possibly rum or brandy along with flavorful spices. Because fruitcake is rich, it is normally served in small pieces. The proportion of fruit and nuts to the cake batter is normally high, having just enough batter to hold the mixture together. Fruitcakes can be eaten immediately, but are better when allowed to age by first wrapping in a cloth soaked in rum, brandy, bourbon, wine, or even fruit juice to preserve the cakes, wrapped tightly, then stored in a cool dark place. Light fruitcake is made with lighter-colored ingredients such as granulated sugar, light corn syrup, almonds, golden raisins, pineapple orange or lemon peels. Dark fruitcakes include darker ingredients such as brown sugar, molasses, walnuts, pecans, mincemeat, dates, and dark raisins or currants. See recipes for Rich Walnut Fruitcake, Golden Fruitcake.
Gateaux Cake: (Pronounced ga-toe.) Gâteau is a French cake, often a sponge type cake, and often made with ground almonds. Gateaux cakes tend to be fancier, often served after a special dinner. It is typically made in layers; the cake is sometimes soaked with flavored syrup to provide extra moistness, layered with a rich filling, and then frosted with a smooth Buttercream frosting. See recipe for Almond Apple Gateau.
Genoise Cake: (Pronounced JenWAHZ.) Genoise is a classic European sponge-type cake that is less-sweet than other sponge cakes, and may also contain butter to provide tenderness plus a richer and more flavorful taste. Genoise is a dry sponge cake, and is normally soaked with flavored syrup to provide extra moistness. To make Genoise cakes, whole eggs are beaten with sugar while heating over a pan of simmering water to dissolve the sugar and allow the mixture to whip higher, holding more air bubbles. After warming, the egg and sugar mixture is whipped until it is thick, light in color, and billowy like whipped cream. Lastly flour is folded in and butter may be added. Sponge cakes must be unmolded as soon as baked; otherwise the steam will soften and collapse the cake. See recipe for Black Forest Cherry Torte.
Kuchen: (Pronounced COO-hen.) Kuchen in the German word for cake, and there are different recipe versions available with different fillings and crusts used. Typically Kuchen uses a sweet dough crust with a topping of fruit or fruit and custard combined, making Kuchen similar to a pie or a tart. Kuchens may also have a cinnamon sugar crumb topping. The fruit used in Kuchen is varied, but apple, plum, prune, apricot, peach and rhubarb are common. Some Kuchen recipes are similar to an upside-down cake, but the fruit and sugar mixture goes on top of the cake batter instead of the bottom, and is served directly from the pan. Kuchen was declared to be the official state dessert of South Dakota on July 1, 2000. See recipes for Cherry Kuchen, Cranberry Cheese Kuchen.
Kugelhopf: A European cake baked in a special Kugelhopf panwhich is a deep, round, tube pan with ornate fluting. The cake is a sweet yeast cake studded with raisins, nuts, and candied fruits, and has a round pyramid shape when the cake in un-molded. See recipes for Kugelhopf, Fruit and Walnut Kugelhopf.
Madeleine: (Pronounced Ma-de-LEHN.) A small and tender French cake that is baked in a special pan called a Madeleine pan that has deep shell-shaped imprints. The pan must be generously greased and floured to prevent the delicate cakes from sticking to the pan. Madeleine’s are sometimes thought of as a cookie, but are actually little buttery spongy cakes, sometimes delicately flavored with lemon, orange, or almond.
Meringue: (Pronounced muh-RANG.)Made from stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar, meringues can be added to a cake batter to make it lighter, or baked alone until it is crisp and dry. Meringue is wonderful sandwiched between butter cake or sponge cake layers to produce a cake full of texture and crunchiness. Meringues are made by beating egg whites and sugar until stiff, then either spread or piped onto a baking sheet in the desired shape, normally round. Meringue can also be baked like a pastry shell, making a delightful container to fill with a whipped cream, ice cream, or fruit. See recipes for Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Cake, Mini Pavlovas with Lemon and Blueberries.
Panforte: (Pronounced pan-FOHR-tay.) This is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, resembling fruitcake. Panforte is also considered a confection. Panforte means “strong bread” which refers to the spicy flavor. The original name of panforte was “panpepato” (peppered bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake. Most versions contain sugar, honey, chocolate, nuts, fruit, and spices, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top. This candy-like cake is usually made in a round shape. Serve a thin slice with coffee or a dessert wine after a meal, or enjoy with your breakfast coffee or afternoon tea. See recipe for Panforte di Siena.
Petit four: (Pronounced pĕt’ē fôrz’) These are tantalizingly small cakes approximately 1 inch square, although the cake may be cut into various shapes such as square, round, oval, or triangular. Petits fours are traditionally covered with a fondant or Buttercream icing and decorated with icing flowers or other embellishments. When displayed on a serving tray they are pretty to look at and difficult to resist.
Pound Cake: Original pound cake recipes called for either one pound each of eggs, butter, sugar and flour, or the batter was made using proportions of one-fourth eggs, one fourth butter, one forth sugar and one fourth flour. Today’s pound cakes may use different proportions with the addition of baking powder or baking soda and fruit or nuts, and optional flavorings. Pound cakes are typically dense, rich, buttery, and flavorful, perfect served with a cup of tea or coffee. Pound cake may be topped with a powdered sugar glaze, dusted with powdered sugar, served plain, or served with whipped cream or ice cream or with a fresh fruit topping. See recipes for Cream Cheese Pound Cake, Whipped Cream Pound Cake, Blueberry Pound Cake, Southern Pecan Pound Cake, Old Fashioned Pound Cake.
Swiss Roll Cake: Jelly roll, Roll Cake, Biscuit, Roulade, Roll Cake, Buche de Noel are other names and all included in the Roll Cake recipes, and may be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make them. Start with a sponge cake recipe, bake in a jelly roll pan, immediately turn upside down onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar, and then roll it up to cool. When cooled, gently unroll the cake and fill with your favorite filling such as fruit jams, ice cream, or sweetened cream cheese or whipped cream. See recipes for Pumpkin Nut Cake Roll, Vanilla Cream Roll, Strawberry Roulade, Gingerbread Cake Roll.
Shortcake: A pastry or biscuit that has a high ratio of fat to flour, resulting in a cake that is rich, crumbly, and tender. Strawberry Shortcake is a simple and delicious dessert, made with some type of cake such as a sponge cake, biscuit, or cream scone, then layered with lots of fresh sweet strawberries and sweetened whipped cream. This is a time-honored summer dessert, and as all-American as Mom’s apple pie. See recipe for Strawberry Shortcake.
Sponge Cake: Sponge cakes are moist and light, with a bit of a spongy texture, are easily eaten plain without any type of frosting. Sponges are a versatile cake and made with a minimal of simple ingredients; eggs, sugar, flour and flavoring. With a typical sponge-type cake the egg yolks and egg whites are added separately. The egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until thick and light to incorporate air; the egg whites are beaten separately to stiff peaks, also to incorporate air, and then the egg whites and flour mixture are gently folded into the egg yolk mixture. Folding the ingredients in helps retain a light and airy texture to the batter. Most sponge cakes are made with no butter, and depending on the recipe there may be a small amount of baking powder added with the flour. A sponge cake recipe is generally used for making jelly roll-type cakes, baked using a jelly roll pan; the cake, being light, airy, spongy, and springy is flexible while still warm and easily rolled. A sponge cake, whether baked in a jelly roll pan or regular round or square cake pans, must be turned out of the pan as soon as it is baked, otherwise the cake will easily collapse from the steam. See recipe for Vanilla Cream Roll.
Tea Cake: Tea cakes are pretty and elegant, traditionally served for afternoon tea, and especially pretty for special occasions such as Mother’s Day. Tea cake is really any kind of cake that is sturdy enough to be picked up with your fingers. Lemon Tea Cakes are a butter cake recipe, cut into small squares that have a sweet icing drizzled over the top and then garnished with fresh fruit or Candied Edible Flowers. See recipe for Lemon Tea Cakes.
Tiramisu: (Pronounced tear-ah-mee-sue) Tiramisu means “pick me up” in Italian, and because it’s so luscious you will feel picked up and carried away with bliss. Traditional Tiramisu is layers of sponge cake, sweet mascarpone cheese filling, coffee liqueur, espresso and chocolate.
Torte: Torte is the German word for cake, though it is typically used to describe a moistcake made with many eggs, and often made with ground nuts or bread crumbs. Tortes may be either a multi-layered cake or a single layer. See recipes for Chocolate Pecan Torte, Walnut Raspberry Torte.
Trifle: A trifle is a dessert made in a deep glass bowl with straight sides. Trifles are typically made with a sponge cake or ladyfingers that are soaked in a syrup or liqueur and layered with custard, cream, fresh fruit, or preserves.
Upside-Down Cake: This is an old-fashioned type cake that features a beautiful arrangement of fruit of top of a butter-type cake. The fruit is placed in the bottom of the pan before baking; once the cake is baked the pan is turned upside to reveal the glistening fruit. Upside down cakes have traditionally been baked in a heavy-duty cast iron skillet. With a cast-iron skillet the butter and sugar for the topping can be heated on top of the stove, while also helping to butter and sugar to caramelize while baking. In place of a cast-iron skillet a round baking pan may also be used. Almost any fruit that is used in baking can be used for an upside-down cake. Pineapple Upside Down Cake is traditional, but apples, pears, pineapple, rhubarb, peaches, plums and bananas also make a delicious variation. See recipes for Spicy Pear Upside-Down Cake, Cranberry Upside-Down Cake, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Lemon Upside-Down Cake.
Yeast Cake: Yeast cakes have a bread-like texture and use yeast as a leavener. Several holiday cakes are a yeast cake, many made with fruit and nuts. See recipes for Kugelhopf, Fruit and Walnut Kugelhopf, Panettone, Stollen.