Demystifying Homemade Cakes


I’ll admit it. Cakes scare me. After being raised with a cake in a box for every birthday, party, or dinner, I hate to mess with that very distinct light and airy texture that is created with thickeners, gums and leaveners.

But that’s the secret. DON’T try to make a cake that mimics a box off the shelf. Instead, make a cake that is all natural, DENSE and rich. Imagine the freedom of going to your cabinet, and knowing that you have the skills to combine various sweeteners, and flavors into whatever cake you fancy? -a cake that is filled with flavor, and with no chemical aftertaste. In order to accomplish this cake, there are a few rules.

-Get a kitchen scale. Good cake baking requires precision, and measuring according to volume is one of the least precise ways to measure flour, eggs, and sugar. I’ve seen variations as much as 20% in total ingredients when using measuring cups. Weighing your ingredients will get you MUCH better results.

-Learn the 1-1-1-1 ratio. When you measure by weight, it’s an easy way to make a sponge cake 1 part egg, one part sugar, 1 part flour, and 1 part butter or oil. You’re more than welcome to add other ingredients, such as flavorings or leaveners as well, but the basic 1-1-1-1 ratio will make all the other measuring easy. Want to add baking powder to make it lighter? Add no more than 1 tsp for every 5 ounces of flour. The same ratio applies for vanilla.

-Mix properly, depending on your intended results. Want to make a spongy cake? Combine your eggs and sugar, and beat until the batter is pale in color. It will also be light and airy. Then gently sift in your flour, and fold in your oil. Want to make a dense pound cake? Combine your oil and sugar, and mix your sifted flour and eggs in, taking care not to use a whisk.

-Bake at 350 (325 if you’re using a dark pan), until a toothpick comes out clean. The time is going to vary pretty dramatically based on the size of your pan. Cupcakes tend to take 15-20 minutes, where a regular cake can take 30-40 minutes.

I should note, chocolate cakes require a little math to make properly. The simplest way to make your cake chocolate is to reduce your flour and egg by 1/4th, and then replace the amount of flour and egg you removed with cocoa and water. Heat your water, then dissolve the cocoa into the water. Let it cool slightly, then add the cocoa mixture near the end of preparing your batter.

See how simple cakes are? 1-1-1-1 and you’re fine!!!

A few cake formulas I like to use:

Sponge Cakes (closest to storebought cake) –
1 part egg
1 part sugar
1 part bakers oil
1 part cake flour
3/100th part baking powder
1/100th salt

1 Tsp vanilla per 5 oz flour

Preheat oven to 350
Whisk egg/sugar until doubled in size and mixture turns pale
Combine flour, salt and baking powder.
Fold oil and dry ingredients into egg mixture.
Pour into floured/greased pan and cook until toothpick comes out clean.

-zest from one lemon for each 5 oz of flour used
-blend fresh herbs with oil and then strain before adding to mix

Molasses Pound Cake

2 oz butter
1 oz brown sugar
1 oz molasses
1 large egg
2 oz AP flour
Dash salt

Optional: ginger and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter, brown sugar and molasses.

Add egg, flour and salt, and mix.

Pour into 2 greased and floured 4 oz ramekins, filling no more than 2/3rds full

Bake at 350 until toothpick comes out clean (22-25 minutes)

1 comment to Demystifying Homemade Cakes

  • Kim

    Very interesting. I’m willing to give this a go. I generally just follow my grandma’s recipe and it makes the most delicious chocolate cake ever (seriously, EVER!) :) But I have never had success with the crumb of a vanilla/yellow cake…

You must be logged in to post a comment.