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Six Steps to Great Cakes

Six Steps to Great Cakes

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Follow these steps for sweet results.

Step One

An electric mixer incorporates the most air into cake batter. You’ll also need a spoon, dry measuring cups (or kitchen scale), quality cake pans, a rubber spatula, wax paper, and a cooling rack.

Step Two

Coat pans with cooking spray, and dust them lightly with flour. For layer cakes, it is often a good idea to line the bottoms of pans with wax paper as well.

Step Three

Be sure to measure carefully. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. If you have a kitchen scale, use it for accurate measurements.

Step Four

Whip the butter and sugar until fluffy and well blended to incorporate air into the mixture and improve the texture of the cake; continue beating until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Step Five

Add flour and milk (or buttermilk) alternately to cake batter. Always begin and end with the flour mixture, and the ingredients will blend evenly and thoroughly.

Step Six

Remove the wax paper as soon as you remove cakes from pans, and always cool cakes completely before frosting or freezing them.

6 Inch Cake Recipes

Learn how to make a deliciously soft and buttery 6 inch vanilla cake, plus a dozen other cake flavors for your smaller 6 inch cake pans. These are perfect for smaller gatherings and much easier to decorate, too!

More and more over the past few years, I see questions about adapting large layer cake recipes to fit smaller 6 inch cake pans. 6 inch cakes are very popular and yet most traditional cake recipes don’t accommodate the smaller size.

But last year I discovered an easy solution when I made a 6 inch birthday cake. I no longer adapted cake recipes to fit the smaller cake pan size. Instead, I began using cake batter from my CUPCAKE recipes. (And most of my cupcake recipes are actually adapted from the larger cake variety, so the work is already done!)

I know it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it was a total lightbulb moment as I suddenly had dozens of 6 inch cake flavors to bake. I love the 6 inch size for children’s birthday cakes, small gatherings and celebrations, or bridal/baby showers where there’s a lot of other desserts. And when it comes to decorating, 6 inch is a very non-intimidating size cake!

Neapolitan brownie bombe

Neapolitan brownie bombe. Photograph: Uyen Luu/The Guardian

Prep: 1 hr
Freeze: 6 hrs
Cook: 15 min
Serves: 12

2 packs shop-bought brownie mix
150ml vegetable oil or butter
2 eggs
1.4 litres strawberry ice‑cream, softened
1 litre vanilla ice‑cream, softened
500ml chocolate ice‑cream, softened
Cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180C/ 350F/gas 4. Line two baking trays with baking paper and line a large bowl with clingfilm.

Mix the brownie mix with the eggs, oil or butter, until just combined. Pour the mix into the baking trays and spread evenly. Bake according to the packet instructions, until the brownies are fudgy yet firm. Remove and leave to cool.

Once cool, cut one trayful in half lengthwise, then into eight equal rectangles. Leave four as they are, and cut the other four diagonally into eight triangles. Line the prepared bowl with these brownie pieces, covering the sides and bottom, and pressing down firmly, especially the seams, to create a shell with no gaps.

Scoop the strawberry ice-cream on to the shell and smooth with a spatula. Cover with clingfilm and press a medium-sized bowl into the ice-cream, so it rises up the sides and is flush with the top of the bowl. Freeze for three hours.

Unwrap, repeat with the vanilla ice-cream and freeze for another two hours.

Meanwhile, cut a circle into the other tin of brownie the diameter of the large bowl.

Uncover the now-frozen vanilla layer, fill with chocolate ice-cream, cover with the circle of brownie and freeze for one hour.

Carefully remove from the freezer and flip on to a serving platter. Leave a couple of minutes, then remove the bowl and dust with cocoa powder.

Behind the Vanilla Cake Recipe

After years of cake successes and flops, I’m confident in this homemade vanilla cake. During my recipe testing, I combined my white cake recipe and naked cake recipe. These are two reader favorites and I knew they’d be the best starting point. At first there were too many eggs and I quickly learned sifting cake flour was NOT doing any favors.

You need the following power ingredients:

  1. Cake Flour: If you want a fluffy and soft bakery-style vanilla cake, cake flour is the secret. The cake will be denser and heavier using all-purpose flour.
  2. Eggs & 2 additional egg whites: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination.
  3. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Use both. Remember why? Using enough baking powder to give these layers height gave the cake a bitter aftertaste. Baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and baking soda requires an acid to work. Plus buttermilk yields an EXTRA moist cake crumb. See recipe note about the alternative.

For more prominent vanilla flavor, use homemade vanilla extract. (What a fun DIY gift!) This vanilla cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans. We actually use the same exact batter to make snickerdoodle cake.

Do you know how to level a cake? Let me help. It’s really easy. You can use a fancy cake leveler, but I use a serrated knife. Carefully slice off the tippy top of the cooled cake layers, creating a flat surface. Leveling cakes doesn’t require a ruler, talent, or any mathematical equations. Instead, just use your eyes, hands, and a knife.

Leveling the cake layers promises a straight and sturdy layer cake.

Step 3: Then Take the Yolks of Four New Laid Eggs.

The wet ingredients for the recipe were the egg yolk, the cream and sherry. I had put the saffron into the sherry to soak a bit and try and get some of that golden colour that saffron is famous for out of it. I don't know if it made any difference or not, but I didn't let it soak for very long. If I was going to do this recipe again, I would probably have ground the saffron up first, and/or let it soak for a lot longer.

Basically, all I did was mix the wet ingredients in a bowl. Not all that complicated really, and the end result of this step wasn't terribly appetizing :P

Recipe Summary

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3 ½ cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon hot water (Optional)
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 3 9-inch cake pans.

Beat whites of 4 eggs in a glass or metal bowl until foamy. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Lift your beater or whisk straight up: the tip of the peak formed by the egg whites should curl over slightly. Set aside. Reserve egg yolks in a small bowl. Sift together cake flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Beat 3/4 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add reserved egg yolks one at a time, allowing each yolk to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Pour in cake flour mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, mixing until just incorporated. Stir lemon juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into batter.

Whisk beaten egg whites a few times use a whisk or rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter to lighten it. Fold in remaining egg whites, mixing just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pans and spread evenly over bottom.

Bake in preheated oven until cake is light golden brown and just pulling from the sides of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

To make custard: combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup flour, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup cocoa powder in a saucepan and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar into 4 beaten eggs. Pour 4 cups whole milk into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate melts.

Return custard to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat stir in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Transfer custard to a bowl and allow to cool.

To make buttercream: place 1 cup softened butter in a mixing bowl. Gradually beat in 3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar. Beat in 1 cup sifted cocoa powder. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to make a smooth frosting. If the frosting is too stiff, add a tablespoon of hot water or as needed, drizzling it very slowly, and mix well until desired consistency is reached.

To make ganache: place chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan until very hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Let stand for 3 minutes, then whisk, scraping sides and bottom of the bowl, until smooth. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Allow to cool to room temperature, cover, and set aside. Ganache should be spreadable and not firm.

To assemble cake: using a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each cake layer in half horizontally. Cover cake plate with strips of parchment paper or foil for easier clean up. Put a dab of buttercream in the center of the plate to keep cake from shifting. Set a cake half on the plate.

Spread custard filling onto cake layer, taking care not to spread it too close to the edge (weight of the cake layers will cause it to spread out). Gently lay another cake round on top of the first and repeat with another custard layer. Repeat with remaining layers and custard, topping custard with the last cake layer. Chill cake for 30 minutes to allow it to firm up.

Frost top and sides of cake with chocolate buttercream. Chill for 30 minutes, to firm and set.

Spread frosted cake with ganache. Remove parchment strips or aluminum foil from cake plate. Store cake in the refrigerator.

Recipe Summary

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablepoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted, and cooled
  • Garnish: flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter three 9-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.

Make the caramel: Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter) stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.

Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Frost top and sides of cake in a swirling motion. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Recipe Summary

  • ½ cup butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 ½ (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease and flour four 6-ounce ramekins.

Place chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir frequently, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching, until chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes.

Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl beat with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Mix in melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and flour until combined. Pour batter into the prepared ramekins and place on a baking tray.

Bake in the preheated oven until the sides are set but the middle is still jiggly, 10 to 13 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Jaffa Cakes (American Recipe)

If I could go anywhere in the world, there is a 99.9% change I would choose the baker’s tent in Berkshire, where I could spend all day making pretty bakes for Mary Berry, herself. Maybe my Victoria Sandwich would be tasty enough to earn me another day in the tent.

What are jaffa cakes?

I had never even heard of jaffa cakes until they made an appearance as the technical challenge on Great British Bake Off. Apparently you can get them at any corner shop in Great Britain. Kind of like my beloved ho hos here in the States. But . . . now that I have had jaffa cakes . . . I am SUPER devastated that I can’t just march down to 7-Eleven for late night munchies. I’m not aware of any American equivalent, but chocolate and orange have always been my favorite. (Hello chocolate orange cake with pistachio mascarpone.) And now jaffa cakes will forever be on my go-to list of fun, individual-sized party cakes.

For those not in the know, jaffa cakes have three main components:

  1. Light sponge cake
  2. Orange “jelly” (think of a more firm gelatin – like the chocolate covered orange sticks you buy at Christmas time)
  3. Semi-sweet chocolate

I’ve included the American measurements for jaffa cakes below, since just about all of the recipes I found online used weighed volume and us weirdos in the States don’t always have a kitchen scale. Miss Mary Berry’s recipe simply used Hartley’s orange jelly . . . which is very difficult to find in the States. Unless you decide to make jaffa cakes in advance and have time to order Hartley’s via Amazon. (Kudos to you. My cravings don’t give me prior notice.) So for my faux American jaffa cake recipe, I experimented with envelopes of plain, unflavored gelatin, which worked like a charm!

I loved these jaffa cakes so much, I’m already wondering about a flavor mix-up. Anybody out there ever tried a raspberry chocolate jaffa cake? Is it still a jaffa cake if it’s not orange?

Steps for How to Make Jaffa Cakes:

  1. Set the eggs out to come to room temperature. (Cheater’s Tip: Place eggs in a bowl of warm tap water if you’re in a hurry.)
  2. Make the orange jelly and chill.
  3. Whip the eggs and sugar to “ribbon” stage. (Tip: Beat at least six minutes. Don’t skimp.)
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients.
  5. Bake the jaffa cakes.
  6. Cut orange jelly disks and place on top of each cake.
  7. Temper chocolate and top each jaffa cake!
  8. Try not to eat them all in 24 hours . . . like I did. O.o

Mikaela | wyldflour

Jaffa Cakes! Light sponge cake topped with orange jelly and semi-sweet chocolate.

I had to weigh and shape 10 segments of dough, then carefully bake them to the point that they are "firm on the outside, but chewy on the inside," according to the guidelines.

Weighing, shaping, and baking the dough pieces wasn't as tough as it appeared on TV.

The steps that came next were more difficult, especially since they each overlapped with one another.

While my dough cooled, I whipped up a quick icing. I also melted some dark chocolate, put it in a piping bag, and made the decorative scrolls.

Unfortunately, I piped my first batch too thin and they all broke when I tried to remove them from my tray. I had to pipe them all over again.

When the dough felt just slightly warm, I piped the icing onto each cookie.

I remembered that the judges wanted to see the icing piped further down the rings on contestant Hermine's cornucopia, so I took care to drag my icing down each cookie.

My piping was pretty unsteady and ended up looking rushed.

Next I made the caramel, which I'd be using as a glue to assemble my cornucopia.

The recipe says I should not stir the sugar at all while it's on the stove, only swirl the pot. I still swirled the pot too often, which caused my sugar to crystallize.

To remedy this hiccup, I added a bit more water and cranked the heat, letting the sugar melt again and caramelize.

I then carefully dipped each ring into the caramel and attached my cookies, which was tough because the caramel hardened almost instantly.

In my rush, I didn't curve the horn as much as I should have, and it couldn't stand up on its own. I used a metal container to prop it up as I added my chocolate scrolls, which began melting as soon as I removed them from the fridge. It was just too hot in the tent — erm, my apartment.

On this episode, the contestants were given two hours and 15 minutes. This took me an hour and 39 minutes of work, plus the recipe's recommended two hours of chill time in the fridge.

The recipe also states that you can chill the dough overnight or for 30 minutes in the freezer. Had I been on the show, I would've chilled the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes, which means I likely would've taken about two hours and nine minutes to complete this technical bake.

These M&M cookies are the perfect, easy baking recipe to make with kids. This recipe uses regular M&Ms but you could try peanut or a different flavour instead. If you're making these with younger kids, crush the M&M's before adding to the cookies as whole M&M's may be hard to eat.

Get the recipe: Giant M&M cookies


  1. Constantino

    But what is the ridiculous here?

  2. Turquine

    where catty world?

  3. Chayson

    Did not hear such

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