Jubilee cake

How to make a cake: a step by step guide

Everything you need to know about how to make a cake: step by step instructions and notes on ingredients, utensils, baking, flavouring, icing and filling.

If I had a pound for every time somebody said to me ‘I can’t make cakes’ or ‘I wish I could bake – it always goes wrong’, I’d be… well, not exactly rich, but I’d have a big pile of pound coins.

If you’ve ever uttered either of the above, don’t despair: here is how to make a cake – an easy, step by step, foolproof guide to the perfect light, spongey sponge cake, complete with tips, dos, don’ts and ABSOLUTELY DON’Ts thrown in for good measure. I’m not saying this is the ONLY way, but it’s a great way to start. And once you’ve got your baking confidence, there’ll be no stopping you.

First: ingredients

It goes without saying that the best ingredients will make the best cake. Baking is a feel-good endeavour. A sponge cake made with lovely ingredients, and lots of love, will be the best cake in the world.  I know I’ve said it before, but don’t bake when you’re tired, fed up or in a hurry.  It’ll go wrong – well, mine always does anyway.

Eggs

Fresh, free-range eggs with those startling golden yellow yolks will make better cakes than those awful, sad, battery-hen ones.

Butter

Likewise, gorgeous fresh farmhouse butter will make a cake taste much better than horrid, greasy margarine. Okay, it might be higher in fat, but hey we’re making a cake. If you don’t want fat, don’t eat cake! Moderation in all things, I reckon.

Flour

You don’t have to have self-raising flour. In fact, self-raising soon loses its raising power if it gets old. It’s easy to make your own self-raising with plain flour. Just add a level teaspoon of baking powder per 100g of plain flour.

Sugar

Plain old supermarket caster sugar is fine.  Don’t use granulated if you can help it as the grains are a bit too big and you can end up with a gritty texture (you could always give it a whizz in a grinder or blender to break down the grains).  Golden caster sugar is less refined than the white stuff – it’s lovely (if a bit more expensive) and gives a subtle hint of toffee too.

Temperatures

Room temperature eggs will whip better and incorporate more air into your mix, as will softened (not melted) butter. Take everything out of the fridge a good hour before you intend to start baking. If you need to bring your butter up to room temperature quickly, cut it into squares and plop it into some tepid (not warm) water. It’ll soon soften up.

Measuring

The easiest way to make a plain sponge cake is to just weigh your eggs in the shells (this sort of cake is also called a pound cake as it used to contain a pound of each ingredient – how anyone ever ate a cake that big, I’ll never know).  To make an average sized cake, use three eggs.  Whatever the eggs weigh will be the measurement you use for the butter, flour and sugar too. If you want to make it a chocolate cake, take out 1 tablespoon of the flour and replace it with cocoa powder (not hot chocolate powder – that’s different).  Giving it all a quick sieve will remove any lumps and incorporate more air.

Mixing

Here we go with the basic method, then…

  1. First weigh out all your ingredients. It’s easiest to crack the eggs into a separate bowl after you’ve weighed them. You never know when you’re going to get a bit of shell dropping into your cake mix.  So say your eggs weigh.. 180g. Weigh out the same amount of butter, flour and caster sugar.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together. You want it really light and fluffy, which is a sign that there is lots of air incorporated, so keep going until it’s considerably lighter in colour. You can do this in a food mixer, or just with a wooden spoon.
  3. Now start to add in your eggs… dribble them in a bit at a time giving the mixture a good beat in between each dribble. Don’t worry too much if it starts to look a bit curdly. You can always add a spoonful of flour to bring it back to a creamy consistency.  If you’re adding liquid (ie vanilla essence or lemon juice), now is the time.
  4. Once all the eggs are mixed in, just fold in the sifted flour (and cocoa if you’re using it). Remember just to give it the minimum amount of folding. You’re not making bread so you don’t want to work the gluten too much and lose the lightness.  Next, spoon the mixture into a prepared cake tin.

Cake tins

Any old medium sized cake tin will do.  If you use three eggs you’ll find that this amount of mixture is perfect for two 22cm tins (perfect for sandwiching together with cream or jam), or one 26cm tin (remember it’s the depth of the cake mix not the size of the tin that governs how long it will take to cook).  Cake tins are measured by their diameter (the straight measurement from one side to the other, measured through the middle).  I have Bake-o-glide cut ready to fit my favourite tins, but baking parchment is fine too. For a circle, just take a square of parchment bigger than your tin, fold it in half, then keep folding the outsides in (keeping one point which will be the middle of your circle) again until you’ve got a triangle. Hold the triangle point roughly where the middle of the tin is, then nick the end off at the outside edge of the tin. When you unfold it you’ll have a rough circle.  You can also just brush the surface with butter, then add a tbsp of flour and shake it all around the tin, tapping out the excess.  Smooth over the surface but don’t worry too much.

003

Baking

I use the middle of my oven and as it cooks slightly unevenly, I turn the cake around half way through cooking. A cake this large will take anything from 30 – 45 minutes at 180/gas 4 – depending on how wide/deep your tin is.  Smaller ones will take less time. Check them after 20 minutes.

If you think your cake looks done, gently touch the top of the cake – if there’s any wobble, or it feels really soft and leaves a dent – leave it a bit longer. You can check by popping a knife into the middle – if it comes out clean, it’s done.

006

Leave your cake to cool on a rack, then you can ice, decorate or fill as you fancy.

Let’s take a minute here though – LOOK! YOU BAKED A CAKE!

Ganache

If you want to make ganache to fill or cover your cake, just melt half a large bar of chocolate (about 100g) in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (just a couple of inches of water – you don’t want it to touch the bowl). When it’s melted, just whisk in enough double cream to get a nice spreading consistency. If you chill it down now, you can whip it go make it more airy too. Up to you.

Buttercream

Buttercream’s really easy to remember as it’s just double icing sugar to butter. Add a splosh of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and whisk until light and fluffy. It makes great piped swirly things on cupcakes too.

So what’s next?

Once you’ve got to grips with making cakes you can start tweaking the recipe a little – maybe adding vanilla…dried fruit… lemon zest… chocolate chips or some chopped nuts… You can make the  two smaller sponges (reduce the cooking time) and sandwich them together with jam or cream, or layer them up with some yummy ganache or buttercream… the sky’s the limit! For an easy pudding, try using brown sugar, for a more toffeeish flavour, and adding chopped dates.  Serve warm with a quick toffee sauce made by melting  100g each of butter and brown sugar, then adding about 100ml of cream and stirring and bubbling until you have a lovely sauce.

If you’ve liked this post, feel free to try some of my other step by step guides, including:

How to make chocolate brownies

How to make a chicken pie

Step by step spiced orange hot cross buns

Sticky gooey plumptious scrumptious soft iced buns

Step by step pancakes

An  ‘heirloom’ personalised Christmas Cake recipe

Step by step chicken stock

Easy step by step bread, and how to knead

How to roast a chicken

 

107 replies
  1. Sana Wahid
    Sana Wahid says:

    mum thank u vry much ,truely u really a mother indeed thanku u l uv u. l will try ur step and how l wish u re close to akwa lbom l could ve luv to come nd learn frm u :-)

    Reply
  2. Alice Rice
    Alice Rice says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. This is now the only one I use and I cannot believe how easy it is to just add in some extra ingredients to really make your cakes come alive.

    Have recommended your website to many of my friends in need of some baking skills!

    Reply
  3. lara
    lara says:

    hi mum
    thanks for this recipe i found it really easy the other recipes that i have followed did not make any sense you make my life so easier by the way do you have any other recipes because i would love to bake more thank you so much see you later

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hey Lara

      Ah that’s lovely of you, thank you! Yes indeed, if you click on recipes at the top, you can go down to cakes and biscuits – loads of inspiration there xx

      Reply
  4. Nicola
    Nicola says:

    Thank you so much for the fabulous recipe! First time I have baked a cake from scratch and it is fantastic! Will defo be looking at your other recipes for more ideas!!

    Reply
    • Hamed
      Hamed says:

      Hello Mum
      My english tracher has assigned home work in the class ” how we bake a cake”
      Then I google it and your website was the first that really stands out.
      And I can see many individuals opining their possitive idea about your website.
      To put in a nutshell I pen down saying that your website is phenomenal even for english class lectures in tandem with learning recipes.
      Many thanks,
      Hamed

      Reply
  5. jumoke
    jumoke says:

    Tanks mum I appreciate u mama,mum I bake very well before now bt can I tied ur style nd gave me a vey good result,bt mum pls can u send me tips on a very good chocolate wedding cake nd strawberry cake plszzz mum I know it too much to ask

    Reply
  6. jairite
    jairite says:

    mum tnk u vry much ,truely u really a mother indeed tnk u l uv u. l will try ur step and how l wish u re close to akwa lbom l could ve luv to come nd learn frm u

    Reply
  7. Kaefaa
    Kaefaa says:

    Yaaghaaa!!! Fenks ma mums birthday is heavingly loading jan; 17, so i gast to bake for her. Wooo fenks mum for the lesson

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Hi Glory

      Oh no! It’s difficult to say really as it could be a number of things, but as long as all the ingredients were put in correctly, it sounds like an oven problem – maybe the oven was too hot or the cake was left in for too long?

      When you test the cake you should be able to push it gently with your fingers and it should feel soft and springy – you can also pop the point of a knife into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is ready.

      Hope this helps :)

      Reply
  8. Olalekan
    Olalekan says:

    Thanks for this piece ma, its high time i started baking for my girlfriend. I love cooking generally but baking will crown it all

    Reply
  9. Halima
    Halima says:

    Have never baked my entire life but wish to bake for my daughter’s birthday I’m two weeks time,pray I get it right. Thanks for sharing this piece with us.

    Reply
  10. dorice
    dorice says:

    i am in Tanzania, i real thanks for teaching me how to make a cake it is so simple than the way i was thinking before. i wish i could try to make for my husband birthday. wish me the best of luck Mum!!!!

    Reply
  11. naomi
    naomi says:

    wahoooo i lvu dis. Am suppose to take a simenar on cake baking i just needed sumtin presides iand i jus got dat. Tnk alot english mum

    Reply
  12. Thinguri
    Thinguri says:

    Your recipe is soo on point.I used to bake for the first time and the cake was as good as a professional’s
    Thank you!!

    Reply
  13. Priyanka Mandal
    Priyanka Mandal says:

    Thankx a lot mum.im frm India and like many Indian I am not good with baking cakes.Thankx for your awesome , easy, beautiful methods which I will remember all of my life. love you. I will bake it today , Hihihihiiiiiii wish me luck
    mum.

    Reply
  14. sreenivasan
    sreenivasan says:

    Your cake recipe is excellent. I wanted to send it to my son who is in Antarctica inthrough mail. But since cut and paste is disabled am not able to do. Can you send it to my e-mail. I shall be highly obliged. Due to space constraints, my son is not able to access your site.
    Regards
    Sreenivasan

    Reply
  15. john cyril abucejo
    john cyril abucejo says:

    I do not have any background for baking honestly..
    once i read this site, i was able to bake pantries in a very simple and easy techmique…thank u easy mum…..

    Reply
  16. Dashy
    Dashy says:

    One word, amazing…….. I have never baked a cake. Now even I can bake a cake. Simple technique, excellent results. I have started varying the technique and the results are still amazing…. Thank you

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Aw thanks Lucy! The toffee sauce is a bit of a staple in our house – it goes on ice cream (and… shhh… occasionally on stale cakes – we just microwave them a bit!) x

      Reply
  17. Mummy's Blog
    Mummy's Blog says:

    Well done. I always get impressed with an english gal that can cook. Maybe we can exchange and make french english cooking alliance :) only that I am not french but I do like french style cake.

    Reply
  18. barry
    barry says:

    just had the craziest food celebrity encountered tv radio packed two months that saw me pack in the day job… just set up on underpressure1982.blogspot.com looking for help advice in getting started up want to chart my journey via blogging

    much love

    Reply
  19. Gemma
    Gemma says:

    I should try it!
    I have my own sponge cake recipe that always work and my kids love; more or less what you have posted but I add milk!
    And I make the filling…whipping Nesquick and crème fraîche.
    Two variations from my ‘countries':
    From Spain, add a spoon of olive oil.(very moist!)
    From Hungary a fake Esterházy with grounded almonds and the filling, a custard creme with grounded almonds again.
    And always cut them in three or more layers!
    I know I know I should learn to cook properly…

    Reply
    • English Mum
      English Mum says:

      Sounds like you can do it just fine! I also make a rapeseed oil cake with lemon and ground almonds. One of my faves. And the custard creme with almonds sounds gorgeous x

      Reply
      • Gemma
        Gemma says:

        The problem with the Esterházy is to find a proper recipe as they say it’s secret, so I try and try until I find the flavor I’m looking for, the original creme is delicious. If you ever go to Budapest, tell me, the best cake shops are usually off the tourist circuit.

        Reply
  20. spudballoo
    spudballoo says:

    Ooooh you are CLEVER! This is so helpful. I will come back to this when my sh*t oven is binned and my lovely new cooker in my lovely new kitchen is installed. I’ve currently got a 1980s fan assisted jobbie that burns everything on the outside and leaves it raw in the middle. I’m cack handed enough at baking withouth having to wrestle with the Oven of Doom.

    My mother was an HE teacher. You would never, ever know.

    Reply
  21. spudballoo
    spudballoo says:

    Ooooh you are CLEVER! This is so helpful. I will come back to this when my sh*t oven is binned and my lovely new cooker in my lovely new kitchen is installed. I’ve currently got a 1980s fan assisted jobbie that burns everything on the outside and leaves it raw in the middle. I’m cack handed enough at baking withouth having to wrestle with the Oven of Doom.

    My mother was an HE teacher. You would never, ever know.

    Reply
  22. DeliciousNessy
    DeliciousNessy says:

    I’m going to bake hubby a Father’s Day cake me thinks. I used to bake all the time and now I just don’t seem to get to it. (I blame the really crap kitchen in current house) moving soon though so maybe that will make a difference.
    Lovely recipe! I also think that mascarpone icing is really yummy. Mmmmmmmmm!

    Reply
  23. english grandma
    english grandma says:

    I’m continually amazed by all your cooking know-how [it just has to be Grandma Maudie’s genes handed down – your Dad always said I couldn’t cook!].

    Yummy recipe – one for the next church fete methinks [perhaps even rustled up in a free half-hour by the daughter?].

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] come out of the oven, you can drizzle them with chocolate, stack them and sandwich them with ganache… whatever you like.  If you’re feeling ultra-decadent, you can even whip up a cookie […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>