The How & Why




One of the hardest things to get right….if you don’t know the facts!

Baked products or CAKES…

can be divided into 2 GROUPS:

cakes containing FAT (butter/ margarine/ oil)
and cakes that contain NO fat

…with the exception of a CHIFFON cake, that includes characteristics of both fat & no fat cakes – it usually
contains more egg than a fat cake & the fat is in the form of oil.


1. SHORTENED CAKES (cakes containing fat)

There are 2 TYPES:

a POUND cake – this cake has no added leavening agents, as it uses air incorporated during the creaming of fat & sugar & in the beaten eggs. These cakes are compact & tender.

Nerd Alert:

Leavening agent:

Baking powder, Bicarbonate of soda and Water are all leaving agents that acts by forming a gas that expands during preparation and heating, creating air bubbles


To make something light and fluffy, by forming or incorporating a gas that expands during preparation in the product

and a STANDARD cake – this cake is leavened by carbon dioxide gas from baking powder or soda & buttermilk. These cakes are soft, light & have a velvety crumb that is elastic, the grain is fine & the crust will be thin & tender – yum!

INGREDIENTS: Sugar, Fat, Egg, Liquid, Leaving agent, Salt & Flour.
PROPORTIONS: Sugar 1 ½ cups, Fat ½ cup, Milk 1 cup, Cake flour 3 cups, Eggs 2, Salt ½ teaspoon, Baking powder 3 teaspoons, Flavouring 1 teaspoon.

WHY do we add these ingredients?? let’s see…

the SALT – is used for flavour

the LIQUID – milk, water or fruit juice dissolves the sugar & salt, and makes the reaction of baking powder/soda possible. It also scatters the fat & flour particles in the batter & hydrates the starch & protein in flour.

If we add too much liquid your cake will be moist with low volume – we don’t want this!

the SUGAR – adds sweetness & effects the texture & volume of the cake. Sugar allows the cake batter to move more freely, increasing the volume of the cake.

It is important to increase stirring when adding sugar so that gluten can be developed, if you don’t stir the cake it will fall inwards & have a coarse texture & thick cell walls – both the crust & crumb will be gummy and appear rough, sugary & too brown. This will be the same if there is too much sugar.

the EGG – the right amount of egg gives a larger volume cake with finer cells. Too much egg will give your cake a rubbery, tough crumb.

the FAT – the more fat the more tender the cake. Too much fat weakens the structure and decreases the volume of the cake

An EMULSIFIER can be used to distribute the fat in the batter more finely allowing the cake to carry more sugar than flour, it also allows the batter to flow more freely. Emulsifiers are usually added to shortening for baking (known as hydrogenated shortening).

the LEAVENING AGENTS – baking powder, baking soda, air entrapped in fat or eggs, and steam are all leavening agents.

If we add too little baking powder your cake will be heavy & compact. The right amount will increase the volume of the cake. If there is too much the cake falls inwards in the centre, has a coarse texture & harsh gummy crumb.

Baking soda is used in cakes that have an acidic ingredient (like sour milk, buttermilk or fruit juice)

the FLOUR – gives the cake its structure

If too little flour is added the cake will also fall in the centre, too much flour will give you a compact, dry cake.



There are 4 methods of mixing a batter…

the CONVENTIONAL METHOD – when you cream a fat while adding the sugar gradually & then beating in the eggs. The dry ingredients are then sifted together & added alternatively with the milk in 4 portions.

The egg whites can also be beaten separately & quickly folded in at the end to avoid loss of gas.

Flavouring can either be added to the milk, creamed mixture or when the dry & wet ingredients are being added.

the CONVENTIONAL SPONGE METHOD – usually used for batters with little fat. Half of the sugar is creamed with the fat & the other half with the eggs. The liquid & dry ingredients are then added alternatively to the sugar-fat mixture. The sugar-egg mixture is folded into the batter at the end.

This method is good when using oil as your shortening.

the MUFFIN METHOD – this is when the eggs, milk & melted fat are mixed together & then added all at once to the sifted dry ingredients.

This method is quick & simple & great for cakes that are to be eaten while still warm.

and the QUICK-MIX METHOD – this method uses more sugar & liquid & the fat must contain an emulsifying agent.

All ingredients must be at room temperature, and it is best to use an electric mixer.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, add all liquid, fat & flavouring

Beat for a period of time, add the beaten eggs and beat again.



Baking pans should be prepared before the cake batter is mixed which allows for the batter to be poured in immediately – if the batter stands longer than 15 minutes before pouring into the pan it can effect the volume and texture negatively.

Pans can be greased on the sides & bottom or the sides can be left dry.

Leaving the sides dry allows the cake to have a higher volume as it can cling to the sides while it rises.

Flouring the greased bottom also makes removing the cake easier but flouring must be very light, an alternative is to place a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom, it is then greased at the top where the cake batter would make contact.



Oven temperatures for shortened cakes are usually between 177°C to 191°C.

Higher temperatures may cause the cake to brown too much & cause a hump at the top of the cake.



Always cool the cake before removal from the pan – this means that the interior temperature of your cake should cool down to 60°C before removing (10 minutes should be sufficient), as the structure is then firm enough not to break or become damaged.


2. UNSHORTENED CAKES (cakes containing no fat)

There are 2 TYPES:

White angel food – made from egg whites (THE ultimate fat free cake). The cake is usually spongy & moist with a large volume.
and Yellow sponge – made from the whole egg



INGREDIENTS: Egg whites, Sugar, Cake flour, Cream of tartar and Salt
PROPORTIONS: 1 cup Egg whites, 1 ¼ cup Sugar, 1 cup Cake flour, 1 teaspoon Cream of tartar, ¼ teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Flavouring

WHY do we add these ingredients?? let’s see…

the egg WHITES – incorporate air when beaten to form a foam

the FLOUR – increases the strength of the cake crumb & structure

the SUGAR – stabilizes the egg white foam, it also adds sweetness & browning (use a fine granulated sugar)

the CREAM OF TARTAR – one of the most important ingredients in an angel cake – promotes colour, volume & tenderness.

the SALT – adds flavour



It is important NOT to OVERMIX the egg whites – as this will give you a dry cake with low volume. Always mix to soft peak stage. And make sure your eggs are at room temperature so that it easily beats to a foam with high volume.

Beat in the cream of tartar into the egg whites until a foam forms, then gradually beat in the sugar which helps to stabilize the cake.

Finally gently fold in the flour (the salt and flavouring can be folded in with the flour)



Pans should NOT be greased as the mixture needs to cling to the sides of the pan when rising.



Baking at 177°C results in a more tender & moist angel cake with a large volume.



After baking the pan is INVERTED until the cake has cooled



INGREDIENTS: eggs, sugar, cake flour, liquid and salt
PROPORTIONS: 6 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup cake flour, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon rind



Beat the eggs until foamy, add liquid & rind, & beat until mixture is stiff (very stiff). Gradually beat in the sugar. The flour & salt are sifted together & added 2 tablespoons at a time to the mixture & folded in.



Baking at 177°C for best results

for more information on baking have a look at How & Why: Batters & Doughs



Nothing beats the smell and texture of FRESHLY baked COOKIES :)

I can never get enough! If the jar is opened, the jar will be emptied – no lies! I will literally eat them all :)

…with such a general name it’s hard to think that there are actually 6 different TYPES of cookies:

1. ROLLED – which can be a crisp or soft cookie
2. DROPPED – which has a stiff batter
3. BAR – which is baked in a tin & then cut into squares or bars
4. PRESSED – which is a rich (as in lots of butter) stiff dough made using a cookie press
5. MOLDED – a stiff dough shaped into balls & sometimes flattened
6. REFRIGRATOR – a rich dough difficult to roll, usually sliced before baking



To get the best texture for cookies we use ALL PURPOSE flour as we don’t want a light crumb like a cake,

The amount of fat & sugar gives us a either a delicious CRISP or a SOFT & CHEWY cookie!

We don’t normally add a leavening agent as we want the cookie to be FLAT and not rise too much.



Cookie dough’s are easy & QUICK! The most common method is the conventional method:

the CONVENTIONAL METHOD – when you cream a fat while adding the sugar gradually & then beating in the eggs. The dry ingredients are then sifted together.
The egg whites can also be beaten separately & quickly folded in at the end.
Flavouring can either be added to the creamed mixture or when the dry are being added.



Baking SHEETS are better than cake tins because there are no high walls to interfere with the circulation of heat while baking.

I prefer to place my cookies on baking paper to prevent sticking after baking. The cookie sheet should also be COOL so that the butter doesn’t start to MELT!

always remember to SPACE the cookies depending on how much they will spread while baking – you don’t want them sticking together :)

Cookies will be lightly browned after baking & don’t worry if they are slightly moist when you take them out of the oven as they carry on cooking after removed, the later you remove them the more crispy they will be…



I like to cool my cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes before placing onto a cooling rack so that they don’t break if moist.

Happy Baking! :)

Megan Potgieter

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