Classic Cake Recipes

Whether it's a birthday or some other special occasion, baking a cake from scratch is a great way to show that special someone how much you care. Even if making a cake can be as simple as mixing everything in a bowl and baking it, you really are going above and beyond when you bake your own cake with fresh ingredients because you're putting into the mixture your love, time, and appreciation for others.

Baking can be fun, relaxing, and a great way to spend time with your spouse or your kids. It also teaches the value of homemade food, because even if it's a treat, it will be lightyears more healthy than store-bought confections.

We bring you the five classic cakes that you can master and then alter with additional ingredients or toppings.

  • 01 of 05

    Sponge Cake

    Sponge cake recipe

    Sponge cake is one of the simplest cakes to make because there's no baking powder or baking soda involved in making it rise. Instead, sponge cake is leavened by whisking air into the eggs. In order to achieve the fluffy and airy texture, you need to whip the warm eggs for 10 to 15 minutes, which will be easier if you have a standing mixer, although a hand mixer works fine. Remember to grease and flour your pans so your airy cake can hold on to something while it rises.

    Prep and cook in 45 minutes. Then brush the cooled cake with simple syrup and top with whipped cream, fresh fruit and a dusting of powdered sugar for a simple, elegant, and classic slice of goodness.

  • 02 of 05

    Chocolate Cake

    Easy Chocolate Cake

    The Spruce

    Our classic chocolate cake is rich, moist, and so chocolatey. For this recipe, you need simple ingredients that are easy to find, but be sure to have good quality eggs and milk, as well as fresh baking soda and baking powder. If you've had them for over 6 months, it's time to buy fresh ones for better results when you bake.

    A simple base of dark cocoa, flour, eggs, milk, and water is combined with vanilla extract, salt, and vegetable oil to make a moist and fluffy cake in just 45 minutes. Brush the cooled cake with simple syrup and top with whipped cream, fresh fruit and a dusting of powdered sugar. If you need a more elegant presentation, let the cakes cool off and make a buttercream chocolate icing to use between the cakes and as the external icing. Decorate with chocolate shavings and fresh berries.

  • 03 of 05

    Carrot Cake

    Carrot cake
    Luzia Ellert / Getty Images

    One of the most beloved recipes around the world, carrot cake has many variations depending on the culture it comes from, taking on different spices and textures. But what remains the same is the delicious carrot flavor and lovely orange hue of shredded carrots, which also help ensure that the cake is nice and moist while giving it a pleasantly dense consistency.

    Topped with a rich, tangy cream cheese frosting, this classic cake is ready in a little over 1 hour and uses pineapple, walnuts, and pecans to achieve an amazing chewiness.

  • 04 of 05

    Red Velvet Cake

    Red velvet cake with milk
    Lew Robertson / Getty Images

    Red velvet cake is made with cocoa powder along with buttermilk and vinegar, which provides extra rising power as well as flavor. The deep red color comes from red food coloring – you should use a 1/4 cup to really get the color right. It might seem like a lot, but it's the only way to make it that notorious red shade. If food allergies to dyes are a concern, buy pomegranate powder or use beet food coloring to achieve the desired effect. Natural food coloring is easily found in baking stores.

    Red velvet cake is as striking visually as it is delicious. A sweet cream cheese frosting is the perfect combination for this classic dessert. Prep and bake in 45 minutes.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Pound Cake

    Homemade Pound cake
    MelindaChan / Getty Images

    Pound cake is a rich, dense, buttery cake that got its name because it originally was made with a pound each of butter, flour, eggs, and sugar. The proportions are the same in this recipe, but we only use a half-pound of each. This basic cake is a must in your culinary repertoire because you can add citrus zest, spices, nuts, dried fruits, or seeds to make your own version.

    Because of its density, the cake needs 1.5 hours in the oven to be completely cooked and yet still moist. Eat it warm, or let it cool completely before dusting it in powdered sugar.

Using Fresh Ingredients

Failure in baking comes from using stale ingredients or eggs that aren't fresh. Next time you bake keep in mind the following tips:

  • If it's been in your pantry for more than six months, most likely it's stale. That goes for baking powder and baking soda, too.
  • Always check your flour before using and freeze it before storing in a cool dark place.
  • Check the freshness of your eggs and always use the freshest you can buy.
  • Use full-fat unsalted dairy butter for best results, and learn about how to substitute non-dairy alternatives if you have dietary restrictions. The same goes for fresh whole milk and non-dairy milk alternatives.
  • Use clean and dry cake pans. Residual crumbs or moisture can ruin your cake, so be thorough when washing them after baking and checking before using again.