How to Make a Traditional Cake

Chocolate cake

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This is the traditional method for making a cake from scratch, starting with creaming together butter and sugar, adding eggs, and alternately adding flour and liquid. Once you understand how to make a cake with this method, baking just about everything else will become much more simple.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 45 Minutes

Here's How

  1. Gather all your ingredients. Be sure the butter is softened (NOT melted) and that you have everything you need. Grease and flour the baking pan(s) or spray them with a nonstick baking spray containing flour.
  2. Combine butter or shortening in a large bowl along with sugar and beat until well combined and fluffy.
  3. Add flavorings and eggs, either one at a time or all at once, depending on the recipe. If adding one at a time, be sure to beat after each addition until the egg is completely combined with the batter.
  4. Measure the flour correctly. Sift together flour, baking powder or soda, and flavorings like cinnamon and cocoa powder. Prepare and measure the liquid ingredients.
  5. Alternately add the flour mixture and liquid to the batter. This means that you add a couple of spoonfuls of the flour mixture, then beat until the flour mixture is completely combined with the batter. Then add some of the liquid and beat until the liquid is completely combined. Do not just add flour and stir a bit, then add liquid and stir a bit. This process helps build the structure of the cake and if you skimp on the beating your cake's texture will be more coarse.
  6. Fold in any additional ingredients.
  7. Spoon and spread the batter into the cake pans. Using a scale will help ensure that your layer cakes are the same size because the same amount of batter will be in each pan.
  8. Bake the cake as directed in the recipe. Be sure to understand doneness tests and watch the cake carefully during the last ten minutes of baking time.
  9. Let the cake cool in its pan as the recipe directs. Most recipes call for about 10 minutes so the cake structure firms up, while the cake is still warm enough to release easily from the pan.
  10. Loosen the cake from the pan. I like to run a knife carefully around the edges and then shake the pans very gently until the cake moves freely in the pan.
  11. Then place a wire rack over the pan and invert it, carefully removing the pan. For a layer cake, invert it again so the top side is up while the cake cools for the best presentation.
  12. Fill and frost cake!


  1. Be sure the butter is softened, not melted, for best texture.
  2. Be sure you know how to measure, especially the flour. Adding too much flour will make the cake heavy and dry.
  3. Make sure your oven is calibrated properly.
  4. Read over the recipe carefully and make sure you understand each step before you start.

What You Need

  • Ingredients
  • A large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • An electric mixer or wire whisk
  • Sturdy cake pans
  • Hot pads or oven mitts
  • Cooling racks