June 1, 2013 by Shweta D'souza
So many cakes, yet so little time to bake them all! (But you can have fun trying.)
Even with all the various cake recipes available, there are two basic cake types: butter cakes and foam cakes.
Butter cakes: Melt in your mouth butter cakes are probably the most popular type of cake. Classic American cakes typically consist of two layers of a buttery cake that are filled covered with a sweet frosting. Butter cakes contain some form of fat, usually butter, margarine, oil, or shortening. Early cakes were leavened only by the air beaten into the butter and eggs during the mixing process. Most cakes today include some sort of leaveners such as baking powder or baking soda, along with proper mixing techniques, to produce a lighter textured cake.
Pound Cake, along with white and yellow cake, fruit cake and coffee cake are all variations of butter cakes. Butter cake recipes are easily doubled if you have extra baking pans, and any butter cake recipe can be baked as cupcakes.
In many recipes the first step in making butter cakes is mixing the sugar and fat together in a process called creaming. The recipe will normally state something similar to cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Creaming incorporates tiny air bubbles into the butter and sugar which expand during baking to help the cake rise. Next eggs and flavorings are beaten in. Eggs provide moisture, flavor, and color along with helping to aerate the batter. Finally the dry ingredients and liquids are added to finish the batter.
Instead of creaming, some cake recipes will use a one bowl method which means all the ingredients including the sugar and butter are simply mixed together in one easy step. These cakes usually have less volume than cakes using the creaming method; therefore they may be heavier and denser, but very delicious.
European cakes are normally referred to as tortes, and often have more layers and complex elements, such as a combination of a sponge cake, meringue, filling, and jam.
Foam cakes: Foam cakes and sponge cakes are delicate cakes made with little or no fat such as butter, oil, or shortening, making them lighter and airier than butter cakes. Most foam cakes recipes have no little or no chemical leaveners such as baking powder or baking soda; instead they depend on a large amount of either whole or separated eggs that are whipped and filled with air bubbles to providing the leavening ingredient to make the cake rise during baking. Because foam cakes have a high proportion of eggs to flour they have a light and spongy texture not found in butter cakes.
The basic types of foam cakes are Angel food, chiffon, Genoise, and sponge cakes that have eggs separated. Angel food cake contains no fat and is made with only egg whites along with plenty of sugar to provide an extra sweet cake that is moist and tender. chiffon cakes are made with oil and separated eggs; the oil and egg yolk produce a tender crumb, and beaten egg whites along with a small amount of chemical leaveners produces the light and airy rise.
Genoise is a classic European cake; the eggs are heated with sugar then beaten until thick and lastly combined with flour. Usually the egg yolks and egg whites are beaten separately then gently combined and folded in with the flour. Both Genoise and separated egg cakes may contain butter to provide a moister and more flavorful crumb.
Foam cakes such as Angel Food and Chiffon are moist enough to be served without a soaking syrup added. Classic Genoise and Biscuit Sponge cakes start off drier but with a sturdy structure, making them able to drink and hold lots of moisture. The extra moisture is added by sprinkling a soaking syrup onto each layer after they have cooled. Soaking syrup is simply sugar and water boiled together, and then a liquor, juice, or extract is added in a flavor that complements the cake.
Though it seems like our four subjects are quite similar, we’ll discuss their respective (and delicious) roles in pastry baking.
Typically the batter method in the U.S. is known as a butter or pound cake while in the U.K. it is known as Madeira cake or Victoria sponge cake. Using the foam method a cake may simply be known as a sponge cake or in the U.K. occasionally whisked sponge, these forms of cake are common in Europe especially in French patisserie.