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How to Make a Cake from Scratch That Looks Like It's From a Bakery

 Light, fluffy, and covered in frosting—whether it's a classic vanilla cake or something for chocolate lovers, a deliciously moist cake is a staple centerpiece for any special occasion. Many of our best cake recipes start with the same method: beating butter or shortening with sugar until it's fluffy. These cakes are sometimes called creamed cakes, because the fat and sugar are creamed together. Using our Test Kitchen's tried and true methods, we'll teach you how to make a homemade cake that's so good everyone will think you bought it from a fancy bakery. While it takes a bit of time, you're about to learn that none of these steps for making a cake are actually very difficult.


How to Bake a Cake

First you'll have to choose a recipe. You can keep it simple with a yellow cake (pictured above), or you can choose a slightly showier recipe, like a chocolate devil's food cake or a vibrant red velvet cake.If you're not a fan of the traditional frostings, try a German chocolate cake. We also have a few birthday cake recipes for celebratory occasions. The possibilities are almost endless, and these directions will help you make them all, but angel foodpound cakessponge cakes, and chiffon cakes require different methods, so read up on those separately.


Step 1: Prepare Baking Pans

No one wants a cake to stick to the pan, so it's important to prep your pans before pouring in the batter. With the exception of angel food and chiffon cakes, most recipes call for greasing and flouring the pan or lining the pan with waxed or parchment paper.


As for selecting the right type of baking pan to use, our Test Kitchen prefers shiny pans, which absorb less heat and produce a golden crust. Pans with a dark or dull finish absorb more heat and may burn your crust, so if you're using one of these, reduce your oven temperature by 25°F and check on the cake 3-5 minutes earlier than the recipe suggests.


Step 2: Allow Ingredients to Reach Room Temperature

Many recipes require cake ingredients, such as eggs and butter, to stand at room temperature. This allows the butter to blend easily with other ingredients, and the eggs will yield a higher cake volume. (For food safety reasons, don't leave the eggs at room temperature for more time than specified in the recipe.)


Test Kitchen Tip: Never use melted butter when softened butter is called for. It will ruin the cake's texture.


Step 3: Preheat the Oven

When a cake bakes too quickly, it can develop tunnels and cracks; too slowly, and it can be coarse. Allow your oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes, and use an oven thermometer to be sure it's reached the proper temperature. If you're using dark cake pans, you'll want to reduce the oven temperature called for in your recipe by 25°F.


Step 4: Stir Together Dry Ingredients

Dry ingredients usually include flour, baking powder and/or baking soda, and salt. Rather than adding each dry ingredient individually to the batter, whisk them together in a bowl beforehand. That way you'll know the ingredients will be equally distributed throughout the batter.


Step 5: Combine the Butter and Sugar

Wondering how to make a cake with a light, airy crumb? Creaming butter and sugar is the most important step. Here's how:


  • Using an electric mixer (Target) on medium to high speed, beat the butter for 30 seconds. Generally, a stand mixer requires a medium speed for this step, but a hand mixer requires a higher speed.
  • Add the sugar (and vanilla if the recipe calls for it) and beat the mixture on medium speed until it is combined and has a light, fluffy texture. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. (Do not cut this short.) Scrape the bowl occasionally while beating. Tiny bubbles will be created as the butter and sugar are combined, which will give your cake that light, fluffy texture.


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