Cake mixing methods: How to get the results you want

The Complete Guide: Cakes & Cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

There are so many ways to mix up cake batter. Maybe you’ve always wondered why the many methods; maybe you never thought about it until now. But each technique is based on specific ingredients, and results in a different final product: from a light as air cake, to one that’s sturdy enough to hold up in wedding tiers.

Common ways you might see cake mixing methods written in a recipe:

“Cream the butter and sugar together.”

“Combine dry ingredients. Add butter and mix until it resembles sand.”

“Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir together.”

Which way is “best”?

Learn the top cake mixing methods and how they bake up in your favorite recipes. Click To Tweet

Cake mixing methods

We’ve recently baked cakes using six of the top mixing methods. Read on to see just how different cake results can be, depending on the steps in which the batter is blended.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#1 Blended

Example: King Arthur’s Carrot Cake

Cakes made with this method: Very moist; a great candidate for adding mix-ins.

Basically stir together and go, the blended method is the easiest of all cake-prep types. Blended cakes are typically made with oil rather than butter, since oil is much more easily incorporated with the rest of the ingredients.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Blended cake batter tends to be more liquid than most; oftentimes the recipe will call to “pour” the batter into the pans, rather than scoop.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#2: Creaming

Example: Lemon Bliss Cake

Cakes made with this method: Sturdy, yet soft textured. Easy to slice and stack in layers; also ideal for Bundt pans.

This cake mixing method is a classic, and the most common.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

The creaming method starts with beating the butter and sugar together until they’re lightened in color and fluffy.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Eggs are beaten in one at a time.

The creaming method then adds the dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter mixture.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

The usual method is a third of the flour, half the milk, a third of the flour, the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour; it’s helpful to scrape the bowl midway through this process.

Adding flour and liquids alternately ensures all the liquid (usually milk) will be thoroughly absorbed into the batter. If there’s a high amount of butter or other fat in the batter, it’s hard to get the liquid totally mixed in; the alternating technique helps reduce the percentage of fat overall (by adding some flour first). It also facilitates the formation of gluten, which binds the batter together.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#3: Foam

Example: Traditional Angel Food Cake

Cakes made with this method: Extremely light and airy. This high-rising, somewhat “resilient” cake slices best with a serrated knife or pronged angel food cutter.

The leanest cake in the bunch, foam cakes contain little to no fat: i.e. no butter or shortening, and no egg yolks.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Like some sponge cakes, foam cakes contain no leavening, depending on air whipped into the egg whites for structure. The whites are whipped into stiff peaks, usually with cream of tartar added to help with stability and volume.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Flour is carefully folded in, leaving as much air in the batter as possible. Most choose to fold in the flour with a spatula, but we’ve found that using the whisk attachment (the one that just moments before whipped up those whites) incorporates it easily and gently.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#4: Paste

Example: Golden Vanilla Cake

Cakes made with this method: Tighter textured, though still moist. A great candidate for tiers. The most sturdy of the cakes; slices with minimal crumbs.

This moist and tender (yet sturdy) cake is an American favorite. Its slightly denser crumb makes it perfect for frosting as a layer cake.

Making a cake using the paste method (also sometimes called “reverse creaming”) sounds complicated, but it’s actually one of the most simple techniques of the bunch.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Soft butter and room-temperature liquids are beaten into the dry ingredients until the texture is “sandy.” The butter-coated flour slows the formation of gluten (which starts once flour comes in contact with liquid), and results in a slightly more sturdy cake that still offers soft texture.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Once the batter reaches that crumbly, sand-like consistency, milk and any flavors are added. Then eggs are mixed in one by one.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

The batter, though pourable, is often thicker than other cake batters.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#5: Sponge

Example: Chef Zeb’s Hot Milk Cake

Cakes made with this method: Light and airy, with soft texture. Tend to compress slightly when stacked over two layers high.

Mildly sweet, sponge cakes are high-rising and light as air, with the perfect degree of moistness.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Sponge cakes can be made different ways. One way is beating egg yolks and sugar (or whole eggs and sugar) until a very thick foam-like batter is created. The batter is pale yellow in color, and falls off the beater in ribbons. Flour is then gently folded in.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Another way whips the egg whites separately from the yolks until soft peaks form. The yolk/sugar mixture is beaten until light, flour is mixed in, and then egg whites are gently folded into that mixture.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Either way the eggs are prepared, they provide leavening and loft for the sponge cake. This method dates back to before the widespread use of baking soda or powder, when trapped air was a cake’s only leavening.

The batter for sponge cake is very light, airy, and almost soup-like in consistency. Though it may be alarming, this is totally normal. It will bake up into the moist, delicious cake that we know as sponge.

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

Cake Mixing Methods via @kingarthurflour

#6: Gluten-free

Example: Strawberry Almond Flour Cake

Gluten-free cakes can be made any number of ways and with great success, much like their wheat-y counterparts. As with all recipes, be sure to read the directions carefully before starting.

All puns intended, these methods really take the cake. Each one will create a totally different finished baked good – all equally delicious. Tell us, which of these cake-mixing methods do you usually use?

Want to take a deeper dive into cake baking? See our complete guide to cake and cupcakes.

Gwen Adams
About

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...

comments

  1. sandy

    Wow. What great information. It is clear that a lot of work went into putting this post together. I already learned so much and am sure I will refer back to this again and again. A real classic. The photos are great too. Excellent!

    Reply
  2. Tracey Gehring

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s extremely helpful and has me wanting to try out all the methods as soon as I can! lol! It’s especially helpful to me, because for some reason, the only nemesis in baking I have, seems to be any from-scratch cake! I feel a lot more confident just having this information, thank you again! (although, I have to say that every cake recipe I’ve made from KAF has turned out perfectly, and, has made me look like a cake making star!)

    Reply
    1. Gwen Adams , post author

      Hi Zorra,

      Genoise cakes are indeed in the sponge family. With a genoise, melted or clarified butter is used to enrich the batter. Typically, this style of cake also involves combining whole eggs together with sugar and whisking rapidly over a bowl of warm water until light and foamy. This makes the final cake a bit richer than a regular sponge.

  3. Lee

    Very educational, thanks! I have made many of these different methods, and never gave it much thought. I have just been looking at different recipes recently, trying to combine several different ones in order to use up buttermilk I had, and was very confused trying to figure out which were compatible ones that I could combine different elements and not ruin the cake. This really helps, now I know combining from the same “family” of methods at least should work with minimal risk.

    Reply
  4. Pat Wright

    I have been watching videos of Mary Berry. She uses the all in one method. She puts her eggs in first. Can you explain this to me.

    Reply
    1. Gwen Adams , post author

      Hi Pat,

      I’d say this is just a preference on Mary’s part. It’s possible that the eggs would incorporate a little quicker if they were at the bottom of the bowl, but the process of the stir together method would be the same. Happy baking!

  5. Kathy

    Any tips for gluten free cakes? Have been asked to make one for a friend but I’m not gluten intolerant. If I use the Measure to Measure blend do I skip the baking powder from the recipe?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for asking, Kathy. One of the best parts about using Measure for Measure is that you don’t have to change anything else in the cake recipe–simply use Measure for Measure instead of the all-purpose or cake flour that’s called for. You will need to add all the other ingredients (like baking powder) in the recipe. You don’t need to worry about over-mixing though, since there’s no gluten that can develop and make your cake tough. On the contrary, sometimes a little extra stirring with this flour blend benefits the structure of your baked goods. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  6. Red Penney

    I love baking (and sharing) cake and have used all the methods you described in your post. Do I have a favorite to make? Wow, that’s a hard question; but I would guess my favorite must be foam cakes – as I LOVE ANGEL FOOD! However, in reality I mostly make cakes using the creaming and/or paste methods – they seem to be a bit easier to decorate and made to look fancy/special. I appreciate the effort you put into this post helping us understand the various techniques and the differences each one brings to the table. Thanks Gwen (and King Arthur) for all your baking guidance!

    Reply
    1. Janice O.

      Thank you for your post. It is a good source of information. I do a lot of baking, especially around the holidays, preparing different types of batter for my cakes and other creations. I always enjoy reading and understanding the science behind the recipes. It makes me a more confident baker.

      Thanks again.

  7. C-Marie

    Wonderful information and wonderfully illustrated and explained.
    Thank you so very much!! God bless, C-Marie

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alice, we don’t currently have an option that will do that automatically for you, but you can certainly highlight the text you’d like to copy and paste it into a document before printing. This will allow you to include only the parts you want and reformat to a size that works for you. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  8. rachiti

    Love this type of post. I favorite them so I can refer to them again & again. Please keep making this type of reference post. They’re incredibly helpful.

    Reply

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