Yes, there is more than one way to mix a cake, and depending on the recipe and the resulting cake, it could be firm and dense, light and airy, or coarse and crumbly. Choosing the right recipe will enable you to choose the right cake for the right dessert. For example, a Tres Leches dessert needs a firm cake to absorb all the liquid the recipe calls for adding to the cake. Therefore, a very light and airy cake would fall apart if used with the dessert.
There are six basic methods for two types of cakes. The first types of cakes are the ones made with a high amount of fat, like pound cakes and basic butter yellow cakes. The second type of cakes are those that are low in fat or those that contain an egg-based foam, such as angel food cakes, genoise, and chiffon cakes. My trusty red-bound 1985 version of Professional Baking from cooking school goes into greater detail, but here are the basic methods.
The Six Different Cake Mixing Methods
- This is the most common of the methods. The creaming method alternately adds the dry and liquid ingredients to the fat mixture. This ensures all the liquid will be absorbed into the batter as if there is a high amount of butter or shortening, the liquid has a natural tendency to separate and the flour will help bind it into the batter.
- This method is great for cakes with a large amount of sugar and the resulting batter is generally thinner than other types. The dry ingredients are mixed with the fat, then the liquid is added in parts. Low speed is always used in the procedure, and frequent scraping is necessary.
- This produces a finely grained cake. The flour and fat ingredients are mixed until smooth, and the sugar and eggs are whipped together. Then the two different mixtures are incorporated, and the liquid is added at the end.
- Sponge cakes use egg yolks and or whole eggs that are whipped with sugar until a very thick foam is created. Heating the eggs or yolks with the sugar will result in greater volume. A typical genoise cake will use this method, and the egg foams are the typically the only leavening.
- As the name implies, this is the method for creating angel food cakes. These cakes use no fat, and are leavened with whipped egg whites.
- Chiffon-style cakes can use an egg white foam, but are not fat-free, and some recipes call for additional eggs or yolks inside the batter. Additional melted butter or a vegetable oil is added to the mix for richness, and the leavening isn't solely relied upon by the egg foams; they do contain chemical leavenings such as baking powder.
Image of white cake courtesy Morguefile.