This is very useful information for a beginner baker, and helps to you decide and understand the chemistry of bakery a little more. I won’t ramble too much but I’ll cover the basic techniques you can use when making your cakes, and it can be applied to most flavours, chocolate, fruit cakes etc. You get the picture, it’s useful to know.
Method 1: The Rubbing in Method.
This is quite a traditional method, and more often used in pastry-making, but can still very much be used in making cakes. This is the method where the fat is rubbed into the flour with the fingertips, much like when you make a crumble topping. This often makes for quite a delicate, crumbly textured cake. This method suits lighter vanilla sponges really well, but can be used for most types, it’s quite versatile.
Method 2: The Heating Method.
This is where you usually heat the fat in a pan with other liquids (such as golden syrup or milk), cooled and then added to the dry ingredients. It’s usually use for quite dense cakes, such as ginger and spiced cakes, but it can technically be used for most cakes. It makes for quite a heavy cake so avoid for lighter sponges.
Method 3: The Creaming Method.
This is the most popular of the methods, it’s used in most modern recipes, partly because it’s the quickest, partly because it’s the easiest list of instructions to follow, and partly because it’s the most versatile, I find at least. In this one you cream the fats and the sugars together to form a light and fluffy mix, usually then followed by the eggs one at a time and then the flour. This is usually used when making rich, springy sponges like Victoria Sponge, fruit cakes or Genoise.
Method 4: The Whipping Method.
This method is for short-lived cakes. you beat the egg yolks and sugar together until frothy, add in the other ingredients and then fold in whipped egg whites. This method is used for the lightest sponges, such a Swiss roll-style cakes. Although they are beautiful, delicate and airy sponges, they don’t keep very well, often going stale a day or so after.
So there’s a basic summary of the techniques of sponges! I suppose you can choose your form of technique with how you like your cake and your level of baking skills. If you aren’t a confident baker, Method 3 might suit you well, if you’re baking with children, Method 1 could get them involved with the ingredients and help them to learn about food.
Although most recipes can be adapted to your choice of method, it’s worth thinking about the properties of the ingredients you’re using. For instance, if you’re making a cake with bicarbonate of soda or baking powder and you use Method 2, you’ll have to work fast so you’re cake mixture doesn’t start reacting too soon, and helping you end up with a nice floaty cake, instead of a flat, rubbish one.