Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So I've just recently started baking and I've tried a bunch of cakes using the basic combination of the following ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted butter , softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour

They're coming out ok but are not really "light and airy", a bit too "dense" compared to a cake made by a pro. I've done some reading and I think I'm maybe not working the butter and sugar (eggs too?) for long enough and/or working the flour in too much.

Can anyone tell me how to make the perfect light and airy cake?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

What you are making is a pound cake. Or maybe a sponge cake, depends on the order of mixing the ingredients. Of the two, the sponge cake is somewhat lighter, so if you have been making pound cake (cream butter and sugar, add eggs, then flour), you can switch to sponge (foam eggs and sugar, add flour and fat). But both are hearty homemade cakes, they are supposed to be dense.

The iced cakes you get in a bakery are much lighter, because they use a different type of layer. Most types of cake are lighter than pound and sponge cakes. Try making genoise, chiffon, or angel food cake layers, they are all light. And yes, using cake flour will help too, or replacing part of the flour in the recipe with pure starch (usually cornstarch or potato starch, you can also use wheat starch if you can get it. Tapioca or arrowroot aren't that well suited). For a real "pro" taste, also throw in some lecithine, it makes the mouthfeel softer and smoother - but if you don't feel like hunting around for lecithine, don't bother, a good homemade cake doesn't really need it, I only mentioned it because you asked about "cake made by a pro".

share|improve this answer
add comment

You are essentially correct. It is important to beat plenty of air into the butter/sugar/egg mixture initially, but you should mix in the flour until just incorporated to avoid over-developing the gluten, which will result in a dense cake.

You can also try using cake flour, a low-protein white flour that helps the cake stay light.

share|improve this answer
    
Definitely the issue is using the wrong flour. Self-raising flour = bready baked goods. Cake flour with less gluten will be much more airy. –  Jay Feb 17 '12 at 15:18
1  
self-raising flour isn't that much more gluten-rich. It's just AP with bicarb and salt. You can still get light cakes with SR flour if you don't overwork it. –  ElendilTheTall Feb 17 '12 at 16:35
add comment

The self-raising flour could be part of the problem. Chemical leavening can lose its power over time, especially if exposed to humidity. Consider using cake flour (which may make for a softer crumb, too) and adding your own baking powder. This lets you ensure that the leavening is fresh, and also lets you control the amount.

Also, if you really want light and airy, mix up an angel food cake. It's pretty much the ultimate in light and airy as cakes go, and very easy to make.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.