I wanted to bake a Devil's cake yesterday. I got my recipe from a trusted book and I was surprised to see that the order of mixing was as follows: sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then mix eggs one by one. Then butter, then other ingredients.

This is contrary to the process I was used to i.e. butter & sugar, then eggs etc.

I was suprised to see that the eggs mixed very good and that, in the end, there was no sugar granules had remained. I was not suprised to see that the resulting cake was dense.

But it still baffles me. I guess there are different ways to mix a cake, depending on how you want your cake to be. Like, flour first -> dense cake, eggs first -> light cake, butter first -> standard cake.

While I can understand that beating the eggs first traps air, what the other methods do is not clear to me.

So, what result do the different mixing strategies give?

4 Answers 4


I'll try to break this down into components to make it simpler.

If a recipe starts by combining sugar and a solid fat (creaming), this incorporates small air bubbles into the batter which will be seed bubbles for the carbon dioxide produced by chemical leavening. Occasionally, this creaming is used alone for leavening (as in traditional poundcakes).

If the flour is added straight to this, it can help prevent the batter from curdling later if a colder ingredient is added. This also coats the flour with fat, preventing gluten development and making a very fine, tender crumb since the flour is "waterproofed" before other liquids are added.

If eggs are added to the fat and sugar, you can make an emulsified cake but the presence of water when the flour is added can make it slightly tougher.

Some recipes (usually with oil) require all the liquids to be mixed together, and then added to all the dry ingredients which have already been mixed. Again, this can sometimes lead to a tougher cake since the flour is exposed to water.

Another method is to mix all the dry ingredients, then incorporate the solid fat into that, then add liquids. This will usually lead to tender cakes as the flour has been coated with fat before liquids are added.

If a cake is leavened with whipped egg whites (or whole eggs), those will be added last to prevent the bubbles from being knocked out by excess stirring.

You pretty much always want the fat to be present when the flour is added though. As you saw in your recipe, adding liquid to the flour without the fat will allow too much gluten development and make your cake tough and dense.


The biggest difference that I know about is that mixing all the dry ingredients means that all you have to do is mix in the wet ingredients into the already homogenous mixture, this allows you to blend less to develop a nice and solid gluten matrix.

If you add eggs after flour, all the other ingredients then have to be worked into what is already a dough and never really becomes homogenous, may never fully dissolve (in the case of sugar) and may to be beaten to death and still may not get fully mixed. However, this may be desirous depending on what you are trying to accomplish. This combined with folding and kn will produce a gluten webbing that will allow big pockets of air to develop


Baking powder and baking soda work by reacting with other ingredients in your batter and releasing carbon dioxide. When this happens in the oven, these carbon dioxide bubbles become trapped in the batter, giving your cake its lightness and softness.

The problem is that if you mix in the baking powder with your liquids and leave it to stand for a while, or worse keep mixing, these carbon dioxide bubbles will escape your batter. By the time you put your batter in the oven much of the potential carbon dioxide is already gone. Your cake will come out dense.

The strategy to avoid this is to add your dry ingredients at the very last stage of making your batter. You fold in the dry ingredients and stop mixing just when everything is combined. "Don't overmix" is a common recipe instruction. Generally, being able to see little specks of flour in the batter is fine; getting rid of these at the expense of mixing the batter more is not worth it. Then you transfer the batter to a prepared baking tin and put in the oven - as quickly as you can.

That's how baking powder and baking soda factor into the problem; I don't know how the eggs-butter combination affects things. :)


Mixing ingredients in a different order can cause the cake to be dense, light, or standard depending on what you add first. If eggs are added first it will be light, if flour is added first it will be dense, and if butter is added first it will be a standard cake.

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