I recently completed a project where I would bake several sponge cakes using various recipes so I could test how the different ingredients such as milk, self-rising flour, plain flour and baking powder would affect the final product.

I was surprised to find that the method and order of mixing the ingredients vary such as “creaming the butter and sugar first” compared to “whisk eggs and sugar together first” and also “whipping the egg whites separately then folding into batter”. I had assumed that the methods would be the same. Although in making the cake I found that the batter was very different for each, some would be grainier then others and some would be more viscous.

I apologise for asking such a broad question, but what different orders and methods are there for mixing the batter of a sponge cake and how will they affect the final cake?

Also, as an extra, how does adding milk affect the batter?

  • 3
    SE in general and Season Advice specifically want to have questions and answers that can be looked up as conical type answers. As you state, I think this is way too broad and likely to be closed. I would suggest attempting to edit you question into a single question, or even a series of questions to compare just two methods to examine the differences. This broad, you are looking at Alton Brown book type answers on the entire science of food methods.
    – dlb
    Aug 27, 2017 at 18:55
  • As it stands, this is way too broad. A series of questions regarding the various parameters might be very interesting though.
    – Stephie
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


Generally speaking, a sponge cake recipe needs to create and trap a bubble structure in a mixture of protein, sugar, and starch. Since there are a number of ways to do this, there are a number of common techniques used for accomplishing that goal. The techniques are different and interactions between ingredients can be more complicated than they seem, so the effect of each ingredient might be different with each technique. Describing the ways that each ingredient interacts with each other ingredient in a cake is far beyond the scope of an answer on this site.

Almost every cake recipe that you commonly see on the internet is based on an older, tried-and-true technique from the canon of an older culinary tradition. On a blog or in a cook book, you might see a recipe for Aunt Edna's Famous Chocolate-Fanatic Fudge Filled Cake, but in the more technical terms that a pastry chef would use, it could be a layered chocolate genoise with a Godiva liqueur soaking liquid and ganache filling. Rather than checking out individual recipes, I'd recommend researching the broader techniques they're based on to get a better understanding of the mechanics.

In my French/American oriented in culinary school, I remember learning about Genoise, Separated Sponge, Chiffon, and Angel Food techniques, which are all common in the modern western canon. There may have been more— it's been a decade since I graduated and I was never a pastry chef— but if you study those, you should get a pretty good idea of how cakes work in general.

As an aside, when you're testing/workshopping a recipe, like with any other kind of experiment, you should reduce the number of confounding variables. Use one recipe (or ideally, basic unadorned technique) and change the ratio of ingredients by increasing/reducing the amount of one ingredient at a time. This will give you MUCH better data.

A general question gets a general answer, but I think it will give you a good start. ;-)

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