Baking a cake to suit your own tastes is surprisingly easy, but most people just don’t have the confidence to give it a go and add their favourite flavours. In this series, I will give you the basic steps you need to make a cake with the opportunity to change it to make it perfect for you!

First things first, you have to get the sponge right because it’s not a cake without the sponge; luckily though, the process is really easy and adding your own flavours is simple!

Ingredients (makes a two layered sponge cake):

  • 250g softened butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 5 medium eggs (roughly 250g)
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • Flavours of your choice
  • A splash of milk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Line two tins with baking paper and then grease (or use the cake-sized paper cases that you can pick up from any pound shop, they save a lot of hassle!)sponge
  3. Whisk the butter and sugar together. This really helps if the butter is softened and if you start by mashing the butter and sugar together with a fork. It is important that you beat it until it turns a lighter colour to get plenty of air in the cake so it can rise. It is far easier if you can use an electric whisk, otherwise be patient and expect a good arm workout!
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well until each egg is fully combined.
  5. Fold in the flour, baking powder and any of your flavours (see below!), until it is all combined and smooth.
  6. Now you need to use a little bit of judgement. At this stage your mix may be a perfect dropping consistency that gently flops off the spoon when you lift it and wobbles a little when you shake it. If not, just slowly mix in some milk if it’s too thick or some flour if it’s too wet, a little at a time until the consistency is right!
  7. Split the mixture between the two tins and roughly level them out. Then put them in the oven to bake. For a normal size cake this should be about 20 minutes. To check, it should spring back at the touch and/or a toothpick should come out clean when you skewer it in the middle. Then let it cool before you decorate.

How to make the cake your own

  • For a chocolate cake add a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder.
  • If you want fruit or chopped nuts just chuck some in.
  • To add some essence like vanilla, add a couple of teaspoons and taste until it’s right.
  • You can use this mixture to make smaller or bigger cakes but you do need to change the temperature and bake time. Turn it up to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 if you make tiny cakes or down to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 if you’re making a particularly big cake. A tiny cake may take 10-15 minutes to cook, and a massive cake may be around 40 minutes. The best advice though is to just keep an eye on your cake and judge for yourself when it’s ready.

Just give it a go and see how it turns out! The flavours may not always be perfect, but you will (almost!) always finish with a decent cake, and a cake’s a cake!

Then, once you have your perfect tasting cake, all that’s left is to decorate it, and in the next article I will go through the different types of icings and fillings you could use to do so. Watch this space!

Josh Caldicott

Images: Josh Caldicott

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