There’s an important lesson in the beginning of your baking career. And that is:
Baking is a science.
That doesn’t mean that you need to become a scientist to master baking. Don’t worry.
It means that baking is a combination of chemistry and physics. This is great because it implies that if you use the same ingredients and do the same steps that I do, you will get the same results… every time!
All you need is the exact list of ingredients (the recipe) and the exact process (step-by-step) to make a cake. That’s what I provide in my cake guides here at keikos-cake. 🙂
You don’t need to be “talented” or have a “natural gift” for baking. Being interested in baking and having the desire to learn is enough.
There are a few tools you will need to start the baking journey. Most likely, you have them in your kitchen already:
Bowls, wire whisk, (silicone) spatula, mixer, cake pans, (digital) scale, oven.
The advantage of the silicone (or rubber) spatula is that it nicely scrapes all ingredients from the side and bottom of the bowl.
If you only use a mixer, there will be ingredients sticking to the bowl (lumps of flour for example).
That’s why I often clean the side and bottom of the bowl with the spatula and then continue mixing with the electric mixer.
The (digital) scale is a must. Read the “How to measure ingredients” lesson if still in doubt. Leave the measuring cups in the drawer and use the digital scale instead. And…
(do not just count eggs — always measure the weight)
You find more about this very important topic here (click).
Baking would be difficult without an oven. Things to know about using your oven for baking:
- Always pre-heat the oven well. Starting baking at the right temperature is important. Otherwise, cakes will not rise or they will collapse or they will be uncooked inside.
Usually, I turn on my oven when I start measuring the ingredients.
- If possible, use top and bottom heat for baking.
- If you have a convection oven with the option to turn off the fan, turn it off for baking.
The beginner doesn’t need any special ingredients. Everything should be available in the supermarket around the corner…
- Eggs (whites, yolk)
- As mentioned in the Measuring Ingredients lesson, never just count eggs. Egg sizes differ too much around the world. Therefore always measure the weight.
- There’s (granulated) sugar and icing sugar. Always use the correct one. When a recipe calls for sugar, it always means granulated sugar.
- There are different kinds of flour. Always use all purpose flour (in Germany: Weizenmehl Type 405) unless mentioned otherwise.
Some recipes ask for bread flour. This is a flour with higher protein content. It’s for pastries that need more gluten to get the desired texture. Often used in yeast doughs.
- Use normal milk with 3-3.5% fat. Don’t use low-fat or skim milk for baking.
- Heavy cream
- Use heavy cream (whipping cream) with a fat percentage of 30-35%.
- Almond powder
- Made from finely grained almonds. Another name for it is almond flour.
- Vanilla sugar
- It’s vanilla flavored sugar. If you can’t find it, use a few drops of vanilla essence instead.
- Always use unsalted butter for baking.
Members find additional information about ingredients in the Baking Glossary.
Cakes for beginners
So what are the right cakes for beginners?
Cakes that do not require special tools, ingredients, or complicated techniques.
Muffins and cupcakes
Muffins and cupcakes are a perfect start because there’s really nothing that could go wrong.
Mix the ingredients well and in the right order and you will get a tasty result. 🙂
There are several variations in the gallery:
Lemon Raspberry Muffin,
Caramel Mango Muffin,
Green Tea Muffin,
Chocolate Raspberry Muffin,
Summer Berry Muffin,
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Muffin,
Cupcakes (with flower decoration).
There’s one interesting lesson to learn here. It’s the difference of crumb and crust. The crust is the brown outer layer of the cake. The crumb is the soft and yellow inside of the cake.
Why are they so different?
The reason are the liquid ingredients in a cake (mainly water from the egg, milk, etc.). Water cannot get hotter than 100°C (212°F) in it’s liquid form. It can in a pressure cooker, but we usually bake cakes in an oven, not in a pressure cooker. 🙂
That means, as long as the batter or dough is wet (i.e. contains water), the temperature will not rise above 100°C (212°F). That’s the situation inside the cake during baking.
On the surface of the cake, however, the water turns into steam and escapes. The surface dries and no longer contains water. Here, the temperatures can now rise above 100°C (212°F). At temperatures above 140°C (284°F), the sugar starts to caramelize. It turns brown and adds wonderful roasting flavors to this outer layer.
But not only the sugar, also the proteins in egg yolk add to the brown color. That’s the reason why we brush some pastries with egg yolk before baking.
At temperatures above 140°C (284°F), the proteins in the egg yolk react together with sugars and create melanoidins, which intensify the flavor and give the crust of a cake its brown color.
So, the crumb and crust not only look different and have a different texture. They also taste different.
When you eat a small cake like a cupcake or muffin, you will always have cake crumb and crust in the mouth. The combination of both determines the overall flavor.
This is the reason, why a simple plain cupcake or muffin with no added flavor can taste quite nice. It’s the flavor from the crust that tastes so good. 🙂
If you take a simple cupcake recipe and bake it in a larger cake pan, the resulting cake may taste very bland, because there is not enough crust to make it taste interesting.
For larger cakes, you need different recipes. For example pound cakes…
There is a large variety of pound cakes. Some are a bit complicated, like the Tropical Pound Cake or the Cake Griotte Pistache, but others are easy to make. 🙂
To get a perfect result, it is important to create a nice emulsion of the fats (butter) and liquids (egg, milk) in the dough. To achieve that, all ingredients should be at room temperature. Don’t use cold egg for example, because the butter would firm and build small lumps when it gets in contact with the cold egg. When all ingredients are at room temperature, the ingredients combine nicely and you will get a smooth batter.
Sometimes, a pound cake already looks like it’s done (i.e. nice brown crust), but the inside is still uncooked. This is a problem of baking temperature. When using a convection oven (fan-assisted), turn of the fan for baking. If that’s not possible, reduce the baking temperature slightly.
You can check if the cake is cooked by sticking a toothpick into the cake. If it comes out clean (i.e. no batter sticking to it), the cake is done.
If you’re already a master of muffins and pound cakes, you may need a little challenge. 🙂 It’s time for…
Again, there are lots of different roll cakes. Some are complicated and some are very easy to make. The basic roll cakes, like the Swiss Roll, The Chocolate Roll, or the Fruits Roll are the perfect cakes to start and practice the new technique: rolling the cake. 🙂
There’s one question I get asked often about roll cakes:
“Why did my roll cake crack?”
Well, there are a few possible reasons why a cake cracks during rolling…
Most of the time, the cake is simply overbaked. If you bake the sponge sheet too long, it will dry out and loose its flexibility. Therefore, always follow the baking instructions in the guide.
Another possible reason is that the batter was not prepared as shown in the guide. A roll cake needs a soft and fluffy texture. To get this result, it is important to beat the egg together with the sugar very well. It can take 10 minutes of constant beating or more to get the desired consistency, so be patient. 🙂
Finally, if your roll cakes don’t look perfect, you may just need a little more practice with the rolling. Practice makes perfect. What feels strange at first becomes second nature after doing it several times.
Watch carefully how I do it:
There are different elements in a tart: the tart shell, the filling, the fruits, the glaze / topping. Each element is easy to make and the combination tastes just wonderful.
Great tarts for beginners are:
And you can create your own variations easily. If you know how to make a strawberry tart, you can just as well make a mango or raspberry tart.
You will see some more complex tarts, like the Apple Rose Tart, the Tarte Tatin, the Grenoble Tart, and more in the INTERMEDIATE section…
More cakes for beginners
There are many more cakes for beginners in the cake gallery.
For example basic sponge cakes like the Strawberry Shortcake or the Black Forest Cake. Most of the Cookies and also sheet cakes like the Cocopine Square, Raspberry Crumble Cake, or the Coconuts Apple Crumble Cake do not require any special skills, tools, or ingredients.
Just follow the guides and share the yummy results with your family.
And then, when you feel like you’re ready for the next level of baking, let’s continue with the INTERMEDIATE part of our baking journey…
Want to try this at home?
Enjoy Keiko’s detailed cake guides and videos. Learn to bake like a chef and impress your family with your new baking skills. 🙂
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