Know Your Different Kinds of Cake
Let them eat cake!
There’s no better way to celebrate a special occasion than with cake, is there? Cake has been and will probably always be a perennial party staple, a slightly over-the-top way to let people know that there’s a party going on.
There’s more to cake than meets the eye however. The world of cake is fascinating, filled with all sorts of facts and colorful stories! As an introduction to the great big world of chiffon, genoise and pound cake, we’ve put together a quick guide about all the different kinds of cake that you might come across. Don’t worry; it’ll be a real cake walk!
1 European-Style Cakes
Historically, cakes as we know them originally came from Europe. Given that baking soda and baking powder weren’t invented until the 19th century, it only makes sense that the original cakes were actually leavened with yeast.
It may sound like a foreign concept to most of us who grew up with British and American style cakes, but yeast-leavened cakes are actually quite common in certain parts of Europe including Germany, Israel and even Sweden! Popular cakes from the region include the Kugelhopf, Savarin and Babka.
While yeast is used to leaven the cakes, they aren’t ever worked to the point of turning into bread dough, lending the cakes a much finer crumb than yeast-leavened bread. These cakes are often soaked in liqueur-based syrup to introduce moisture, considering the low fat levels of the cakes themselves. The American-style Bundt cake actually got its intricate ring shape from the German yeast-leavened cake the Gugelhupf, which is traditionally baked in what is now commonly known as the bundt pan.
TRY THIS RECIPE: Quick Orange Rum Cake
2 Sponge Cakes
While sponge and chiffon cakes are often associated with American-style baking, foam-style cakes actually have their roots in classical Italian and French baking, and are much older than we think.
The fluffy sponge cake, which is often raised by way of stiffly whipped whole eggs or egg whites are commonly known as genoise in French cooking. Like yeast-leavened cakes, the genoise was developed as a way to leaven cakes prior to the popularization of baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Thanks to their light and fluffy nature, genoise cakes are often used as the bases of swiss rolls, buche de noel, and custard-filled French bavarois cakes.
As previously stated, though, many modern American cakes such as the Angel Food Cake and the chiffon cake, take cues from the genoise by also using whipped eggs as their main leavening agents.
Try this recipe: Bizcochos Borrachos Sponge Cake
3 British-Style Cakes
More commonly referred to in certain baking circles as the pound or butter cake, the British-style cake uses both butter and eggs in its base and, while it originally didn’t contain any leavening agents, is raised by way of baking soda and/or baking powder.
This cake might be the one with the easiest cake recipes to remember, given that it usually contains equal measures of wheat flour, eggs, butter and sugar, hence the term pound cake (“a pound of each”).
Before the introduction of baking powder, these butter cakes got their lift from the little pockets of air created in the butter by the sugar during the creaming process. Butter helps to provide the cake with a rich flavor, and the creaming process and even rise provided by the baking powder lends the cake its trademark fine crumb, which cannot be achieved by other methods.
Innovations in baking such as electric mixers and artificial leaveners have helped turn pound cakes into home-baking staples, making the classic butter cake recipe the base of many cake recipes both old and new. Some favorites include vanilla cupcakes, loaf cakes and the British Victoria sponge cake.
Try this recipe: Glazed Orange Pound Cake
4 American-Style Cakes
While British-style cake recipes might be the easiest to remember, American-style cake recipes might just be the easiest to pull off. Invented in America somewhere around the early 20th century, just after the Great Depression, these oil-based cakes were developed as a way to make cakes using more accessible ingredients.
This led to the creation of box cakes (see: Betty Crocker) as well as the fluffy chiffon cake and the indulgent Devil’s Food Cake, which was introduced by General Mills to the mass market in the 1940s.
Because the butter in traditional British-style cakes is replaced by oil, all one really needs to do to make this style of cake is mix all the ingredients together. While the overall crumb of the cake is much larger than that of the sponge or butter cakes, the oil’s liquid nature helps to give it a lot of moisture that other cakes just don’t have.