Basics of Cakes

Cakes add a festive air to any meal and usually make an appearance at special-occasion dinners. Cakes can be rich and moist, dense, buttery or airy and are divided into two basic categories:

Butter cakes get their name because the batter is made from creaming fat - such as butter or shortening - with sugar. The creaming traps air in the batter; this trapped air expands during baking and gives the cake its height. Butter cakes have a fine moist texture and a tender crumb.

Foam cakes contain a high proportion of eggs or egg whites to flour. Beaten eggs give foam cakes their light, fluffy texture.

There are three kinds of foam cakes: angel food, sponge and chiffon. Angel food is made with whipped egg whites but without fat and has a delicate crumb. Sponge cake also is made without-fat contains both egg whites and yolks (the fat in the cake comes only from egg yolks). Sponge cakes have a richer texture than angel food. Chiffon cake, which has the richest texture of the three types, is made with fat and both egg whites and yolks.