The Basics of Cake!

Students always want to bake cakes!  Maybe it’s because the cakes they get at home are typically prepackaged or out of a mix!  Don’t get me wrong…those are great once in awhile and have saved me on more than one occasion, when time was at a premium!  However, when talking to students, I get the impression that most only get scratch baked cakes in rare instances or on very special celebratory days!  I guess I was lucky growing up because my family baked cakes often, as desserts were a delicious way to end the evening meal!  Because of this, I was fortunate to be exposed to a variety of different cakes.  The funny thing is that while growing up, I thought there were tons of different types of cakes, but in reality there are only a couple! This lesson focuses on a cake overview of history, types, solving cake problems and includes some labs, focusing on the two basic types of cakes!


  • Open this lesson by having students take a cake trivia quiz: “This Quiz Really Takes the Cake” to see how many of the classic cakes they recognize.
  • If you don’t have access to electronic devices, students can see how many different cakes they can name alphabetically.  Example: A=Angel Food Cake, B=Boston Creme Cake, C=Coconut Cake, etc. Share as a class to see how extensive the list.


  • iPads or Laptops
  • Projector & Screen
  • Lab Supplies


  • I like to have students learn a little about the history of cakes by having use this website to complete the fact or myth activity below.
  • After students know a little about cake history, I provide them with some notes regarding the basic ingredients, types of batter, and mixing methods.
  • You can use the Cake Type Sort as a reinforcement to their notes or as a quiz…your call!
  • When baking cakes, sometimes common problems occur so I deem my students “Cake Detectives” as they use the internet to solve the cases in the assignment below.
  • Finally, it’s time to bake some cakes!  However, in these labs I like to introduce students to some unique recipes that fall within each of the cake batter types.  The first lab represents the shortened/butter cakes and students make Mini- Butter cakes (cut recipe to fit class/lab size) in the form of cupcakes because they are small and easy to portion control.  The second lab represents the unshortened/foam cakes and students make Angel Food cakes in the form of cupcakes, again, because they are easy to make for my novice bakers and because they only make six which is ideal for portion control.
  • An optional lab that I have done with my students is Madeleines, a tea cake with a distinctive shell design.  I already had the pans from a Foreign Foods class I used to teach.  It’s a great lab to experiment with extract/flavors such as vanilla, orange, almond, lavender, lemon, etc.  The recipe can be found here. (Note:  I think this is a variation of a butter cake, but when I did some researching, I found references to it being a variation of a sponge cake…so if anyone knows for sure, please let me know in the comments below.)
  • As a lab finale, I ask students to do a paragraph quick opinion writing.  Students must share which cake was their favorite, providing details as to why it was their favorite such as flavor, cake kind, texture, etc. and end with a conclusion or closing sentence.  I do this on Google Classroom where students can respond and submit electronically and I know immediately who has completed and who has not.



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Image courtesy of everdayplus of Free Digital Photos.

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