This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
Read "Hints on How to Work," p. 52, " Batters and Doughs," p. 1ll, and "Helpful Hints about Mixing and Baking Quick Breads," p. 112. What is said about quick breads applies equally to cakes. See Breaking and separating eggs, p. 90, and Beating eggs, p. 90.
Sift together all the dry ingredients except the sugar. (If fruit is to be used, save a little of the flour to mix with it.) Cream the butter and sugar. This means, first mash and beat the butter until it is soft and light-colored, and then beat in the sugar by degrees. When thoroughly creamed, the mixture is smooth and almost white. Separate the eggs, beat the yolks well, and then beat them into the butter and sugar. Add a little of the milk, then part of the flour (with the other dry ingredients sifted with it), a little more milk, and so on till all the flour and milk are stirred in, taking care to keep the mixture always of about the same degree of stiffness. Fold in the whites beaten very stiff. Add the flavoring and beat the mixture well. If fruit or nuts are to be added, fold them in last.
The eggs may be beaten whole and added to the butter and sugar, but separating them improves the texture of the cake. The process of mixing may be shortened by using a cake-mixer.
Compare these directions with those for mixing Egg Muffins. (P. 113.) What difference do you observe? For Cottage Pudding the butter is melted. Note the proportion of butter to sugar, and think why this is done.
Beat the yolks till thick and lemon colored. Beat the sugar into them, add the flavoring (and other liquid, if the recipe calls for any). Beat the whites till stiff and dry; slip them into the mixing-bowl; sift the flour over them; and fold all together. It is best to use only a wire egg-beater in mixing sponge cake.
Fruit must be well floured and added last, or it will sink to the bottom of the loaf. To stone raisins, cover them with boiling water. When they become soft, squeeze out the seeds. Cut citron in thin strips. Nuts may be chopped or cut fine with a knife. (For the preparation of currants, see p. 136.)
The baking is a most important part of cake-making. No matter how skilfully cake is mixed, it will be spoiled if not properly baked.
Grease cake pans well with melted butter or butterine. (P. 105.) Pans for loaf-cake may be lined with white paper, and the paper greased.
The oven should be less hot for cake than for bread. It is right for butter cakes baked in loaves, if it turns a piece of writing paper light brown in five minutes. For small cakes it should be hotter. Bake sponge cake in a moderate oven for forty to fifty minutes. Butter cake in a loaf requires about one hour; small cakes and layer cakes, about twenty minutes. When cake is done, it shrinks from the pan and a broom straw run into it comes out clean. Let it stand three minutes. It will then slip out of the pan readily. Place it on a wire cake-rest or a clean towel to cool.