The Four Basic Baking Methods

Words: Jess Spiro

Baking is probably the first introduction we all have to the kitchen and the culinary arts in general and not much thought is given to the techniques used to create any baked good. There are in fact, four basic baking methods used in any recipe, and once you understand these basic baking methods there is pretty much no recipe you can’t master.

Four Basic Baking Methods

Whisking Method

A rather self-explanatory method, the whisking method requires the wet mixture to be whisked in order to incorporate air and body. Usually, this wet mixture is made up of eggs and sugar, which is whisked to ribbon stage. The dry ingredients are sieved very well and are then folded gently through the egg mixture in batches of two, sometimes three.

The batter must be folded until there are no traces of flour but must not be overmixed. Since there is little to no raising agent in this cake, the whisking must be done properly for the cake to rise properly. Whisking method cakes are great too if people are looking to eat less fat, or are after a lighter sponge cake as they mostly contain no butter.

The risk with this method is if you’re heavy handed and don’t fold the flour through gently, you’ll end up with a dense, crumbly cake instead of the desired light and airy texture.

Whisking method is used for Swiss Rolls and Genoise Sponges but also for a show-stopping chiffon cake. We love this Lemon Chiffon with Buttercream Icing, with its delicate lemon sponge and buttercream.

Whisking is also an important method in dishes that contain meringue such as this 6 Layer Almond Meringue Cake. So get your whisk out and loosen up that wrist, this cake is ideal for your next lunch gathering.

Four Basic Baking Methods-Lemon Chiffon with Buttercream Icing recipe - four-basic-baking-methods
Four Basic Baking Methods-6 Layer Almond Meringue Cake recipe - four-basic-baking-methods

Creaming Method

Possibly the trickiest of all the methods, the creaming method is the base of many baked goods, especially cakes and cookies. The method requires thorough creaming, or blending together, of butter and sugar before any other ingredient is added. During the creaming, it is important to keep going until the butter and sugar mix is pale, light and creamy.

Only then, can the eggs be added, and then the rest of the dry ingredients. The risk with this method, other than under-creaming, is that once the eggs are added, the mixture can split resulting in a tough, dry cake.

The creaming method is used for most cakes, like the Victoria Sponge or even our Fig and Caramel Cake, but it’s also used for a lot of biscuits and chocolate chip cookies.

Choc chip cookies apparently came into being after Ruth Wakefield, the woman credited for having created the cookie, added broken pieces of chocolate into her cookie batter thinking they would melt and form a chocolate cookie. They didn’t melt, and we’re thankful for that and Ruth, for creating this beautiful mistake. Here’s our favourite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Also, try this Lamington Cake.

Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe - four-basic-baking-methods
Lamington Cake recipe-four-basic-baking-methods

Melting Method

A simple and quick method of baking, cakes made by the melting method are often more dense and moist than cakes made by other methods. Generally, gingerbreads and fruit cakes are made by this method.

The butter or fat used in the cake is often melted together in a pot before the eggs and then the dry ingredients are added because there’s no beating or whisking in this method, a chemical raising agent such as baking powder is used to help the cake rise – so be certain to add it!

As with the creaming method, care must always be taken not to over mix the mixture, as it will overdevelop the gluten and the cake will end up dry and tough.

The melting method is a very forgiving method of the four basic baking methods, it’s also quick and easy too. This Gingerbread Bundt with Vanilla & Ginger Cream Cheese Icing simply requires you to melt together your butter, syrup and sugar together in a pan, combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and from there you combine the two to make a batter.

This cake has a luxurious cream cheese filling too, making it extra rich and delicious. Melting is also a common method in biscuits and crunchies. Try these Horlicks Crunchies – perfect for a road trip.

Gingerbread Bundt with Vanilla & Ginger Cream Cheese Icing recipe-four-basic-baking-methods
Horlicks Crunchie recipe-four-basic-baking-methods

Rubbing In Method

Often the first method we’re taught as kids of the four basic baking methods, the rubbing-in method does, in fact, require a bit of skill and a light touch. The process works by the fat, usually butter, being worked into the flour by a method of rubbing the pieces through the fingers. This will create a breadcrumb or sand-like texture.

Sugar is usually added, and then a little liquid to create a dough. The trick with any rubbing in method is as soon as your liquid is evenly combined, stop working it. Simply form it into a shape that works for your recipe or very gently and carefully roll it out and then stop handling it.

The rubbing-in method is used for crumble toppings, some pastries and of course, scones.

These scones are the perfect addition to Sunday morning’s tea-in-bed situation. Or perhaps these savoury scones on top of this delicious Oxtail Pie for a lazy Sunday lunch.

Classic scone recipe-four-basic-baking-methods
Oxtail Pie recipe - four-basic-baking-methods

For more baking inspiration click HERE.

Also, see our Baking Glossary and our Guide to Stocking your Baking Pantry.


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