Stop studying and bake a cake
Please take care in following these instructions. You do so at your own risk. I am not responsible for any adverse consequences you may encounter.

The general aim of this session is that  you should be able to:

bake a fruit cake that is:
within an acceptable range of edibility and social acceptability,
within an acceptable range of resource expenditure in terms of cost and time.


In order to achieve the general aim, you will need to achieve the following objectives:

1. To mix and blend ingredients to an adequate standard
2. To intitiate and supervise a suitable cooking process
3. To prepare a cake tin, insert the cake mixture and remove the cooked cake with minimum structural damage to both cake and hands
4. To acquire sufficient transferrable skills to be able to repeat the baking process at least 5 times unsupervised, with a success rate of 80%
5. To have acquired sufficient confidence to attempt another cake recipe within a period of ONE calendar month of achieving Objective 4.

Suggested route to achieve objectives
You are advised to complete this self-assessed test before proceeding, in order to gauge your level of skills and knowledge at entry.

Answer the following question:

How many cakes have you baked successfully before?

If the answer is 0, carry on reading this section
If the answer is more than 10, proceed to the recipe by clicking  the hyperlink below
If the answer is between 0 and 10, you may decide for yourself which route to take

go to recipe
Suggested route for the complete novice

NB Some stages must be followed in a particular order, but others offer more options. You must learn which stage suits you


Shopping for ingredients: butter ( 8oz or 250gms), eggs (at least 4 large), flour (mixed,including some self-raising) (10 oz or 300 gms), fruit (mixed, dried) (Ilb or 500 gms), lemon ( I regular) (or vanilla flavouring) (I small jar) sugar (nice and brown)( at least 250 gms)

Locate equipment -- oven, oven gloves, cake tin (ideally 8 inch with a detachable bottom), greaseproof paper (about 0.5 sq meter), mixing bowls (large and small) , stout fork or spoon (or food mixer) kitchen scales.

Now wash your hands (and do this often)

Take butter out of fridge to soften (or soften gently in microwave)

Set oven to preheat to 150 centigrade

Smear with your fingers or with the wrapping paper for the butter a thin layer of softened butter around inside edges of cake tin (sides and bottom).

Cut off about 50--60  cms of greaseproof paper. Place detachable cake tin bottom on paper as a template and cut round. Stick to greased side of cake tin bottom. Cut suitable strips to stick to greased sides, covering the whole side of the tin, and sticking up over the top for about 2 or 3  cms (make strips as long as possible -- so two should do it to get all the way round the tin--overlap is OK)

Weigh out your ingredients either as you need them or before proceeding further.


Either prepare mix 1 first or mix 2. You must prepare BOTH before proceeding to Mix 3

For mix 1, cut up your butter into smallish slices or cubes and place in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, Food-process or mix very thoroughly with a fork or spoon until really smooth and creamy. Keep going until it is really smooth. You will need a lot of energy if preparing by hand.

Self assessment -- the mixture should be slightly gritty, evenly coloured, and with a  creamy, 'peaky' texture like a thick milk shake or well mixed filler.

For mix 2, weigh out and place the flour in a smaller bowl, and then add the fruit (not all at once). Get your hands in and rub the fruit and the flour between your fingers until each bit of mixed fruit is separate and nicely covered in flour. Remove any nasty bits (strigs, say).

Self-assessment -- the fruit should be evenly dispersed throughout the flour,with no clusters or lumps. All the fruit should  have a covering of flour .

For mix 3, add the fruit and flour (Mix 2) to the butter and sugar (Mix 1), with added eggs. Do this slowly and carefully --eg. break an egg into the creamy mix 1 and add about a quarter of mix 2. Combine it all carefully and thoroughly with a spoon or fork. Add the grated peel and juice of a lemon, or  a small spoonful of vanilla essence. If you have a powerful food processor, use that with the blending attachment -- less powerful ones can fail with such heavy mixtures. Break another egg, add another quarter of mix 2 and combine it all thoroughly.Try to get air into the mixture. Keep going until all 4 eggs and all of mix 2 is absorbed into one gloriously sticky and tasty cake mix.

Self -assessment -- Mix 3 should be evenly fruited (say 3 or 4 pieces of fruit per cubic centimetre), with no discernible bits of flour, and 'peaky' (ie if you raise the surface with a spoon, you should be able to leave a little peak of mixture standing up. If it feels too stiff, carefully add some milk a little at a time.


Transfer Mix 3 to the lined cake tin. Use a spoon and press the mixture gently into the tin so you fill it up smoothly. Flatten off the top of the mixture.

Wait until the oven is preheated to 150,  then place the filled tin in the oven -- on the middle shelf if in any doubt.

Be prepared to examine the cake after one hour. The intervening hour is a good time to wash and clean up.

To examine -- remove the cake tin (using oven gloves) and place it on a heatproof surface away from draughts. Insert a knife or knitting needle into the centre of the cake. If the implement comes out clean (ie with no cake mixture adhering to it), the cake is baked.If there is mixture adhering to the knife or needle, replace the cake for more cooking. Check again after 20 minutes, then at 10 minute intervals. It should probably not take longer than 1hr and 40 minutes, but this depends on the cooking characteristics of the oven.

Self assessment -- a baked cake should feel firm when pressed, pass the inserted needle or knife test, smell pleasant and not burnt, and look an even pale brown colour. There may be some rising and cracking in the centre.

Carefully and slowly push the cake up out of the tin, in its greasproof paper wrapping, making sure no hot metal comes into contact with your bare flesh. Turning the tin on its side,or all the way over, can help. Hold the whole thing over, or even rest on, a clean surface in case you do drop the cake.

Place the cake on a wire grid (eg a grill pan) to cool. After a few minutes, peel off the greaseproof paper from the sides.

Allow to cool and then test for taste.

Self-assessment -- your cake will have achieved a place inside the normal range of edibility if :
you find it pleasant to eat  AND
it is eaten within 5 days AND
a sample of people express a good opinion of it


You can vary the texture of the cake in several ways:

Vary the flavours --eg try cinammon instead of (or as well as) vanilla

Vary the mixture of flour -- try 5 oz of self-raising and 5 oz of plain, then 8 of one and 2 of the other, and so on. Try wholemeal flour. Try all plain flour and add baking powder (about one teaspoonful?).

Cook for less time for a moister cake. Or add another egg or some more milk.

Add another sheet of greaseproof paper lining to the cake tin to avoid a crust effect on the cake.

Vary the sugar content -- different types of sugar, for example.


Never mind the cake, for a moment -- how did you like learning in that structured 'educational technology 'way?

How does it compare to the old-fashioned method of learning -- sitting and watching your mum or your sister bake cakes?

Here are my views:

1. You don't have to ask your mum or sister, so you don't have to get all that extraneous stuff either -- what you were like when you were young, how things have changed, whether you have let down the family, what a klutz you have always been around the house, just like your father -- and so on.

2. It does try to be clear in stating what it is you are supposed to be doing at each stage, trying to define the terms, trying to explain the processes in an explicit way -- so you don't have to induce them after long painful trials and errors with your mum or sister.

1. It is a lot of work to spell out all this stuff and to try to follow it all. There just are no rules for telling a designer how much detail to specify (do you need to be told how to turn on the oven, or warned about likely burns?), so assumptions about the learner are inevitable. Of course. good feedback should help refine the material, but I doubt if it will ever be possible to specify exactly matters of taste or 'feel'.

2. Is a website any good for this sort of skill? How do learners actually manage the material -- read off the screen then run to the kitchen, then back again to the screen? Print off the material first? Try to get the principles then try it in the kitchen?


For goodness sake get someone you like and trust to teach you how to bake a cake!  Only if there is no-one, try my website. If you find someone :
1.Try to note the little touches and finesses -- exactly how they rub the fruit or weigh out the flour.

2.Try to get lots of useful feedback on your performance.

3. Go for principles so you can transfer these skills --eg are the exact amounts of ingredients important or just the proportions? What are the functions of the various ingredients (eg what does an egg actually do?)