Baking a cake with a recipe you haven’t experimented with can be nerve-wracking. As much as meticulously as you may try to follow the recipe and measure everything out correctly, you might still get confused because you have no idea how the batter is supposed to look like.
I’m Angie, and when I was just starting out in my baking journey, I remember having a general idea of what cake batter looks like and freaked out when I didn’t get mine to that consistency. I’d add more water or milk to try and thin it out or add more flour to thicken it.
My takeaway – Don’t improvise! Especially when you’re new to baking. Baking is all science and I learned this the hard way. Instead, do your research because every cake is different.
The good news is, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been baking cakes since I was a teenager. I bake as a side hustle and I get requests for all different cakes. In this article, I’m going to share with you exactly how different types of batter should look like.
We batter get into it 😉
- Thin Batter
- Thick Batter
- Airy Batter
- Final Thoughts
Is your batter turning out quite thin? Please don’t freak out just yet.
It is commonly thought that a thin batter would result in a dense and unrisen cake. This is true if there’s no leavening agent is added to your batter. If your cake recipe relies on a chemical leavening agent to rise, it doesn’t actually matter whether or not your batter is runny.
However, if you are making a foam-style cake that relies on eggs as the main leavening agent, deflated egg whites will result in a runny and thin batter and the result will be a rubbery, dense cake.
Here are some examples of cakes that don’t require a thick batter.
1. Chocolate Cake
The first time I made a chocolate cake, I felt my heart sank. I can’t remember the exact recipe I followed but I remember the batter being so runny when I was done adding everything to it. I was so sure I screwed it up and there was no saving it so I put it in the oven anyway.
Magic happened in the oven. The next thing I know, my cake filled up the pan, and that hopeless-looking liquid from before turned into a soft, moist chocolate cake.
I must make it clear that I am not referring to a chocolate-flavored sponge or a devil’s food cake. I’m talking about the perfectly dense, crumbly, and moist chocolate cake like the one in Matilda. To make a cake as such, oil is often used in place of butter for fat to balance out the dryness of the cocoa powder.
Oil-based batter reliably makes the result moist because oil doesn’t solidify as butter does. But because of the lack of butter, you will end up with a runny and wet batter. Warm water or coffee is also added in most chocolate cake recipes to help dissolve the cocoa powder and sometimes coffee in the batter which also thins out the batter.
In the case of chocolate cakes, a runny, thin batter is okay because the leavening of your cake relies mostly on chemical leavening agents such as baking soda and vinegar. It is the same case for chocolate cupcakes.
The Stay at Home Chef has one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes. The batter is on the thinner, runnier side as I mentioned but the result is always 10/10. I recommend you check it out for reference. For chocolate cupcakes, try Preppy Kitchen’s recipe.
If you’ve made a cheesecake before you’ll know just how little flour is added to the batter. Sometimes, flour isn’t added at all. A baked cheesecake is mostly made of cream cheese, cream, and eggs. Sometimes, yogurt is added as well.
After beating these together for some time, these ingredients loosen and generally appear quite runny. The perfect cheesecake batter consistency should be silky smooth and runs off your spatula easily when you pull it out of the bowl. So if you find that your cheesecake batter is on the runnier side, know that it’s normal.
To make sure you’ve got the consistency right, check out this youtube video.
It is generally believed that thick batter results in a dense and stiff cake that will dry out easily. While this is true in some cases, some cake batter is naturally thicker and the adequate thickness of the batter results in a light and fluffy cake with tight crumbs.
The following are some examples of cakes made of a thicker batter.
3. Butter / Pound Cake
Whenever butter is in the equation, you know you’re getting a thicker batter. This is because the ideal temperature of butter used in cake making is between 68°-70°F at which state the butter would be at a soft spreadable consistency.
When creamed with sugar and eggs, the mixture because aerated, and the different ingredients emulsify to become thicker and creamier.
Traditionally speaking, pound cake is made with equal parts butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. One pound of each to be exact. Dry and wet ingredients are similar in ratio to create a thicker, well-balanced batter.
Butter cake is very similar to a pound cake in terms of its selection of ingredients, except it generally uses more butter than eggs, in a way making the batter even thicker.
The perfect consistency of pound cake batter is thick, kind of like pancake batter. It’s okay if it’s a little clumpy, you might see granules of butter but they will melt when it’s baked. Over mixing butter/pound cake batter can result in a bready cake so make sure you don’t go on mixing for too long.
Sugar Spun Run’s recipe on pound cake is super easy to follow so I highly recommend you checking it out.
4. Victoria Sponge
While it’s called “Sponge”, the Victoria Sponge is very different compared to foam-style sponge cakes. The most obvious difference is that it does not rely solely on eggs for leavening.
Victoria sponge is a tender, moist, and buttery yellow cake. The batter is folded very gently until it’s just mixed together. It’s loosened only slightly with a very small amount of liquid which results in a very thick batter. Smoothing out Victoria Sponge batter will feel like spreading buttercream, it’s that stiff.
You can follow cupcake Jemma’s victoria sponge recipe for video-guided instructions. Pay attention to 02:54 for the consistency of the batter.
5. Madeira Cake
Madeira cake is a classic British butter-based cake. Its texture is similar to that of a victoria sponge but has a slightly higher flour content. Softened butter is creamed together with sugar and eggs are added to the aerated mixture before the dry ingredients go in.
With the Madeira cake, you want to beat for the shortest amount of time possible after your flour is added in. This is because we don’t want gluten to form. As soon as you no longer see clumps of flour, you can stop mixing.
Your batter should look fluffy, pale in color, and smooth. It is thick but leans closer to the fluffy side of the spectrum, kind of like whipped butter.
Here’s an easy-to-follow madeira/plain cake recipe I came across recently on Go Bake Yourself.
Cupcake Jemma also has a detailed video on Madeira cake so make sure to check it out for reference.
6. Carrot Cake
The carrot cake batter is technically between thick and thin. Since moisture is key for carrot cakes, most carrot cake recipes are oil and not butter-based.
As we discussed, oil-based cake batter is generally quite thin in consistency. But in the case of carrot cake, a large amount of carrot, nuts, and sometimes pineapple chunks are added to the batter which adds texture to and significantly thickens the batter.
Some recipes say dump in all of your dry ingredients at once, some tell you to alternate between the dry ingredients and the carrot so you don’t risk an overly thick batter which can lead to overmixing.
I must say, carrot cake batter does not look the most appetizing. It’s thick, clumpy, and brown. But the result is always a moist, crumbly, and super flavorful cake.
Check the Tasty recipe for reference.
7. Red Velvet
On top of their aggressively bright red color, red velvet cakes are also known for their velvety fine crumbs.
To achieve its distinct tender texture, there is a high proportion of fat in the sponge, usually butter. The butter is mixed with the sugar using the creaming method and added to it the dry and the wet ingredients.
The red velvet cake uses a combination of bicarbonate soda and an acid (usually vinegar or buttermilk) as its leavening agent. The reaction can make the batter appear bubbly and extra aerated on top of being thick and red.
Here’s a recipe on red velvet that you might find helpful.
The third type of batter is what I call airy / foam style batter. This type of batter makes a very airy and fluffy cake that is so soft, you barely have to use your jaw muscles.
Eggs or whites are usually beaten with sugar at high speed until they reach a soft to stiff peak stage. Little flour is added to the batter to make sure the batter is light enough to be held up and pushed towards expansion by the egg whites, without any extra leavening agents.
8. Sponge / Genoise Cake
As the name suggests, sponge cakes are spongy and spring back like a sponge when pressed. Eggs are beaten at an extremely high speed for a minimum of five minutes or until you can lift the whisk, and with the batter dripping off of it, make defined drawings on the surface of your batter without it fading in immediately.
At this stage, the dry ingredients are gently but quickly folded in along with the wet ingredients. It’s really important when making cakes with an airy batter that you don’t deflate the egg whites, otherwise, you will end up with a flat cake.
To see how your sponge cake batter should look like, check out this video below.
9. Angel Food Cake
Angel food cakes are made of only 6 ingredients: Sugar, cake flour, salt, egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract. There are no chemical leavening agents involved in the making of this cake, only egg whites stabilized with the acidic cream of tartar.
Ideally, you want all of your dry ingredients to be extra fine so that they won’t weigh down the eggwhites. Your egg whites should be beaten until they are thick and have reached stiff peaks. After folding in your dry ingredients, your batter should look like marshmallow fluff.
This recipe includes pictures for each step that you can use for reference.
10. Chiffon Cake
Chiffon cake is very light and similar to angel food cake in texture, except there is the addition of egg yolks.
For a chiffon cake, you want to beat your egg whites until it has a glossy, fine texture. Fold in the egg yolks and the rest of the ingredients gently and remember not to deflate the mixture too much. Your final batter should look pale, fluffy, and glossy.
11. Japanese Cheesecake
We said earlier that cheesecake batter is generally runny. But the Japanese cheesecake is an exception.
The Japanese cheesecake has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is similar to a souffle. Imagine what it’d be like to eat a cloud – that’s Japanese cheesecake for you. It is super moist as it’s mostly steam baked and isn’t dense and heavy like the traditional American-style cheesecake.
The fluffiness of the cheesecake comes from the beaten egg whites. The perfect Japanese cheesecake batter is glossy and airy. It should look homogenous with no clumps of cream cheese or flour.
Check this video to make sure you got it right before baking it.
Here I’ll answer some other commonly asked questions regarding cake batter.
Is cake batter supposed to be thick?
It depends on what kind of cake you are baking. Some cakes, like chocolate and cheesecake, uses a loose runny batter while butter-based cakes use a thicker batter.
What happens if the cake batter is not thick?
If your batter is supposed to be thick but isn’t, first you need to check whether you’ve miscalculated the amount of the dry ingredients needed. If you’ve made a mistake, add more dry ingredients accordingly.
If you feel that it is only slightly looser than it should be, you can dust some flour into your mixing bowl and mix for a few more minutes to incorporate the flour.
Can you let the cake batter sit overnight?
It’s not recommended that you let your cake batter sit overnight before baking it because baking powder and baking soda lose their leavening effect when they are exposed to moisture. As a result, your cake will not rise properly.
If you keep your batter at room temperature, the eggs in your batter will likely go off. If you keep your batter in the fridge overnight, the cool temperature might result in your cake forming a dome when it’s baked.
A few hours is okay, but overnight? Don’t do it.
How long should you beat cake batter?
No matter what cake you are baking, it’s always a good idea not to overmix your batter. The exact time varies depending on the cake you are baking but generally speaking, it should be anywhere between two to six minutes.
You made it through! I hope now that you’ve finished reading this article, you know exactly how different types of cake batter is supposed to look like. Again, don’t judge a cake batter too early because you never know, it might not look right to you but it can still turn out to be a perfect cake.
If you have any other questions regarding cake batter, just let me know in the comments!About Angie