Nothing screams yummy dessert quite like a light and fluffy cake. Plain, frosted, cream-covered or fruity, cake is sure to please any crowd. Baking a cake might seem like a simple process, but creating one that's moist but not mushy and sweet but not overpowering is harder than it seems. The secret when it comes to how to make cake involves nothing more than using the proper ingredients the right way.

Prep Your Pan

Take a 9-inch round cooking pan and grease it. Scoop a bit of lard or softened butter with your fingers and spread it around the bottom and up the sides of your pan. Be sure to fully cover the inside of the pan to prevent any part of the cake from sticking. Next, sprinkle in a bit of flour and then tip the pan from side to side to help spread it fully. Tap the pan as needed where the flour clumps to ensure an even coating.

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Warm Up Your Ingredients

Cold ingredients in your batter make it difficult to blend together, resulting in clumps. For a smooth, perfectly blended batter, leave your butter out to soften for about 30 minutes beforehand. Also, take your eggs out of the fridge and let them warm to room temperature to help keep them from having a curdling effect.

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Do Some Sifting

Use a sifter, sieve or strainer to sift two and a quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon of salt and three and a half teaspoons of baking powder. If you don't have a strainer or sifter, you can use a whisk to stir the ingredients together until they're smoothly blended and no clumps remain.

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Cream the Sugar and Butter

Place a half cup of unsalted softened butter into a large mixing bowl first. Then, use a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium-to-high speed to mix in one and one-half cups of sugar. The blades, paddles or beaters of your mixing device infuses air into the mixture, making it light and fluffy. Beat for three to five minutes or until the cream is smooth.

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Add the Eggs

Add three large room-temperature eggs to your cream. Incorporate the eggs in one at a time while using your mixer on low speed to help them blend fully with the mixture. Continue mixing on low after adding the eggs and pour in your sifted dry ingredients until the batter is evenly colored and smooth.

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Pour in the Milk

Start to drizzle one and one-quarter cup of milk into the mixing bowl while combining with your electric mixer on low speed. After you've poured in half of the milk, stop mixing and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure you fully incorporate all of the ingredients. Then, pour in the remaining milk and continue mixing until the batter is smooth and even.

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Add Vanilla Extract

Only a small amount of vanilla extract adds a big flavor of your dish. Incorporate this distinct and potent taste for a perfectly sweet yellow cake or plain cake. Pour in one teaspoon and mix in briefly by hand to distribute the liquid evenly throughout the batter. Swap out the vanilla extract for almond extract for a nuttier flavor. Almond extract is stronger, so use half as much. Substituting two teaspoons of bourbon for the vanilla extract will result in a richer flavor that pairs well with heavier cakes. One teaspoon of maple syrup can also be used instead of vanilla extract for an extra-sweet cake.

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Get Ready to Bake

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and pour the batter into your greased baking pan. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with your spoon to avoid leaving too much of the batter behind. Once the mixture is in the pan, shake the pan gently to help the batter distribute evenly.

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Bake Your Cake

Place the cake pan in your oven and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes. The batter should turn golden-brown and plump up. It should also crust very slightly around the edges and free itself from the sides of the pan. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to ensure it is done cooking. If the toothpick emerges clean, the cake is done and should be removed from the oven.

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Top Your Cake

Let your cake cool for fifteen minutes before adding any toppings, otherwise, it will start to melt. After your cake has cooled to room temperature, spoon on whipped cream, swirl on buttercream or smooth flavored frosting over the top and sides of your cake. You can add fruit slices in the form of kiwis and strawberries for extra sweetness or drizzle on chocolate for rich flavor. Finally, slice, serve and savor!

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