Back to the Basics - Cake 101
August 16, 2021

Back to the Basics - Cake 101

One of the amazing things about cake sculpting, is that underneath all of the artistry, is a unique combination of flavors and textures completely customizable to any given palette.  However, for somebody just getting into the cake world, this can also be overwhelming at times.  Below we have listed a few of our basic go to recipes that might come in handy with one of our Sugarworks Academy classes.


If you are unfamiliar with hand carving cakes, you'll want to be sure to start with a delicious, but slightly denser sponge.  It is important for the cake to be able to withstand the pressures of carving and hold up to the knife.  If the cake is too soft, it may collapse on you!

 Chocolate Stout Cake


  • 1lb (454g) Butter, unsalted
  • 16oz (454g) Guinness
  • 1 ½ cup (170g) Cocoa Powder
  • 4 Eggs (200g)
  • 5 cups (624g) Sour Cream
  • 2 ½ cups (255g) Cake Flour
  • 2 ½ cups (255g) All Purpose Flour
  • 4 cups (794g) Sugar
  • 1 tsp (4g) Baking Powder
  • 3 ½ tsp (15g) Baking Soda
  • 1 ¾ tsp (9g) Salt


  1. Melt butter and Guinness in a sauce pot.
  2. Whisk in cocoa powder, let cool for 15 minutes.
  3. Using the whip attachment of your mixer, combine the eggs and sour cream.
  4. Add chocolate mixture and whip until smooth.
  5. Combine all dry ingredients, including the sugar, in a separate bowl.
  6. Add all dries to the chocolate mixture.
  7. Scrape bowl well and beat briefly on low.
  8. Fill lined pans and bake at 325º convection until done, checking at 25 minutes and every few minutes after until cooked through

 Vanilla Bean Cake


  • 1lb (454g) Butter, unsalted
  • 6 cups (1191g) Sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp (8g) Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp (8g)Vanilla Paste
  • 1 ¼ tsp (7g) Vanilla Extract
  • 15 Egg Whites (454g)
  • 5 cups (454g) Cake Flour
  • 4 2/3 cups (454g) All Purpose Flour
  • 4 ¼ tsp (16g) Baking Powder
  • 2 ¾ cup (680g) Whole Milk


  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add salt and both vanillas
  3. Slowly incorporate egg whites, scraping bowl regularly
  4. Sift dry ingredients
  5. Alternate additions of dries and milk (begin and end with dries)
  6. Scrape well and beat on medium speed for about 20 seconds
  7. Fill lined pans and bake at 325º convection until done, checking at 25 minutes and every few minutes after until cooked through


Buttercream is a delicious and versatile filling to use in cakes.  It can be flavored with just about anything from pastes and purees to alcohol.  It is incredible smooth and easy to work with, and can provide a cake with a little extra stability as it hardens slightly when chilled.  It can be stored at room temp or refrigerated.  

Italian Meringue Buttercream


  • 4 cups (794g) Sugar #1
  • 9 ½ oz (283g) Water
  • 10 Egg Whites (283g)
  • ¼ cup (50g) Sugar #2
  • 2lbs (907g) Butter, unsalted
  • 1 ¾ tsp (10g) Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp (6g) Salt


  1. Combine sugar #1 and water in a pot. Cook to thread stage.
  2. Begin whipping egg whites on speed 2 when sugar reaches thread.
  3. Slowly add sugar #2 to the whipping egg whites.
  4. When cooking sugar reaches soft ball stage, remove from heat.
  5. Pour cooked sugar immediately into whipping egg whites.
  6. Continue whipping until cooled to just warm.
  7. Slowly add room temp butter in chunks.
  8. Add vanilla and salt.


Ganache is commonly used for crumb coating cakes as it easy to spread when warm but hardens in the cold.  It can provide sharp edges and a perfectly smooth finish before covering with fondant.  It is quick to make as it is only comprised of two vital ingredients - chocolate and cream.  However because the final set of the ganache can be influenced by environmental variables and the actual ingredients used, there is not a "perfect" recipe to follow.  Instead, you should use the following weight ratios as a guide. 

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Typically made with chocolate containing 50%-60% cocoa solids.  

You need 2 parts dark chocolate to 1 part cream:

  • 1 ¾ lb (800g) Dark Chocolate
  • 14 oz (400g) Heavy Cream

Milk Chocolate Ganache

Typically made with chocolate containing around 30% cocoa solids.  

You need 3 parts milk chocolate to 1 part cream:

  • 1 ¾ lb (800g) Milk Chocolate
  • 9 oz (266g) Heavy Cream

    White Chocolate Ganache 

    You need 3.5 - 4 parts white chocolate to 1 part cream:

    • 1 ¾ lb (800g) White Chocolate
    • 7 oz (200g) Heavy Cream


    1. Scald the cream
    2. Add the cream to the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes 
    3. Stir until smooth


    Modeling chocolate is a wonderful edible sculpting medium. It's like clay you want to eat- firm, yet malleable, capable of holding it's shape or being reworked, and also delicious. If you want to try a different medium, or are looking for a new flavor profile it can often be substituted for sugar paste or fondant when sculpting.  We know of two different recipes for modeling chocolate- one that uses candy melts, and one that uses real chocolate. We're going to give you both.

    Modeling Chocolate Using Candy Melts


    • 454g Candy Melts
    • 115g corn syrup


    1. In a double boiler, heat your candy melts until they're mostly melted but a few lumps remain. (The lumps will melt out from the residual heat of the warm melted candy).
    2. Microwave your corn syrup for a minute and a half so that the syrup gets very warm and very thin. 
    3. Put your melted candy melts back on the double boiler over a low heat and pour in the warm corn syrup.
    4. Begin stirring! And keep stirring! Stir much longer than you think you need to; if you don't stir your mixture enough, the fats will separate out during the cooling process and your modeling chocolate will wind up lumpy.
    5. Your modeling chocolate is ready when it's absolutely silky-smooth and shiny- no air bubbles, no "curdled" appearance, and no liquid separated out.
    6. Pour your warm modeling chocolate onto the lined sheet pan and spread to about 1/4" thick. Once it's cooled, you can start sculpting immediately or put it in an air-tight container for later.

    Modeling Chocolate Using Real Chocolate


    • 500g White Chocolate (or regular chocolate if you want an all-brown figure)
    • 250g Glucose
    • 1 Teaspoon water
    • Gel color (optional)


    1. In a double boiler, melt your chocolate over a medium heat until it is super smooth. Once your chocolate is completely smooth, take it off the double boiler and set it aside.
    2. Add 1 teaspoon of water to your 250g of glucose and microwave for a minute or two - until it's warm enough to be smooth, liquidy, and easy to pour.
    3. Put your chocolate back on the double boiler over a low heat.
    4. Pour the glucose-water mixture into the chocolate and begin stirring over a constant low heat. You should notice after a bit of stirring that the fat from the chocolate begins to separate out. Keep stirring! You want that fat content to be reabsorbed by the chocolate; don't stop stirring until it is. If you notice any lumping up of the chocolate- keep stirring! Eventually you will get to a stage where your chocolate is silky smooth.
    5. If you want to color your chocolate- this is a great time to do it! You can knead in color later when your chocolate has cooled, but it is so much easier to stir it in now while the chocolate is warm and soft.
    6. Pour your warm chocolate onto a sheet tray lined with plastic and smooth it out to about 1/4" thick. Once it's cool, you can use it immediately or store it in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.