There are several reasons to take the time to make a homemade cake. First, flavor, texture, and pride. Second, a majestic layer cake puts the exclamation point on a holiday table and doubles as a stunning centerpiece for your dessert buffet. Third, this impressive production actually has big make-ahead potential: You can bake layers up to a month ahead and freeze them, and most fillings and frostings can be made in advance, too. All you need to do is thaw and assemble the day before. Finally, our light cakes really do save on calories and fat—no small thing, especially during the holidays. There are, naturally, a few tricks to coaxing great taste and texture from a cake that leans less heavily on butter and sugar. Here, the secrets are revealed. (Looking for recipes? Find 11 Luscious Layer Cake Recipes)
Fluffy batter will result in a moist cake with a fine crumb. The first step of the mixing process—creaming butter with sugar—whips air into the batter. More air is added as you incorporate eggs into the batter by beating it.
Slow the mixer speed before adding flour and milk. Start with flour, then alternate with liquid (often milk). Finish with flour, as well. Beat only until combined. If overbeaten at this stage, the cake will become tough.