The dark arts: Baking

We decided to make a trifle for Christmas Day. Trifle isn’t a fast thing to make, and the recipe called for stale cake, so we started this evening. The idea was to make a couple of layers of sponge cake which would be left for a day until the assembly stage of the project. Total cake fail. I know nothing about baking, and it mystifies me. I think it must be one of the dark arts.