Old School Vanilla Sponge Cake

Picture this. It’s just your average primary school day. You’re in charge of the over-head projector for assembly, and you’ve been upgraded from your HB pencil to a Berol Handwriting pen – you’re feeling pretty good.

But then the dinner ladies reveal what’s for pudding – vanilla sponge with sprinkles and THAT pink icing. You look to your friends with a knowing wink, it’s a good day lads.

This is the cake that James, my better half, requested for his birthday. Despite reaching the grand old age of 25, he still wanted a slice of that iconic primary school cake.

Don’t mess around with creaming the butter and sugar together and doing it step by step – let’s face it, our dinner ladies probably didn’t! To get an authentic texture, just go with the all-in-one method; it works just as well and will save you a lot of time!

Old School Vanilla Sponge Cake

Serves 12


  • 280g softened unsalted butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 280g plain flour (if you want to use self-raising flour then lower the baking powder to 2 tsp)
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 5-8 tbsp water
  • pink food colouring (I used this one)
  • 3 tbsp sugar strands (sprinkles)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan), then grease and line a 9 x 13-inch brownie pan.
  2. Cube the softened butter and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder, then mix with an electric whisk for a minute or two until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and fold in gently.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pan and level it with a knife or cranked spatula. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Don’t be tempted to open the oven before at least 35 minutes.
  4. Once baked, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack so the top is now on the bottom and you have a nice level surface on top. While the cake is cooling, make your icing by pouring the icing sugar into a medium-sized bowl and adding the water a tablespoon at a time, stirring until it comes to a thick paste which reluctantly drops from the spoon but is still spreadable. Add your pink food colouring a little bit at a time until you reach a nice pale pink.
  5. When the cake has cooled, place it onto your serving tray, or board, then pour your icing onto the top of the cake, gently pushing it over the edges with a spoon so you get a nice drip-effect. Cover with sprinkles while the icing is still a bit wet, then leave the cake to set for 10 minutes before cutting into 12 slices.

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