Birthday Cake (All-In-One Vanilla Sponge)

A delicious, light vanilla sponge birthday cake recipe. Quick and simple to make and perfect for decorating to make a birthday really special.

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A slice of vanilla birthday cake on a plate filled with jam and vanilla buttercream and covered in blue fondant icing.When I was a child I loved the birthday cakes my mum made and decorated for me. At my parties I was always really proud to show off my birthday cake to my friends. In the weeks running up to my birthday I used to look through my mum’s cake decorating book and choose the cake I wanted (actually I always chose the fairy castle, but never got it).

Now I have my own children, it’s important to me to do the same for them. Rather than choosing from a book, I let them describe what they want and then scour the internet for inspiration to achieve it (I don’t know what I’d do without Google Images and Pinterest).Today is my littlest’s second birthday so I thought it would be a good time to share with you the recipe I use for making the vanilla sponge which goes inside most of the cakes I make for my family.  The recipe is adapted from a book called Cake Magic by Virginia Welsh and Alison French – the same book I chose my cakes from when I was little.

The theme I was given for today’s cake was Chuggington. I was told it must include an engine shed, three trains (Wilson, Koko and Brewster), and a turntable (they don’t ask for much!). I’m not a professional cake decorator, but what I lack in skill I hopefully make up for in enthusiasm and effort. Here’s what I managed…

A Chuggington birthday cake. The cake is a blue engine shed with Koko, Wilson and Brewster poking out. There's a train turntable and a farm with a pig and sheep.

If you want to take a look at the other cakes I’ve made for friends and family then visit my cake gallery.

Recommended Equipment

To make my vanilla sponge I’d recommend the following equipment…

Accurate scales are essential when baking and I love these Electronic Scales from Salter. You can reset the weight every time you add a new ingredient which is perfect for something like this all-in-one sponge. They’re also compact so take up hardly any space in your cupboards.

If I’m making a round cake I use these tins from Delia Smith (well if it’s good enough for Delia then it’s good enough for me!).

Instead of using greaseproof paper to line your cake tins I recommend trying these Bake-o-Glide reusable liners. There’s no need to to grease the tin as they’re easily removed, and they’re pre-cut to size so there’s no fiddling around trying to get the greaseproof cut to the right shape.

You’ll also need a large mixing bowl and an electric mixer (you can mix by hand if you don’t have a mixer just be prepared for some arm ache!).

Fancy making a chocolate birthday cake instead?

Then try my new CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE RECIPE, it’s really chocolatey, easy to make and perfect for decorating.

A slice of chocolate birthday cake, filled with chocolate buttercream and covered with white fondant with multi-coloured fondant spots.

Sponge birthday cake recipe
4.62 from 21 votes

Birthday Cake (All-In-One Vanilla Sponge)

A delicious, light vanilla sponge birthday cake recipe. Quick and simple to make and perfect for decorating to make a birthday really special. Recipe VIDEO below.

Recipe Type Dessert
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 297 kcal


  • 225 g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs I usually use medium but large also work well
  • 225 g soft margarine
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 6 drops vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan
  2. Line your baking tins(s) (I usually use 2 x 20cm round sandwich tins or a 20cm x 30cm rectangular tin, depending on the shape of cake I want to make).
  3. Sift the self-raising flour (225g) and baking powder (2 tsp) into a large bowl.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients (4 eggs, 225g soft margarine, 225g caster sugar, 6 drops of vanilla extract and 2 tsp milk) and beat until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Pour into the tin(s)
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. To check if the cake is cooked insert a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is ready.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin(s) for about 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely – Make sure the cake has cooled completely before decorating.

Recipe Notes

Using a different shape or size of tin? Find out the exact quantities you need and the answers to lots of other FAQs about this recipe – BIRTHDAY CAKE FAQs.

If you’d like to make your own buttercream to fill and cover the cake you can find the recipe here – VANILLA BUTTERCREAM.

Adapted from Cake Magic by Virginia Welsh and Alison French.

Nutrition Facts
Birthday Cake (All-In-One Vanilla Sponge)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 297 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 25%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 54mg 18%
Sodium 199mg 8%
Potassium 131mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 33g 11%
Sugars 18g
Protein 4g 8%
Vitamin A 15%
Calcium 5.4%
Iron 2.7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Watch a video of this recipe…

Free From/Suitable For

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • Corn-Free
  • Nut-Free
  • Soy-Free

The ingredients for this recipe are commonly available free from all these allergens. However, please ensure you double-check allergen information for all ingredients.

I’m sharing this with the following recipe challenges… #TastyTuesdays with Honest Mum.


  1. Hi Charlotte,

    I’m looking at making a birthday cake for the first time, on your recipe it dosent have the jam in it or the fondant recipe on how to do that which is in the picture, I wondered if you could tell me how much ham I should use and how I cover the cake with icing ect?


    • I’ve never weighed out the jam, so I’m not 100% sure. I think it’ll need about 100g. For the fondant icing, if you’re making a 2-layer 20cm round cake then you’ll need approximately 880g of icing (if you’re making a different size then you can calculate how much you need here). I don’t have instructions for covering a cake in fondant but there are some great tutorials on You Tube such as this one.

  2. Hi im going to attempt to make my sons 2nd birthday cake following youd recipe. I need the cake decorated by Saturday 22nd Sep. How far in advance can i make the cake before decorating it, and then once decorated how long will it keep for? Thank you Gemma.

    • I usually bake a cake 2 days before it’s needed and decorate the day before. It usually lasts for about 4 days after the party, so 6 days from baking in total.

  3. Hi charlotte, i am going to attempt my sons 3rd birthday cake next week and this will be my first time working with fondant! His birthday is on the thursday so would need to bake and decorate the 2 previous nights what i want to know is do you put your fondant on right after the buttercream or let it set in the fridge for a while before and do you coat your cake twice in buttercream?
    Thank you!

    • The way it should be done and the way I do it when I’m saving time are not the same 🙂

      The best way to do it is as you’ve described, a thin layer of buttercream, chill, then another layer, chill and then decorate with fondant. This ensures that the buttercream is firm when you add the fondant so doesn’t squeeze out underneath the bottom of the fondant. However, I tend to go for buttercream then fondant and I’m usually OK.

  4. Hi Charlotte please could you help me I am making a no 3 birthday cake the tin eq a round 10×3 I am going to fellow you sponge mix’s so how much ingredients would I want and how long to cook in gas oven I hope that you can help me thankyou

    • If you put 25cm round and 2 layers into my calculator it’ll tell you the ingredients you need. If your tin is 3″ deep then your cake should take 45-50 minutes to cook at 140℃ fan (or 160℃ non-fan).℃

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