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…

NOTE – These are affiliate links which means that if you purchase from Amazon after clicking on one the product links below I will earn a small commission.

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 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 39 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.
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 servings


  • 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


  • Preheat the oven to 160ºC/140ºC fan
  • 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).
  • Sift the self-raising flour (225g) and baking powder (2 tsp) into a large bowl.
  • 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.
  • Pour into the tin(s)
  • 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.
  • 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.


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.
Recipe Type: Dessert

Nutritional Information

Calories: 297kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 199mg | Potassium: 131mg | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 15% | Calcium: 5.4% | Iron: 2.7%
Any nutritional information shown is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you want to learn more about how this is calculated.

Free From/Suitable For

  • Suitable for Vegetarians
  • 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. Charlotte Pritchard

    Hi Charlotte. I’m thinking of giving this recipe a go for a birthday cake I’m making for my sisters 40th birthday. It’s going to have miniature bottles of Vodka on the top of it so will be carrying quite a lot of extra weight. Do you think this recipe will be suitable?

    • It depends on how many you’re planning to use. It’ll be absolutely fine to add 3-4 of the mini bottles, but if you’re adding a big pile it might be too heavy.

  2. Perfect. Needed a vanilla cake to decorate for my bosses birthday when a colleague asked if I would make one…exactly what I needed, looks great, rose well and easy to decorate. Really great recipie, thank you for posting. And your sons cake turned out amazing!! Great job!!

  3. I made this cake and used black currant jam and vanilla cream for the filling and did s light layer of vanilla cream on all outer edges and then covered in fondant icing can honestly say best birthday cake ever!!!!!

    • I’ve not tried it with blackcurrant jam before, I’ll have to give it a go sometime. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

  4. This looks wonderful! I want to try baking a 12 inch version of this cake for my daughter’s birthday party. I have no previous experience of doing such a large cake (or much cake baking experience at all really!). Is this a madeira or a normal sponge? My research tells me that a madeira cake is better for larger cakes and decorations.

    If I put buttercream on top would the cake keep for 2 days in a plastic storage container out of the fridge (the weather is very cool at the moment)?

    Thank you!

    • I’ve not made a 12″ one, but I’ve known others who have and have said it turns out well. I have made something a similar size in a rectangle and it worked well for me. This is a normal sponge, not a Madeira (which has more flour and is a little firmer. As long as you stick to 2-3 layers and don’t put anything too heavy on top you should be fine with this sponge.

      It will keep absolutely fine for 2 days in this weather.

  5. Hi charlotte, I have just baked this cake for my girls birthday tomorrow and was wondering how I would store the cake after decorating with buttercream and fondant? Thank you.

    • Preferable you should store it in the fridge. However, I always store mine covered at room temperature (unless the weather is very hot like we had last summer) and it’s always absolutely fine.

  6. Is it just a strawberry jam layer in with the buttercream or what is it ? Thanks

  7. I absolutely Love this Recipe Only one i have used On my Birthday cakes, I’m in the middle of doing my sons cake for his birthday tomorrow He can not wait Thanks charlotte xx

  8. I love this recipe. The cakes always turn out beautiful and moist. This is the only recipe I use now when I make birthday cakes.

  9. Just used this recipe to make unicorn birthday cake. Perfect ly cooked

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