Old School Cake Recipe – A Nostalgic Classic!

When we spotted Old School Cake in a cafe in Ayrshire a little while ago, we decided that we just HAD to make our own version of this classic.

School Cake has a few different names. Sometimes it’s called Old School Cake, Retro School Cake, School Dinner Cake, School Cake Traybake, sometimes literally Sponge Cake with Sprinkles, Vanilla Traybake, Sprinkle Sponge or Sprinkle Cake.

Whew! Whatever you call it, we think it’s simple but delicious!

Old School Cake - Retro School Cake - School Dinner Cake on a plate to serve

Scroll to the end or use the table of contents below to be taken straight to the Printable Recipe Card.

What is Old School Cake?

It’s a basic vanilla sponge cake recipe with water icing and sprinkles. We have sometimes seen it sliced in two horizontally with jam in the middle, but mostly it’s just as is!

It often came served with custard at school, and while Phil likes to indulge sometimes, Sonja much prefers it as a cake on its own.

Old School Cake is very similar to Tottenham Cake, which hailed from Tottenham and was sold for a penny-a-piece, although that has pink icing and either sprinkles or coconut on top.

For those who went to school across the UK, it’s a nostalgic school dinner cake that they would eat again, unlike some other school dinners… although Cornflake Tart is also another one we love to make!

We compiled some favourite old school pudding recipes here, so be sure to check them out!

While we have spotted Old School Cake occasionally in cafes when out and about, it’s definitely not as popular as Chocolate Tiffin, so well worth knowing how to make your own. Honestly, it’s so easy you’ll be wondering why you haven’t tried to make it yourself before!

Old School Cake - Retro School Cake - School Dinner Cake sliced to serve - top down shot

Making School Cake can bring about a bit of nostalgia for some, but it’s also an easy recipe that you can use to make a large cake to serve at a kid’s birthday party or any other fun event.

You could even change things up and use different icing, or decorate it in a more elaborate way. But give it a try with simple water icing and sprinkles first because it actually tastes amazing and is so moreish!

Things you’ll need to make this Old School Cake recipe

  • Rectangle Cake Tin measuring 9x13inches or 10x14inches – use a smaller tin for a taller cake, but you may need to extend the cooking time as it may take slightly longer to cook through the middle. We have this tin that is larger for a thinner cake and this tin that makes a taller cake.
  • Large bowl for mixing
  • Mixer or electric beater – It’s important to mix the ingredients thoroughly (but not over-mix of course!) so use a mixer if you have one (this is ours, obviously an investment but we love it!), or an electric beater set on low. If you’re sticking to a spoon and bowl then just add the ingredients slowly so you can get them all mixed in.
Old School Cake - Retro School Cake - School Dinner Cake sliced to serve

Ingredients for Old School Cake

Cake

  • 400g Butter or Margarine
  • 400g Castor Sugar
  • 400g Self Raising Flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 7-8 Medium Eggs

Icing

  • 500g Icing Sugar
  • Sprinkles
  • 5 tbsp water

Butter

It’s probably unlikely that actual butter is used in the making of School Cake, and actually, margarine or Stork can often work even better for a light cake, so don’t feel bad if you substitute! Personally, we usually use Stork for cakes.

Butter should be at room temperature, but margarine spread or stork can be chilled.

Eggs

The success of a sponge cake recipe is all in the equality of the measurements.

The eggs should weigh the same as the butter, sugar, and flour, so it’s best to weigh them out, as even when they’re sized the same, they can have varying weights. You may actually only need 7!

You can weigh in the shell, and although this will add a little weight (just under 10% per egg), it gives you an idea if you’ll need the full 8 or not. Weigh them in their shells and choose whichever option is closest to 400g.

Another way to do it is to have your bowl on a scale, set it to zero before you add the eggs, and then as you add each one see what it increases to until you reach 400g or as close as possible to it.

And finally, if you want to be REALLY specific, you can crack the eggs open and weigh them, and then just match the rest of the ingredients to that weight. I usually like to do this method.

I take another bowl and set my scale to zero with the bowl on it, then measure out 8 eggs, and match the rest of the ingredients to that amount.

When it comes to adding the eggs, I just use a spoon/fork to slide them out of the bowl and into the mixture to mix, roughly one by one.

How to make School Cake – Step by step method

Heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan or 350F/320F Fan.

Grease a 9×13 inch baking tin and line with baking paper if you wish. Using baking paper means you can lift the cake out easily later after icing it, but it’s also just as easy to cut and remove one slice at a time if you’ve greased it well.

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Add one egg at a time and beat in gently but thoroughly.

Add the vanilla essence.

Sift the flour and fold it into the batter

Bake for 45-50 minutes, checking to see that a skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle.

Cool the cake in the tin. It’s easiest to decorate in the tin, so the icing doesn’t run everywhere, but you can take it out beforehand if you wish.

Mix the icing sugar with a tablespoon of room temperature water, adding more tablespoons until you have a spreadable but not runny icing. You’ll probably need 4-5.

Pour over the cake and spread it out evenly, then add lots of sprinkles.

Wait for the icing to set and then slice and serve.

Old School Cake - Retro School Cake - School Dinner Cake next to plates ready to serve

Frequently asked questions about baking Old School Cake

My cake sunk in the middle! What happened?

If your cake sinks in the middle after you remove it from the oven, it means it wasn’t quite cooked for long enough. You can still eat it though and it’ll taste great! Just leave it in a little longer next time and avoid opening the oven door too often.

Alternatively, you could try and put it back in for 5 minutes or so but we usually would just serve as is.

My cake has risen in the middle! What happened?

If your cake turned into a bit of a dome in the middle instead, then it’s likely that the oven was a little hot and it cooked too quickly, or the tin is too small. Try in a slightly larger tin next time and reduce the oven temperature by around 20 degrees.

Some ovens are actually a completely different temperature to what they say they are, so it can be worth getting an oven thermometer to check!

Old School Cake - Retro School Cake - School Dinner Cake on a tray

How do I know the cake is done?

Someone once told me the trick to knowing when a sponge cake is done is when you can hear it singing. Yes, a sponge cake, singing.

Basically, it makes a small high-pitched noise that you can hear if you put your ear close, rather than a bubbling and crackling noise which means it’s still cooking.

You need to do this very carefully, of course, since the cake and tin will be hot!

Of course, the easiest option is to poke a skewer in the centre and have it come out clean. But where’s the fun in that?

Old School Cake recipe stacked on a plate

Why 7-8 eggs?

Check out the answer above under ingredients! But basically, a sponge cake relies on equal measurements, so there are a few ways you can approach the measurement of the eggs.

Measure them in their shells and choose the one closest to 400g. You can then measure out the other ingredients to the same amount as well.

Or, take out of the shells and measure, then use the same measurement for the other ingredients too.

Or, have your bowl on a set of scales and set to 0 before adding the eggs one at a time and stopping when you’re closest to 400g.

We usually go with the first one as it’s easiest to do and we can then just add the eggs one at a time.

How long does Old School Cake last?

As with all cakes, it’s best when freshly baked, but it will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

This is the same sort of cake mixture we often use for birthday cakes for our boys, and we usually bake it one day, decorate it the next, and have the party the following day and the cake is just as good!

Can you freeze Old School Cake?

If you want to make this cake in advance, you can freeze it to keep it fresh for longer.

Allow the cake to fully cool and then wrap it up tightly in cling film or put it in an airtight container and freeze. Allow it to come back up to room temperature before serving.

We’d suggest freezing before you ice it!

Did you love this Old School pudding?

If this recipe pushes your memory into overdrive and gets your nostalgic tummy rumbling, then we have a whole bunch of recipes that you’re going to love!

Have a look at our Best School Puddings post for some absolute British school dinner classics, all you need now is pink custard!

Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these pudding recipes before.

Other Popular Traybake Recipes

Old School Cake Printable Recipe Card

Yield: 20

Old School Cake Recipe - A Nostalgic Classic!

Old School Cake Recipe

What is School Cake? It’s a basic vanilla sponge cake recipe with water icing and sprinkles. We have sometimes seen it sliced in two horizontally with jam in the middle, but mostly it’s just as is! It often came served with custard too.

School Cake has a few different names. Sometimes it’s called Old School Cake, Retro School Cake, School Dinner Cake, School Cake Traybake, sometimes literally Sponge Cake with Sprinkles, Sprinkle Sponge, or Sprinkle Cake.

Whatever you call it, it's simple to make and delicious!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Decorating Time 2 hours
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Sponge Cake

  • 400g (1.75 Cups) Butter or Margarine Spread
  • 400g (1.75 Cups) Caster Sugar
  • 400g (2.5 Cups) Self Raising Flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 7-8 Medium Eggs

Icing

  • 500g (3.25 Cups) Icing (Confectioners) Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp Room Temperature Water
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan or 350F/320F Fan.
  2. Grease a 9x13 inch baking tin and line with baking paper if you wish. Using baking paper means you can lift the cake out easily later after icing it but it's just as easy to cut and remove one slice at a time if you've greased it well.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  4. Add one egg at a time and beat in gently but thoroughly.
  5. Add the vanilla essence.
  6. Sift the flour and fold it into the batter
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, checking to see that a skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle.
  8. Cool the cake in the tin. It's easiest to decorate in the tin so the icing doesn't run everywhere, but you can take it out beforehand if you wish.
  9. Mix the icing sugar with a tablespoon of room temperature water, adding more tablespoons until you have a spreadable but not runny icing. You’ll probably need 4-5.
  10. Pour over the cake and spread it out evenly, then add lots of sprinkles.
  11. Wait for the icing to set and then slice and serve.

Notes

How many eggs do you need?

The success of a sponge cake recipe is all in the equality of the measurements.

The eggs should weigh the same as the butter, sugar, and flour, so it’s best to weigh them out as even when they’re sized the same they can have varying weights. You may actually only need 7!

You can weigh in the shell, although this will add a little weight (just under 10% per egg), but it gives you an idea if you’ll need the full 8 or not. Weigh them in their shells and choose whichever option is closest to 400g.

Another way to do it is to have your bowl on a scale, set it to zero before you add the eggs, and then as you add each one see what it increases too until you reach 400g.

And finally, if you want to be REALLY specific you can crack the eggs open and weigh them, and then just match the rest if the ingredients to that weight.

We hope you enjoy this easy sponge cake with sprinkles recipe. Making old school favourites brings back so many memories, and they’re usually simple but tasty recipes.

Here are a few more to try:

Happy baking!

Sonja & Phil

Pin for later!

Old School Cake Pin

11 thoughts on “Old School Cake Recipe – A Nostalgic Classic!”

  1. The measurements of egg is mentioned a lot. I made this and it smelt and tasted very eggy. I wouldn’t put 400g of egg in. Had to bin it which was a shame for the effort and cost of ingredients.

    Reply
    • Hi Rosie,

      I’m so sorry it didn’t turn out for you! The ratio of 1:1:1:1 is usual for sponge cakes with regard to the flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. We mention how to measure the eggs a lot as people can choose to do it in different ways. The most accurate is to weigh out the eggs out of the shell and match the other ingredients to it. If your eggs were larger than usual they may have been more than 400g, so you’d need to make sure all the other ingredients matched that amount. We hope you have better luck next time!

      Reply
    • We usually use Stork which is actually vegan, if you have access to that! If not, then we don’t see why a vegan butter wouldn’t work. It’s worth trying for sure!

      Reply
  2. Have made this today, patiently waiting for the icing to set so I can try it but it looks so good that I don’t think it will be around long before its all eaten.

    Reply
  3. Hi I made this for my kids school bake sale. It was so good! I just wish i saved myself a slice! I followed the recipe exactly and used an electric hand-held mixer. I will definitely be making it again!

    Reply

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