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Simple to bake, but oh-so-scrummy, it first became a UK school-dinner staple during the '60s and '70s, and remained a jolly regular into the '80s. More often than not it was topped with pink icing and sprinkles, served with custard, and known fondly as ‘school cake’. Mmmm. Delicious.
But it appears that good old primary school cake is making a come-back in these lockdown days, partly because it’s never stopped being delicious and, also, because it’s so easy to make that your 10-year-old could do it on their own – with a bit of supervision around the hot oven, of course.
Once your family has had a go at making this school sponge cake, there are ample ways to make it more exciting. Try adding chocolate drops to the mix before baking; making two, sandwiching them together with jam and simply sprinkling icing sugar on top, or ask your kids to come up their own twists on this retro favourite.
School Cake Recipe
300g caster sugar.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
3 tbsp milk.
1 tsp baking powder.
300g self-raising flour.
For the icing and decoration:
2-3 tbsp water.
300g icing sugar.
Sprinkes, M&Ms or other small sweets to decorate.
Tip: if you take the butter out of the fridge a couple of hours beforehand it will soften, which will make the mixing step easier.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan assisted/gas mark 4.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. If you have an electric hand mixer it will take the hard work out of this step, otherwise, a whisk or even a fork will do. Just bear in mind that it will take longer. Once it has reached a light consistency, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in well after each one. Then add the vanilla, the milk, baking powder and flour, and mix well so that everything is combined.
Line a 20 x 30cm baking tin with greaseproof paper, then pour in the cake mixture and bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
When it’s cooked, have an adult take the cake out of the oven and then, still in its tin, allow it to cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool to the touch, make the icing. If you ice it while it is still warm, the icing will soak into the cake, which will make it hard to decorate.
Put the icing sugar in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp of water to start with and mix with a small spoon. If it is too stiff, add a little more water, a few drops at a time. You want a smooth, thick consistency, but runny enough to be able to pour over the top of your cake.
Remove your cake from the tray and place on a large plate or serving surface, such as a tray or platter. You may be able to simply lift the cake out by the greaseproof paper, and then slide the paper away once it’s in place. Alternatively, you can place a large plate on top of the tin and flip it over in one movement. Now pour over the icing and spread with a spatula or dull knife, then decorate with sprinkles, or whatever edible decorations take your fancy.
Your school cake will last three days (assuming it isn’t all gobbled up at the first sitting!) at room temperature in an airtight container – think cake tins or even plastic storage containers – and up to three months if you wrap it in clingfilm and pop it in the freezer.
Have a gluten intolerant family member? Substitute the flour with ground almonds in a like-for-like amount. Alternatively (if you need to be aware of nut allergies), rice flour will make your sponge wonderfully light, but use 200g rather than 300g.
Born and raised in New York, Liz came to London as a student when she was 19, fell in love and stayed to raise her son, who’s now successfully launched into adulthood. Her favourite things are travel, trying out new experiences and adventures – both big and small – animals, the outdoors and sharing her discoveries with others. She and her son still enjoy going on ‘exploratoriums’ – their word for just setting off together and seeing what they discover.