Classic Birthday Cake (UK measurements)
Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, this simple birthday cake recipe is ideal for any design or decoration. Get the recipe, in UK weights and measurements, below.
A classic birthday cake
In my many years of blogging I’ve seen birthday cakes go from a humble sponge cake to elaborate 3D affairs, sometimes even with multiple tiers. Don’t get me wrong, I love to create show stopping cakes when I can but sometimes the occasion calls for something a little more understated. The recipe below is the perfect recipe for a classic birthday cake. The sponge is light, fluffy and moist. There is vanilla flecked throughout which, when combined with the butter in the cake batter, gives a lovely rich flavour.
Top tips for baking a birthday cake
In my many, many years of baking I’ve experienced almost every issue you can imagine when baking. This recipe is tried and tested and I’ve got some top tips to help you make the perfect sponge cake every time.
Follow the recipe!
Baking is a science. Make sure you follow the recipe exactly as it is written. Although you can convert the recipe to cups, measuring your ingredients by weight is much more accurate.
Keep your ingredients at room temperature
Believe it or not, the temperature of your ingredients can effect how they behave. Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge and bring them up to room temperature before you start to bake.
Don’t over mix
If you beat your cake batter too much you build up gluten in the flour and end up with a tough, chewy cake. No one wants that. Mix the ingredients until they are just combined. No longer!
Don’t under mix
The only time you can get away with a lumpy, bump batter is with muffins. This isn’t a muffin recipe so don’t under mix!
Opening the oven is a big no-no. When you do this you let hot air out and the temperature of the oven significantly drops. This can cause issues with your cake rising and we don’t want a flat, dense cake. So no peeking, keep the oven door shut.
Use an oven thermometer
How do you really know your oven is at the right temperature? You don’t unless you use an oven thermometer!
Let it cool
When cakes are warm they are much more fragile. Don’t be tempted to try and handle the cake until it is completely cool. You will also find it much easier to assemble and decorate once it is cool. If you attempt to decorate the cake too soon the icing will just slide right off.
- Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (160 C), and get out two 18cm sandwich tins and grease them thoroughly (or alternatively line with grease proof paper.
- Next cream together the butter and the sugar.
- Make sure you do this thoroughly and wait for the mixture to turn a much paler, creamier yellow.
- It will then be really soft to the touch.
- Beat the eggs up and slowly add them to the butter and sugar mix, only a little bit at a time.
- Whisking the mixture together thoroughly in between each addition.
- If you add too much too quickly the mixture may curdle but don’t panic! Keep whisking, if that doesn’t help a pinch of flour should do the trick!
- Next sift the flour and the salt into your bowl! All at once! And gently combine the mixture folding lots of big air bubbles in. Make sure there are no hidden clumps of flour and that the mix is thoroughly combined.
- Divide between the two, and gently push the mixture to the edges to get a nice flat surface, perfect for decorating!
- Cook in the centre of the oven for 30mins.
- Once they are a nice golden brown colour you know they are done! But just to be safe poke with a knife or metal skewer – if it comes away dry you know they are ready!
- Pop on a cooling rack to cool before decorating.
How to fill a birthday cake
The biggest issue I hear from readers is that their cakes are not stable and the layers slip and slide over each other. More often than not the issue is that they have used too much filling. Whether you’re using jam, curd, cream, or buttercream, you only need a thin layer (only a couple of tablespoons at most). This will still keep the cake moist but will avoid any issues with stability when the layers are stacked.
Top tip: if you are decorating your cake with buttercream, pipe a ring of buttercream around the top edge of your first layer. Fill the ring with jam or whatever you are using to fill the cake. The ring of buttercream will act as a barrier so that the filling doesn’t leak out.
How to decorate a birthday cake
There are a couple of different options for decorating a birthday cake. The two main types of icing used to decorate a birthday cake are buttercream and fondant icing.
How to decorate a cake with buttercream icing
Covering a cake with buttercream is a delicious way to decorate a cake. To get the smoothest of finishes, follow these simple steps.
- Once your cake has been filled and stacked, cover the cake in a very thin layer of the buttercream. This is your “crumb coat” and is used to trap any crumbs in the icing so it doesn’t spoil the outside of the cake.
- Once you have applied your crumb coat place the cake in your fridge to chill for 15 minutes or until it feels set.
- Once the crumb coat has set, apply the final layer of buttercream. Start by placing a large dollop of buttercream on to the top of the cake. Carefully smooth the buttercream out over the top of the cake in circular motions until it is even. The icing should go right to the edge and overhang slightly.
- Next we need to add buttercream to the sides of the cake. The easiest way to do this is to fill a piping bag with the remaining buttercream. Pipe circles around the cake until all the sides are covered. This will make sure we have an even layer around the whole cake.
- Using your spatula smooth the sides of the icing. For a really smooth finish dip your spatula in hot water and dry it before smoothing. The heat will gently warm the buttercream to make it super smooth.
- To get sharp edges where the top of the cake and the edges meet, carefully drag any overhang in towards the top centre of the cake.
- Any extra buttercream can be used to decorate the cake.
How to cover a cake with fondant icing
Covering a cake with fondant icing is not as hard as you think. Just follow these simple steps.
- Cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream before you begin. This will help the fondant icing stick.
- Make sure your work surface is completely clean and free of any crumbs or dirt.
- Dust your work surface and rolling pin with a mixture of cornflour and icing sugar. This will stop it sticking.
- Knead the fondant icing until it is soft and pliable.
- Roll out the fondant icing on your work surface. Keep rotating the icing regularly so that it rolls out in an even circle and doesn’t stick.
- Once it has been rolled out large enough, drape it over your rolling pin.
- Carefully lift the fondant and place it on to your cake.
- With one hand, carefully life up any pleats or folds , with the other hand smooth the fondant so that it sits flat against the cake top and sides.
- You can use your hands or icing smoothers to make sure the icing is really flat and any edges are crisp.
- Once you are happy, use a sharp knife to trim any excess
More cake inspiration
If you like this recipe then check out my cake archive here.