Do you have fond memories of school dinner cake? This simple sponge cake topped with icing and sprinkles is a retro classic in the UK!
It couldn’t be easier to make and it’s a crowdpleaser – the whole family will love it.
For most people, the mention of school dinners can conjure up both good and bad memories, depending on your own personal experience.
I didn’t have school dinners very often – my primary school was just a 5 minute walk away from my house – but on the odd occasion I had to stay at school for lunch, I have memories of meat pies and chips, mince and tatties, apple sponge pudding and baked rice pudding with a thick layer of skin on top.
And let’s not forget lukewarm, thick custard and semolina. In fact, maybe they are best left forgotten (shudder!)
Most people I know have fond memories of the baking at school – like chocolate concrete and this super simple vanilla sponge cake.
what is school dinner cake?
A school dinner cake is basically a vanilla sponge cake topped with white glace icing and coloured sprinkles. It’s as simple as simple can be -you just need your store cupboard basic ingredients to make it.
Just like this chocolate mint cake, it’s baked as a traybake style cake – making it very easy to cut into squares.
The sponge is incredibly fluffy and soft. It was often served with custard in school (yes, even with the icing and sprinkles!) and sometimes the basic vanilla sponge with topped with jam and sprinkled with coconut that was served with custard. It was the BEST dessert on a Winter’s Day! My coconut and raspberry jam loaf cake is based on that pudding.
the perfect cake for birthday parties
This retro vanilla sponge traybake is the perfect easy bake for parties and celebrations – it uses basic store cupboard ingredients, doesn’t take long to bake and is so easy to decorate you could leave the kids to do it. I let my toddler go nuts with the sprinkles for these photos – and why not?
tips for making this school dinner cake
- This recipe uses the creamed method – you cream the butter and sugar together until very soft and light, then you add the eggs, flour, vanilla extract and a little milk.
- When creaming the butter and sugar together, make sure the butter is nice and soft – I use Stork since that’s exactly what the dinner ladies would have used! I know some people aren’t crazy about baking margarine, but it really does make a lovely light and fluffy sponge cake. I also use Stork in this Victoria Sponge Cake.
- Take your time when creaming the butter and sugar – this is key to achieving a lovely light sponge cake. I mix on high speed for a good 5 minutes in my free standing mixer.
- It also helps if your butter, eggs and milk are at room temperature. I always remove them from the fridge about 30 minutes or so before baking – although if you’re using a baking margarine such as Stork, you can use that straight from the fridge.
- Take care when mixing in the rest of the ingredients – if you overbeat, the cake won’t be as soft and fluffy.
did you make this recipe?
I really hope you loved it! I would love to hear your thoughts – please a comment below and rate the recipe out of five by clicking on the stars in the recipe card.
Let's make a School Dinner Cake! A retro vanilla sponge traybake topped with white icing and coloured sprinkles. It's a real slice of nostalgia.
- 225g soft butter or baking spread
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 large beaten eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 225g self raising flour, sifted
- 60ml milk
- 250g icing sugar, sifted
- 1-2 tablespoons water (or enough to make a thick but pourable icing)
- multicoloured sprinkles, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas mark 4. Butter and line a 9x13inch (with a 2 inch depth) traybake tin with baking parchment.
- Using a free standing electric mixer or hand whisk, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The mixture shouldn't be grainy.
- Add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract, flour and milk and beat again for about 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy to touch and golden. A skewer inserted in the middle of the cake should emerge clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and leave to cool completely in the tin.
- Mix the sieved icing sugar with enough water to make a thick but pourable icing glaze. Pour over the cold cake and decorate with sprinkles. Leave to set before cutting into squares and serving.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 308Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 297mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 0gSugar: 32gProtein: 3g
Calories and nutritional information are provided by a third party application and should be viewed as indicative figures only.