Old School Cake Recipe

Old School Cake Recipe

Hands up if you remember those slabs of cake that you used to eat at school dinner time? Swimming in a shallow bowl of custard? The idea of this old school cake recipe is to replicate those squares of sponge cake that we used to love. This is the mother of all old fashioned cake recipes. UK kids who were at school during the 80s and 90s should remember it well.

The iced sponge cake recipe is baked in a rectangular or square dish. This means the completed cake is easy to cut into squares. If you have very large eggs, use 3 instead of 4. You can use either metal or silicone baking tin or a ceramic one – like a lasagne dish, as I did. After baking, I just left it in the dish to cool for an hour before icing.

As you might expect, old school cake recipes are so simple to make. This one consists of an iced sponge traybake cake mixture, albeit in a slightly larger quantity. Once baked and cooled, it is smothered in a straightforward glacé icing made from just icing sugar and water. With a dash of food colouring – if you like. Plain white looks good too. I made this one a very pale pink so that the sprinkle decoration would stand out.

To finish this sponge cake with icing, sprinkles are essential. There’s no way this would look right without them, so don’t leave them out when buying baking ingredients. Don’t forget to buy some custard too. Ready made is great – opt for fresh vanilla custard for a touch of luxury, or opt for a can or carton to reproduce that classic back to school cake vibe. So reminiscent of old school puddings.

Serves around 16

Old school cake recipe ingredients


  • Self-raising flour, 200g
  • Granulated or caster sugar, 200g
  • Baking margarine or butter (at room temperature), cubed, 200g
  • Eggs, 4 medium
  • Vanilla extract, 1 tsp
  • Salt, a pinch


  • Icing sugar, 200g
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Sprinkles


How to make old school cake

  • Grease the ceramic or metal baking dish with a little butter or baking margarine.
  • Place the cake ingredients into a food mixer or processor and blitz until smooth. This takes about 20 seconds in my food processor.
  • Transfer the cake batter into the greased baking dish and smooth the surface.
  • Bake at 160 degrees fan (or equivalent) for around 20 – 30 minutes, until risen and golden. The time does vary according to the oven and baking dish. Use a metal skewer to check the centre of the cake is baked before turning the oven off – give it five minutes more before checking again if there is any uncooked cake mix on the skewer. If you’re not sure, you can also check it’s done by pressing the top gently with your finger – it should feel springy if baked.
  • Leave the cake to cool to room temperature in the dish or tin. As I made mine in a ceramic dish, I left it in that for an hour before icing. If you’ve used a metal dish and want to remove it from that, do so once it’s cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack.
  • Make the icing. Measure out the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, than add about a tablespoon of water at a time until it is thick but just spreadable. Add the food colouring – if using – after the first couple of spoonfuls of water. If you’re getting close to the right consistency, then add just a teaspoon at a time until it’s just right.
  • Pour the icing over the cooled sponge tray bake. Use the spatula to gently spread it out, creating a smooth, even layer. Add the sprinkles. Once the icing has set, it’s ready to cut into squares.

Serve with custard.

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