This Retro School Cake topped with a simple glaze and sprinkles is just the simple nostalgic bake we all need right now! Easy to make all in one bowl and delicious served plain or with warm vanilla custard.
Love this cake but wish it was chocolatey? Try my Chocolate Traybake which as close to a Chocolate School Cake as you are likely to get!
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Looking for an easy cake that will feed a crowd and make you feel all nostalgic at the same time? This simple sprinkle sponge traybake is guaranteed to remind those of a certain age of their school days.
Actually, it’s still served as “pudding” at my kids primary school – sliced into squares and served with custard so I guess its popularity hasn’t waned.
It’s easy to see why this is served at schools – one batch makes a large cake that can serve up to 20 (!) plus it is DELICIOUS! Fancy making it?
Old School Cake
This cake goes by many names including school cake, school dinner cake, sprinkle tray bake, or old school pudding (much like this Tottenham Cake). It is a simple vanilla sponge typically baked in a large rectangular tin, a.k.a a traybake.
The cooled cake is covered in a thick white icing once cooled and then liberally sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. It is delicious served with custard (like this Eve’s Pudding…. so YUM).
All-in-one Sponge Cake
The cake is fluffy and buttery and very easy to make even if baking is not your thing! All you have to do is beat all the ingredients together in one large mixing bowl using a hand mixer or use a stand mixer.
The ingredients all have to be at room temperature – this is important! – so make sure you use softened butter and allow eggs /milk to warm up before using. Your batter is likely to split and look curdled if any of the ingredients are cold.
Butter Or Margarine?
I usually prefer baking with butter but I don’t mind using margarine (Stork) for this school cake. For one thing it is soft even straight out of the fridge so easier to mix and more purse friendly.
I use plain flour with both baking powder and soda to give the cake lift. You can also use self raising flour – see notes in recipe card.
Make sure that your flour and raising agents are FRESH though. I once made this cake with baking powder that was a year out of date and it was a (literal) flop.
Get the icing just right
The glaze is made simply with icing sugar and a little water. I like to also add vanilla extract but that’s optional. The icing needs to be quite thick otherwise it will simply run off your cake!
The trick is to add just enough water and keep mixing until the glaze drops off your spoon slowly, like honey would. If it is too thin you can simply add more icing sugar. Too thick? Add water, a few DROPS at a time, until you have the right consistency.
SCHOOL CAKE STEP BY STEP
Full measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page. Please take a look at the steps and video before attempting this recipe!
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. If you can be bothered then sift everything into the bowl to aerate the dry ingredients. Mix together with a balloon whisk to combine.
Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and butter or margarine (room temperature please!).
Start beating at lowest speed setting until the ingredients start to come together. I used my KitchenAid hand mixer but you can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Gradually increase the speed to maximum and beat until the batter is completely smooth – about 30 seconds to one minute. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula halfway through.
Transfer to a rectangular baking tray (a traybake tin) lined with paper and level using a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is golden and feels springy to the touch. A skewer or knife inserted in the centre should come out clean – if not cook for a further 5 minutes.
Leave the cake to cool completely. If the cake has domed while baking, level using a large serrated knife. This is likely to happen if the baking tin is a tad too small or the oven is too hot. You can always flip the cake over (carefully!) so that you add the icing to the FLAT side.
Mix the icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick pourable glaze. Drizzle over the cake, letting it drip down the sides (you might want to do this over a large roasting tin to catch any excess glaze).
Add sprinkles and leave the glaze to set slightly before slicing and sharing. You can serve with a little warm custard (I used tinned custard) for an extra slice of nostalgia!
Retro School Dinner Cake
- 350 g ( 2¾ cups) plain flour (all purpose flour or cake flour)
- 330 g (1 ⅔ cups) sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tbsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp salt omit if you are using margarine
- 200 g (7/8 cup) softened butter or margarine
- 3 large eggs
- 180 ml (¾ cup) milk room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
For the icing & decoration
- 480 g (4 cups) icing sugar (powdered sugar) preferably sifted
- water, as needed to thin the icing
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- hundreds and thousands sprinkles
- Preheat the oven to 170C (340F). Line a rectangular tin (mine was 23x29cm) with baking paper letting the edges hang over the sides.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda in a large mixing bowl. If you can be bothered then sift everything into the bowl to aerate the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and butter or margarine (room temperature please!).
- Start beating at lowest speed setting until ingredients come together. Increase the speed to maximum and beat until the batter is completely smooth – about 30 seconds to one minute.
- Transfer to a rectangular baking tray lined with paper and level using a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is golden and feels springy to the touch. A skewer or knife inserted in the centre should come out clean – if not cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Leave the cake to cool completely then carefully invert so that you add glaze to the flat side. If the cake has domed while baking, level using a large serrated knife. This is likely to happen if your baking tray is a tad too small.
- Mix the icing sugar with just enough water to make a thick pourable glaze. Drizzle over the cake, letting it drip down the sides (you might want to do this over a large roasting tin to catch any excess glaze).
- Add sprinkles and leave the glaze to set slightly before slicing and sharing. You can serve with a little warm custard (I used tinned custard) for an extra slice of nostalgia!
- If you are using self raising flour then add only 1 tsp baking powder (no baking soda).
- Unless specified otherwise all your ingredients including butter eggs and milk should be at room temperature in order to achieve a smooth batter. If one or more of the ingredients are cold they will cause your batter to split or look curdled.
- If your milk is cold from the fridge then heat briefly in the microwave or saucepan until just tepid. Make sure the milk is body temperature – not too hot!
- Place cold eggs into warm water for five minutes to bring them back to room temperature.
- Cut cold butter into cubes and leave for an hour on your counter to warm up or use margarine.
How do I know if my cake is done?
- Oven temperatures can vary so set a timer for 5 minutes before the specified time. The cake is done when the top is springy to the touch, the cake has just started to pull away from the edge of the tin and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Avoid opening the oven too often – or too early! – to check if the cake is done or your oven will start losing heat.
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