icon
Search

Hero Sponge - The Most Versatile and Moist Cake Recipe

I'm going to give away my biggest "trade secret". Our most moist, tender and flavoursome vanilla sponge recipe is our Hero. Not only is it delicious on its own, it can be frosted with buttercream, left naked, drizzled with ganache or icing, sandwiched with cream and jam...but it can also be easily converted to countless other flavours. It can be made into cupcakes, or lofty layer cakes.

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe -cupcake flavours

The best bit? It's also SUPER SIMPLE and the most cost efficient too.

How Reshmi? HOW?!

A few years ago I made the controversial decision to change our cake sponge recipes from butter-based to oil-based. It took me a while to come to that decision as I used to be a pure-butter snob. But the costs of butter spiralling upwards (Lurpak made news recently for a tub retailing upwards of £8) made me rethink our recipes. How can we offer our customers glorious tasting cakes without using butter in the sponge? After all, butter does lend a gorgeous taste.

The issues with butter isn't just the cost of it either. It also takes time being brought to room temperature and then creamed with caster sugar. By switching to oil-based cake sponge recipes, not only do we save time, but we could also substitute the more expensive caster sugar with ordinary granulated sugar as there is no creaming stage in the recipe.

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe -flavours

So what about the taste? And the texture?

The two absolute non-negotiables - Taste and Texture.

Re: Taste - Butter does add a depth of flavour, versus oil which is inert. The "secret" to making an oil-based cake sponge recipe taste just as good, if not better, is by adding buttermilk or low fat yoghurt. Not only does the cake sponge benefit from the richness of dairy, they also lend a slight tanginess that lifts the entire flavour profile. 

The only place we do not compromise on butter is in our Swiss meringue buttercream. With butter being one of the main components of our frosting, noone will ever miss or even notice its absence from our sponge.

Re: Texture - Butter-based sponges tend to have a tighter crumb. Since oil is liquid at room temperature the sponge tends to be more tender and fluffy. It also benefits from remaining moist for a lot longer than butter-based recipes.

So no more waiting around for ingredients coming to room temp, no more creaming. In fact, you don't even need a mixer for our sponge recipe. Just some scales and an old school hand whisk! And it's just one bowl!

This recipe is so versatile. We use it for our coffee cakes, cookies & cream cakes, lemon cakes, pistachio, matcha...even red velvet! I'll pop the vanilla recipe below and then list all the various inclusions you can use to flavour it further. Thank me in the comments!

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe -flavour inclusions

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe

Yields: 3x 6" layers or 2x 8" layers or 12 muffin-sized cupcakes.

Ingredients

3 medium eggs

80g oil (any neutral oil such as sunflower or vegetable)

120g buttermilk or low-fat natural yoghurt

100g whole milk

20g vanilla extract

300g granulated sugar

5g salt

350g plain flour

15g baking powder

Method

1) Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees C. A lot of recipes call for 180 degrees, however for an even rise, low and slow is the key.

2) Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Pour the oil, buttermilk, milk and vanilla in and whisk till well combined. 

3) Put the sugar and salt in and whisk till mixed well.

4) Sieve the flour and baking powder into the bowl and whisk till no lumps are visible. Do not overwhisk.

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe -batter

5) Bake!

Layer cakes: Grease your cake tins and divide the batter evenly into them. Place on the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 27 minutes. 

Cupcakes: Divide the batter evenly into cupcake cases, 2/3rds full. Cupcake cases vary in size. Fairy cakes will take about 12-13 minutes to bake, and larger muffin sized cupcakes will take anywhere between 16-19 minutes. 

Check for done-ness with a cocktail stick. If the stick has any wet batter on, bake for a further 2 minutes and test again until the skewer comes out just clean. Remove from oven and let cool in tins for 10 minutes before releasing the sponges/cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Below are some flavour inclusions you can add to your batter at the end. If you liked this recipe you can purchase more of our recipes in PDF format for other amazing flavour variations such as chocolate, or size variations to make larger cakes for weddings etc. 

Flavour Inclusions

Chocolate Chip - toss 100g of chocolate chips in a tablespoon of plain flour. Stir it through the batter. The flour helps the chocolate chips remain suspended in the batter, rather than sink to the bottom.

Cookies & Cream/Oreo - crush 10-12 Oreo cookies and stir through the batter.

Nutella - Stir 3 tablespoons of Nutella or any chocolate-hazelnut spread through the batter.

Pistachio - Stir in 100g of chopped or ground pistachios with 1 teaspoon of almond extract.

Matcha Green Tea - Stir 3 tablespoons of matcha powder into 4 teaspoons of oil. Mix it into the batter. We use oil to emulsify powdered inclusions so that it doesn't risk drying out the sponge.

Coffee & Walnut - Warm 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir in 3 tablespoons of instant coffee granules until dissolved. Mix it into the batter along with 100g of chopped walnuts.

Red Velvet - Mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in 2 tablespoons of oil. Add 2-3 teaspoons of red food colouring until you reach your desired shade of deep red. Red Velvet purists might scoff at this "hack" as we are not using vinegar in the recipe. However, we do use buttermilk which already gives our delicious sponge its irresistible tang and since the vast majority of readily available cocoa powder is Dutch processed, we do not need any additional acidic ingredients for the chemical reaction to make it red. And oh, that small matter of using food colouring anyway!

Lemon - Stir in the zest and juice of one lemon into the batter. 

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe -baked flavours

There you go. That's our biggest secret. Let me know how you get on and if you come up with any other fun and tasty flavour inclusions!

Lots of love,

Reshmi xoxo

29 Responses

Monica

Monica

November 20, 2022

Easy recipe and the cake is so lovely and moist! It yielded 18 muffin sized cupcakes. I split up the mixture to make a few different flavours (biscoff, toffee and raisin). All turned out great! I used the trick of tossing the toffee and raisins in flour to help suspend them in the mixture.

Wande

Wande

November 14, 2022

The flavour hacks are fab! I gravitate towards cakes that are oil based for all the reasons you mentioned above- cost, time etc. Glad to have your amazing recipe to add to my list!

Afifa Khojbaria

Afifa Khojbaria

November 06, 2022

Doubled the recipe to make vanilla
Cupcakes and managed to have so much leftover so used that to make a coffee and walnut cake. Love the different variations of flavours you can use with this recipe. Both lots of cakes turned out soft and fluffy. Will definitely be using this recipe again, not to mention how cost effective it is too!

Lydia

Lydia

November 06, 2022

Its taken me a while to pluck up the courage to bake a cake again (I used to enjoy it, but stopped for a while) and my partners birthday was the perfect excuse! I made a chocolate orange cake and it was delicious!!! So easy to make, and super tasty – its unlikely I’ll be using another cake recipe again!

Rosie A

Rosie A

November 06, 2022

THE best recipe. It has changed my life! Thank you, Reshmi – the real hero is you!

Beck Russell

Beck Russell

November 06, 2022

Made this a while ago as a vanilla sponge and it came out perfect! Can’t wait to try something more ambitious with this wonderful recipe this month for my 40th!

Helen

Helen

November 06, 2022

Love this recipe with the Swiss meringue buttercream too, life saver. So quick too! Thank you! xx

Sophie P

Sophie P

November 05, 2022

Clue’s in the name – this recipe is a hero! I had given up making cakes because of the sheer cost of ingredients. Now it’s back on the menu! I’ve made it with zero fat natural yoghurt (all that was in the shop) and with with homemade buttermilk (my husband insists this is just milk with a dash of lemon juice?). Both were fab but the latter was best. Have also always used a fan oven on 150, to answer one of the questions below.

KC

KC

November 02, 2022

{{{Sob}}} My sponge was a total fail. Cake didn’t rise, simply solidified in place after about 40 minutes. Kind of like a cookie (or as you Brits say, a biscuit). It was edible but just barely. I think it might have been the yogurt – my store had only 0% fat Greek style; perhaps too dense and dry. I will try this again with buttermilk instead.

Anna

Anna

October 19, 2022

Loved this recipe! Made a plain old Vicky sponge for work, it got devoured in minutes!

Gaby

Gaby

October 12, 2022

Any suggestions for a pumpkin / Halloween – twist. I was thinking coco powder, mixed spice, ginger and orange food colouring? Daughter has school baking comp next week.

Bryony cross

Bryony cross

August 13, 2022

Hi, my oven only has a fan setting what should I set the temperature to?

Excited to make this for my dads 70th!

Thank you :)

Sangeeta

Sangeeta

August 13, 2022

Can this recipe be veganised?

Stacy Sakamoto

Stacy Sakamoto

July 29, 2022

Could you use avocado oil? This is a great simple recipe!

Tone Ryg

Tone Ryg

July 24, 2022

Thank you so much for the receipe! I’m trying it with huckleberries today, as I just came back from a walk in the forest with 3 full cups, and didn’t have the patience to wait for the butter to get to room temperature…

Jenny Love-Hughes

Jenny Love-Hughes

July 24, 2022

Made this for a family birthday – had giant 9 inch cake tins so made 1.5 quantity mixture. I’m also coeliac so made it GF, with GF flour and xanthan gum.
Pleased to say it worked like a dream – held together well as well, as GF cakes can often be crumbly.
Super tasty and thumbs up all round! Thanks for sharing, Reshmi!

Jules Gallagher

Jules Gallagher

July 21, 2022

Reshmi, you truly are an angel! I belong to a group of volunteer bakers who whip up treats for food bank users (we’ve got 5590 in Brighton which is horrifying) and this is just a magic recipe for us. Simple, cheap ingredients and easy method which means we can share and encourage more people to bake for us. Thank you so much! Big love from Sussex Bakedown x

Serena

Serena

July 12, 2022

Does this work for banana too? And is it sturdy enough for wedding cake?

Hazel McGibbon

Hazel McGibbon

July 12, 2022

As always you are extremely generous with your recipes and methods. I’m always happy to share my recipes with friends etc but you are a professional baker and not many do as you do. So thank you! Baking on my day off tomorrow! You are a star.

Tesha

Tesha

July 09, 2022

You’re the Best!!!

Emma W

Emma W

July 09, 2022

So very interesting! I used oil in place of butter in a carrot cake years ago and often wondered if it might be possible with other cakes – so glad you did all the heavy lifting to confirm it is possible! 🎂 Thank you so much

Mohammed

Mohammed

July 09, 2022

Thank you so very much for this recipe. Can’t wait to try it for Eid!

Caroline

Caroline

July 09, 2022

I think this is generosity in abundance sharing this, thank you. I’m a trained pastry chef so very comfortable in the world of cake but I know many people are just not confident around cakes and this guidance and recipe will unlock that. Thank you.

Adele

Adele

July 09, 2022

I am trying this out TODAY! Thanks Reshmi

Hiqmat Eniafe

Hiqmat Eniafe

July 08, 2022

You are just the gift that just keeps on giving! Loving the fake cake bakes, your children books that makes delicious baked goods and now the ingredients AND method to baking your amazing cakes.

Priya joshi

Priya joshi

July 08, 2022

Well I know what I’m doing this weekend! Thanks Reshmi! I absolutely love your cakes! (I order one every year for my hubbys birthday!) will definitely try baking a choc chip sponge with your recipe x

Abi

Abi

July 08, 2022

This looks great – and so simple??!! And you’ve listed everything – liquids / teaspoons etc – in grams to make it even simpler. And explained why you’ve made any changes. Very generous of you to share so much information. THANK YOU!!

FP

FP

July 08, 2022

Thank you for your recipe! Can’t wait to try it out.
Is the temperature 150 fan or conventional? Thanks in advance :)

Lucy

Lucy

July 08, 2022

This is AMAZING!! Currently looking for an oil based cake – thank you so much for sharing x

Leave a comment (all fields required)

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Search