Back to basics birthday cake

I know a lot of you following my page know how to bake already, but this one is for the people who might be trying to bake for the first time – judging by the flour sales that could be quite a few of you!

I’ve had so many people message me asking baking questions and I absolutely love helping you all out and seeing your bakes at the end of it makes me very happy!

So this one we are going back to basics, keeping it as simple and uncomplicated as possible, no fancy cake decorating equipment needed, and a few variations so you can change the flavour or mix and match if you want to.

If you try my recipe please tag me on Instagram @bakedbyjane or send me a photo, I'd love to see.
Photograph of Back to basics birthday cake baked by Jane.
Photograph of Back to basics birthday cake baked by Jane.


Servings 10



  • 225g soft, unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 225g self raising flour 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • 20g cornflour 
  • Pinch salt 
  • 2 tablespoons of milk

Cake Flavour Options

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract,
  • zest of 2 lemons, plus juice of 1 lemon (leave out the milk) 
  • zest of 2 oranges, juice of one small organic (leave out the milk) 
  • a shot of espresso (leave out the milk) 
  • for a more caramel flavoured cake swap the caster sugar to light soft brown sugar. 
  • For a chocolate sponge take out one tablespoon flour and add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed with some boiling water to make a thick paste. Add that to the other ingredients

Sugar syrup 

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g water 
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

For a citrus syrup 

  • 100g of juice from your lemons/oranges
  • 100g caster sugar


  • About 2 heaped tablespoons of your filling of choice, jam, fruit curd, caramel, chocolate spread, whatever you fancy! 


  • 260g soft unsalted butter
  • 450g icing sugar, sifted 
  • Once you have made your buttercream choose your flavouring and add that in.

Buttercream Flavour options

  • 1 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or any other extract you fancy. 
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
  • A cooled shot of espresso 
  • 150g dark chocolate melted but left to cool down to room temp.


  1. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you bake. 
  2. Weigh everything out before you begin, being organised means you are less lightly to make a mistake or forget something. 
  3. Pre heat your oven to 175c fan
  4. Butter and line the base and sides of your 8” cake tin. 
  5. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl. 
  6. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cornflour and salt in another bowl, whisk them together to mix.
  7. Put the eggs, milk and vanilla (optional) into a jug, whisk those together. 
  8. Then add everything to the mixing bowl, using an electric had whisk if you have one, whisk everything together, scrape the bowl down the sides and bottom with a spatula in between so you can make sure everything is mixed thoroughly. Don’t over mix it, just enough until is is smooth and everything has come together. Maybe around a minute mixing all together. Pour the mixture into a tin, smooth it out slightly, bake on the centre shelf of the oven for around 45 minutes. Don’t open the oven too soon to check or your cake might sink, Check it is baked with a skewer inserted to the middle, it should come out clean when baked, if it has any unbaked mixture on it close the door, give it another few minutes and check again. 
  9. While you cake is baking make the sugar syrup, put the water and caster sugar in a small saucepan, over a medium heat, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved, take off a heat, add the vanilla (optional). Leave to cool. 
  10. Once your cake is baked, take it out and put it on a cooling rack still in its tin, after about 15 minutes while the cake is still warm brush it with some of the sugar syrup, you can carefully remove it from the tin at this point if you want to but be careful as warm cake is fragile. Leave to cool completely. 
  11. When the cake is cool, take a long knife and score all the way round about halfway up the side of your cake, once you have gone all the way round slice through the centre, keeping your knife as flat as you can do your layers are even. Remove the top, brush each side of the cut sponge with sugar syrup. Set aside while you make your buttercream. 
  12. Put your soft butter in a mixing bowl, sift your icing sugar, add one third at a time beating well in between with your hand mixer, you might want to cover the bowl with a tea towel to stop the icing sugar going everywhere. Once all the sugar is added, give it a really good mix for 3-5 minutes to make it really light and soft, stir through any flavour you are using. 
  13. Use a little dab of buttercream to stock the first half of cake to your plate, I use the top half first, cut side facing upwards, put just under half the buttercream on, I used the back of a spoon to spread it out, make the sides a little higher than the centre so that it makes a bit of a border to keep the jam or whatever filling you are using inside your cake layers. 
  14. Add a couple of tablespoons of your filling of choice, spread that out with the back of a spoon within the buttercream border. Place the other cake half on top, cut side down so you have the nice flat bottom now as the top of your cake, this way round will be easier to make it neat and tidy. Use a palette knife or spatula to tidy up any over spilling buttercream from the sides of the cake. Smooth round the sides. 
  15. Pile the rest of the buttercream on the top, start spreading it outwards and down over the sides, smooth round the sides until the cake is covered. I go back and tidy up the top by smoothing the buttercream from the edge inwards towards the centre, scraping off any excess from my spatula in between. To decorate add whatever you fancy, a pile of fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar. Sprinkles, sweets, chocolates, edible flowers, meringues or macarons, the possibilities are endless. When decorating I usually will put my toppings in a few different ways, I’d either go straight in the centre if I was using lots of berries, or sometimes I’ll do a crescent shape arrangement, that looks lovely too. Or my final go to would be to place any decorations around the top edge of the cake as I did with this one. 
You can always look at my Instagram for some inspiration on how I decorate my cakes. Cake will last a good few days, keep it in an airtight container or covered to keep it from drying out.

Published by Jane Lewis


In 2015 I made it through to the last 50 in the last audition of The Great British Bake Off. Sadly I wasn't chosen for the programme but I need to carry on my journey as I can't imagine my life without baking.

I'd love to start writing my own recipes. So what better place to do it than starting a blog.