Our family celebration chocolate buttercream sponge cake

I’ve chosen this week to share a recipe that’s very close to my heart. Monday would have been my dad’s 60th birthday, and if he were here he would be dropping big hints about his cake. There’s only one recipe we use in our family every birthday because it’s completely foolproof – and absolutely delicious. It features heavily in the fondest memories I have of my parents working as a team – my mum baking the delicious cake (and me standing on a chair to help press the buttons on the mixer) and then my dad decorating it with his artistic eye. Every year it was something different, a clock, a lion, even a helicopter. It was the biggest treat to see how these masterpieces worked out (and an even bigger treat to eat them afterwards).

So this little tutorial is in his memory – I hope some other family adopts this cake as their go-to recipe and makes it a part of the fabric of their family life too. It was originally from a 1990s Sainsbury’s baking book, but has been adapted many times and substituted to perfection by my mum.


Our family celebration chocolate buttercream sponge cake (serves 8 – 10)

For the main cake, you will need


♥ 175g (6oz) salted butter, softened (salted butter, for the cake and the icing, is crucial. It gives it that lovely balance of flavour without being sickly).
♥ 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar (you can use ordinary caster sugar but I promise it comes out much nicer with brown sugar)
♥ 3 eggs, beaten
♥ 150g (5oz) self-raising flour
♥  25g (1oz) Green & Black’s cocoa powder
♥ 1 tablespoon medium fat milk
♥ 3 drops vanilla flavouring
♥ A tiny pinch of salt

For the icing, you will need

♥ 125g (4oz) salted butter
♥ 2 tablespoons Green & Black’s cocoa powder
♥ 250g (8oz) icing sugar
♥ 1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
♥ 4 drops vanilla flavouring
♥ Any decorations you like – go nuts (I always do)!



Mixing bowls
A seive
An electric mixer, stand and hand mixers are both fine
Two 18cm / 7inch cake sandwich tins
A palette knife (for levelling cake mixture and icing the cake)

Step one


Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F / gas mark 5

Step two


Measure your ingredients into bowls, beat the eggs and set aside

Step three


Cream the butter and the brown sugar together until the mixture is creamy and fluffy in consistency and caramel coloured.

Step four


Add the beaten eggs a little at a time and mix well in between each small addition.

Step five


In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and pinch of salt together.

Step six


Fold half of the flour and cocoa powder mixture into the mixture bowl containing the eggs, sugar and butter. Add in the milk and then fold in the rest of the flour and cocoa powder with the vanilla flavouring. Mix thoroughly. Grease two 18cm / 7 inch sandwich tins with butter.

Step seven


Divide the mixture between the two tins, making sure to keep the mixture level.

Step eight

Bake in the pre-heated oven for twenty minutes. By this time the cake should have risen. If you aren’t sure, insert a skewer into the cake and see if it comes out clean.

Step nine


When the cake halves are ready, take them out of the oven, using oven gloves, and leave them in their tins for five minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Step ten


While your cake halves are cooling, it’s time to make your buttercream icing. In a cup, mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water and set it aside.

Step eleven


Beat the softened butter until creamy. Slowly add the cocoa mixture and sift in the icing sugar. Beat well and then stir in the vanilla flavouring.

Step twelve


When they are cool to the touch, sandwich the two cake layers together with buttercream icing and cover the two cake halves with the remaining icing. If you’re struggling to get the icing to stick to the cake (without taking part of the cake with you) keep a small mug of lukewarm water next to you and dip your knife in to make it moist as and when you need to.

Then you can get creative and decorate any way you like! Tadah!


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