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One of my earliest memories of food, and certainly of cooking with my mother, was licking the bowl and the beaters following the creation of a sponge cake. If you’ve never tried it, raw cake batter is fantastic. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Yes, there’s raw eggs. Yes, there’s raw flour. But there’s something about the velvety sweet smoothness. So much so that I once lost half a cake mix through scoffing before it had made its way into the baking tins.

There are many ways to make a sponge cake, let alone a chocolate sponge, but this is the way most beloved by my mother – and therefore me – including a couple of extra tips …

Who can resist orange & lemon jelly slices?!

Who can resist orange & lemon jelly slices?!

For a basic (vanilla) sponge, the recipe is incredibly simple: 6oz each of butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour, 2 eggs and some vanilla extract. That’s it. For a chocolate sponge, simply replace 1oz of flour with 1oz of cocoa powder (more on that later) and a couple of other extras (more on those later, too) et voila!

I’m not kidding.

So. Cocoa powder. This is not the same as drinking chocolate powder. Very important to remember that! Cocoa is a powder made from crushed beans of the American cacao tree. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and turned into thick paste. The fat (which is where cocoa butter comes from) is removed. What’s left is then ground into powder.



  • 6oz (170g) caster sugar
  • 6oz (170g) softened butter (or margarine)
  • 5oz (140g) self-raising flour
  • 1oz (28g) cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • Golden syrup
  • Cream

(You may have immediately noticed the extra ingredients there … The syrup counteracts the cocoa’s bitterness and adds an extra gloss to the mixture. The cream amps up the velvety goodness. Nothing is ever hurt by the addition of extra cream!)


Preheat oven to 180oC / 350oF and grease and flour your tins. (I use two circular tins, 7″ diameter, if I’m doing what amounts to a Victoria sandwich – but one thing I’ve been baking a lot over the last few months is a sponge tray bake. For this I grease and line an 8″ x 10″ baking tin with parchment and simply cook for an extra few minutes!)

Floured pans

Floured pans

In your mixer (or by hand if you so desire …) beat together the butter and sugar until pale yellow and smooth.

Sift the flour and cocoa together and add in thirds to the batter, adding an egg between each amount of flour. I should add that cocoa has a habit of wafting out everywhere as soon as the beaters start moving (or you breathe) so a small tip is to thoroughly cover the top of your bowl with a tea towel until its all combined!

Once these have been combined, remove the bowl from the machine and give the sides a good scrape down with a spatula. Add in perhaps half-to-one tablespoon of golden syrup and about the same of cream, depending on how thick your batter is.

Chocolatey goodness!

Chocolatey goodness!

Whisk again for a few seconds until all combined.

Turn out into your pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean!

Once your cake has come out of hte oven, leave for 5 or 10 minutes to cool in the tin. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen and turn out onto a cooling wrack. Once the cake has completely cooled you can decorate to your hearts content!

My chocolate sponges normally have raspberry jam as a filler and then buttercream icing on top – also usually chocolate – made from softened butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder – but you can use water icing, royal icing, put the buttercream in the middle with a layer of jam … go wild. Its your cake, after all!

Strawberries make a luxurious addition

Strawberries make a luxurious addition