This vanilla tray bake came about after a reader asked me to make create a chocolate or vanilla sheet cake recipe. This one is so buttery, soft and fluffy and the 2-ingredient icing keeps it really simple to make.

If you love a lovely sheet cake or tray bake cake, try this beautiful strawberry sheet cake or my one bowl chocolate freckle cake.

Squares of sponge cake topped with icing and sprinkles.

Why you’ll love it

Buttery, super-soft vanilla sponge with a sweet but thin icing topping, this vanilla tray bake is so moist and tender and loosely based on the old school sponge tray bake – a UK classic. I promise you won’t regret making this.

While I originally was going to make a thick buttercream to top this, I went with a runny icing (like an old school sponge) because it’s easy to make, and the thin layer is just the right amount of sweetness for the cake.

Perfect for a crowd, the sprinkles add a fun element and can be swapped for any colours that suit the occasion at hand, whether it be a birthday, a holiday or just for the fun of it.

There’s just one rule: Please, measure the sprinkles with your heart.

Of if you don’t feel like sprinkles, try this swiss meringue buttercream or this colourful, decorative piped buttercream.

This Cornflake tart is another UK school dinner classic.

Ingredients you’ll need

With a collection of simple ingredients, you could probably make this vanilla traybake right now. Just saying!

Ingredients for vanilla tray bake on a marble surface.

Detailed quantities and instructions in the recipe card below.

  • Flour: You’ll need just plain flour / all-purpose flour. You can swap it for cake flour if you have it.
  • Baking powder: Make sure to use baking powder and not baking soda (or bicarb soda).
  • Butter: Unsalted butter gives a rich, buttery flavour but allows you to control the salt level. Make sure it’s a little softened.
  • Sugar: You’ll just need regular white granulated sugar here.
  • Eggs: You’ll need 4 large eggs for this recipe. Make sure they’re at room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract: It’s important to use pure vanilla extract and not vanilla essence. Extract is a natural flavouring.
  • Milk: You only need a little milk so stick to whole milk for this one. With a little more fat than lighter versions, it adds flavour.
  • Icing sugar: Icing sugar, aka powdered sugar, aka confectioners sugar, is very fine powdery sugar and it just what you need for the icing.
  • Sprinkles: Use whatever sprinkles your heart fancies but if you aren’t into sprinkles, that’s fine too (I’ll try not to judge, haha) use some shaved chocolate instead and maybe berries, loaded up the way I did on this raspberry tiramisu.

You can swap both the flour and baking powder for self raising flour, if that’s what you have on hand.

Tools you’ll need

How to make vanilla tray bake

Just a simple, every day cake batter and the easiest of easy icings – you can make this quickly and everyone will love it.

A collage of 4 images showing how to make the cake batter.

Detailed instructions in the recipe card below.

For the sponge cake

  1. Dry ingredients: In a medium bowl use a whisk to combine and aerate the flour and baking powder.
  2. Wet ingredients: Beat together the sugar and butter until lightened and creamy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each. Finally add the vanilla and milk and mix until just combined.
  3. Combine them: Now add the flour to the butter mixture in 3 parts, just mixing gently between each until just combined. Careful not to overmix.
  4. Bake: Spread the thick batter out in a prepared pan (greased and lined with baking paper) then bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a crumb or two attached.
A collage of 3 images showing how to decorate the cake.

For the icing

  1. Mix: In another medium bowl, stir together the icing sugar and water until you have a runny white icing. You can thicken it with more icing sugar or thin it with more water.
  2. Ice the cake: Once the cake has cooled, pour over the icing and give it an hour or so to set before slicing the cake and serving.

Don’t worry if the mixture looks like it’s a bit split after beating in the eggs. Beat it to as smooth as you can and adding the flour will get it the rest of the way smooth.

Tricks and tips

  • Please weigh ingredients like flour using a kitchen scale. They’re cheap and will make sure all your bakes are perfect. A little too much or too little of these ingredients can make a huge difference to the result.
  • Eggs should be at room temperature: Make sure to bring your eggs up to room temperature before starting so everything blends together well. If you forgot to take them out of the fridge, just leave them in a bowl of warm (NOT hot or boiling) water for 10 minutes.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl often as you mix the batter.
  • Don’t overmix once the flour has been added – just mix enough to just combine everything otherwise your cake may turn out dense.
  • All ovens vary: This is really important as all ovens are different. Many run hotter or colder than the temperature gauge suggests. This means that what takes 21 minutes in my oven may take 20 or 23 in yours. I always recommend keeping an oven thermometer inside your oven (2 if it’s a large oven) so you can confirm the interior is at the right temperature. They’re very cheap.
A stack of squares of sponge tray bake toped with sprinkles.


You can top this cake with buttercream if you prefer or try this chocolate fudge frosting for a chocolate vanilla combo.

If you don’t like sprinkles, just use a vegetable peeler along the side of a chocolate bar to create chocolate shavings.


This cake is best on the day it’s made. Depending on the type of sprinkles you use, the colour may ‘bleed’ in to the white icing as the days go on.

It will start to stale after 2 days so eat it up as quick as you can.

This vanilla tray bake cake does freeze well too. You can freeze it whole – just wrap the whole tin 2-3 times in plastic wrap, making sure it’s airtight. You can also slice it up, then freeze the slices in an airtight container. It will thaw in 30-60 minutes depending on if it’s sliced or whole.

A stack of 3 squares of sponge tray bake.

More cake recipes you’ll love

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A stack of squares of sponge tray bake topped with sprinkles.
4.9 from 68 ratings
Soft and fluffy vanilla tray bake is an easy buttery sponge, topped with simple icing and sprinkles. Perfect for birthdays or just afternoon tea, this vanilla sheet cake will have you craving more.



  • 225 g plain (all-purp) flour (1 ¾ cups / 8oz)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 225 g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup / 2 sticks / 8oz)
  • 250 g granulated sugar (1 ¼ cups / 8.8oz)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 2 cups icing (powdered / confectioners) sugar (163g / 5.7oz)
  • 8 teaspoons water
  • 2 tablespoons sprinkles

For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided


  • FOR THE SPONGE: Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / 160C fan forced and line a 9×13 baking pan (or lamington pan) with baking paper.
  • Combine the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk well to disperse and aerate. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer (or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl a couple of times during.
  • Add the eggs, one at at time, beating on low each time until just combined. Scrape around the bowl as necessary. It may look a little split at this point but don't worry – the flour will bring it together smoothly.
  • Add the milk and vanilla and gently mix through.
  • Swap to a spatula and gently mix through ⅓ of the flour mixture at a time until it is all just combined. Careful not to overmix.
  • Tip into the tin and gently spread out into a thin layer, then bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a crumb or two attached.
  • Let it cool completely before glazing.
  • To turn it out, place a wire rack on top and flip the whole thing over. Remove the baking paper, the place another rack on top of the cake and flip again to get it back up the right way.
  • FOR THE ICING: Mix together the icing sugar and half the water. Slowly add more water until it gets to the desired consistency, then pour it over the cooled cake.
  • Please take a moment to rate this recipe. I really appreciate it and it helps me create more recipes.


  1. All ovens vary – always test for doneness 3-5 minutes before the recipe suggests
  2. For best results, you should always weigh ingredients like flour and sugar. Kitchen scales are relatively cheap but if you can’t weigh the ingredients, use the spoon and level method (don’t scoop).
  3. Icing consistency: Add more icing sugar to thicken or more water to loosen, but don’t make it too runny or it will run straight off the cake.
Have you tried this recipe?Don’t forget to leave a rating and comment below and let me know how it was! I love hearing from you. Nutrition information is approximate and derived from an online calculator. The brands you use may cause variations.