Hero Sponge - The Most Versatile and Moist Cake Recipe (2024)

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.

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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.

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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!

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Do try it - I guarantee you'll love it and will probably not look to any other sponge recipe again. Below is our recipe available freely with a few flavour variations. However, if you've tried it and like it and would like to learn about more flavours, chocolate sponge variations, sponge size guide, or even Vegan, Gluten and/or Dairy Free, and Gluten/Egg/Dairy Free, we have them all available to purchase.

The Most Versatile and Moist Vanilla Cake Recipe

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


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


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.

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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 co*cktail 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 ourrecipesin PDF format for other amazing flavour variations such as chocolate, or size variations to make larger cakes for weddings etc.

Flavour Inclusions

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

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 irresistibletang 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!

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There you go. That's our biggest secret. If you'd like to try more variations as pictured you can buy the recipe here. We also have chocolate variations available separately and free-from versions too! Sign up to our mailing list as I do email variations sometimes (amongst other very cool things!). 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

Hero Sponge - The Most Versatile and Moist Cake Recipe (2024)


What is the secret to a good sponge cake? ›

Go with room temperature ingredients

Make sure that the butter you use is not too cold. Using cold butter can make you over-mix since it takes a long time to thoroughly mix butter, sugar and eggs. You can end up with a cake that is too heavy. Avoid all that by simply using room temperature ingredients.

What do you spray on cakes to keep them moist? ›

Simple syrup is a great all-purpose glaze for cakes and fruitcakes, adding moisture and a bit of sweetness. It's also a key element in certain mixed drinks.

What is the best sugar for sponge cakes? ›

Because of this caster sugar is generally the most versatile and preferred of the two when baking – its small granules mixes more easily and dissolve more readily when combined with other ingredients giving biscuits, cakes, pastries etc.

What is the difference between a joconde sponge and a Genoise sponge? ›

A joconde is a close relative of a Genoise sponge, the major difference being the inclusion of ground nuts (usually almonds). It is probably best known for its use in an Opera gateau. A dacquoise is ostensibly a meringue with nuts added (usually hazelnuts and almonds) and occasionally a little cornflour.

What is the difference between a normal sponge and a Genoise sponge? ›

Genoise cake is unique because it uses whipped eggs alone to leaven the cake, rather than relying on baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, like regular sponge cakes. It is therefore crucial to incorporate enough air to sufficiently volumnise the eggs when whipping them.

Which is better chiffon or sponge cake? ›

Chiffon cake is a type of sponge cake that is characterized by its light and soft texture. Unlike traditional sponge cakes, which are made with or without butter, chiffon cakes are always made with oil. This gives them a tender, moist crumb and makes them lighter and more delicate than other types of cake.

How do bakeries get their cakes so moist? ›

Seven Bakery Secrets to Incredibly Moist Cakes Every Time
  1. Use Buttermilk Instead of Milk.
  2. Add Vegetable Oil.
  3. Use Instant Clearjel or Instant Pudding Mix.
  4. Use the Right Recipe.
  5. Don't Overbake.
  6. Bake in Sheet Pans Instead of individual Cake Pans.
  7. Use a Simple Syrup or Glaze.
Apr 23, 2021

Why do bakers soak cakes? ›

Let me introduce you to the cake soak.

When you do this, the cake integrates moisture and flavor, and the sweetened liquid helps preserve the cake's freshness, so a slice can taste just as delicious a couple days after baking.

What do they squirt on cakes before icing? ›

Simple syrup is a water & sugar combination, cooked together into a syrup. It is often used in co*cktails, or iced beverages such as lemonade or iced coffee. But it is also delicious used on layer cakes to add moisture. Simple syrup is also popular for fruitcakes since they tend to be on the drier side.

Is sponge cake better with oil or butter? ›

The high fat content of butter keeps the sponge moist and tender whilst also providing a delicious buttery flavour that you won't get with margarine or oils. Let your butter come to room temperature if baking a sponge, keep it as cool as possible in the refrigerator if making pastry or scones.

Why is my sponge cake not light and fluffy? ›

Make sure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature. If the ingredients are at different temperatures then they may not combine properly and the cake will be dense. If the eggs are stored in the fridge then remove them several hours before using, so they are properly at room temperature.

Why isn't my sponge cake light and fluffy? ›

Over mixing acts on the gluten in flour and will make cakes hard instead of the lovely soft spongy texture we associate with a good cake. Insufficient creaming of sugar and eggs will also make a tight texture because there isn't enough air trapped in the mix to give it a lift.

What makes cake spongy and smooth? ›

Baking powder is mixed with the flour. When water is added to this flour to make dough, baking powder undergoes a chemical reaction during which carbon dioxide gas is produced. This carbon dioxide gas gets trapped into the dough and bubbles out which causes the cake to rise making it soft and spongy.

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