Vanilla Sponge Cake with Rhubarb Butter Icing

Thornback and peel jelly and cake

This triple-layered sponge cake may look impressive but is actually really simple to make. The sponge can even be baked in advance and frozen, leaving you with just the icing to add on the day of the celebration. So why not gather your friends for a spot of afternoon tea this weekend?

Thornback and peel jelly and cake tote bag


These quantities make enough mixture for 3 x 6 inch cake tins


12 ozs Caster Sugar

12 ozs Unsalted Butter – at room temperature

6 Medium Eggs

12ozs Self-raising Flour – seived

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract


50g Chopped Rhubarb

1 Satsuma – grated rind and juice

60g Caster Sugar

100ml Water

200g Unsalted butter – at room temperature

400g Icing Sugar – sieved

Thornback and peel jelly and cake tote bag

Start by preparing your cake tins. Line the base and the sides with baking parchment and brush with a thin layer of melted butter. Loose-bottom cake tins will really help you to remove the cakes easily when they’ve been cooked.

Thornback and peel jelly and cake tote bag

Mix together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs…just a little bit at a time to prevent the mixture from curdling. Beat the batter well in-between each addition of egg. If your mixture does happen to curdle, just add a tablespoon of the flour to bring it back to the right consistency.

Thornback and peel jelly and cake tote bag

When all of the eggs have been thoroughly combined it’s time to add the flour.

Sieve the flour into the mixture and then gently fold it in. Carefully cut through the mixture with the edge of the spoon, working in a figure of eight and moving the bowl as you go. Scrape around the sides and base of the bowl at intervals to incorporate all of the flour and stop mixing when all of the flour pockets have disappeared.

Spoon the mixture into your three lined cake tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 180 degrees (fan assisted).

To make the butter icing, start by cooking the rhubarb. Gentle simmer the rhubarb, water, caster sugar, and rind and juice of one satsuma in a pan on a low heat until the liquid is thick and syrupy and the rhubarb is lovely and soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Whilst the rhubarb is cooling, beat together the softened butter and icing sugar. Then incorporate the syrup from the cooked rhubarb. Your rhubarb butter-icing is now ready to use.

thornback and peel jelly and cake

When your cakes are golden brown and cooked all the way through, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool. You then need to level the cakes, with a sharp knife, so that they’ll stack neatly.

Once completely cooled and levelled you can start to ice your cakes. Simply spread a thick layer of buttercream between the 3 layers. Use a spatula to smooth the icing over the outside of the cake and to remove any excess icing. If you have difficulty spreading the icing, you could try warming it for a few seconds in the microwave to make it a bit softer.

thornback and peel jelly and cake

Your cake has now had its ‘crumb coating’. You could opt to leave it to set fully in the fridge and then follow with another layer of the butter icing or, like me, you might decide to keep it in its ‘semi-naked’ form.

thornback and peel jelly and cake

Decorate your cake how ever you please – I cut these beautiful Camellia flowers from the garden and added some tall gold candles from Ginger Ray.

thornback and peel jelly and cake

Set the table, gather your friends, and raise a glass to the arrival of the warmer days ahead.

thornback and peel jelly and cake

Words, Styling and Images by Emma Whicheloe.

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