Easy Vanilla Tray Bake

Learn why this classic and easy vanilla tray bake is a surefire way to win over everyone at your next event or party. This recipe creates a moist and flavourful cake that is perfect for decorating. Plus I have included ideas for irresistible toppings including turning it into a old school tray bake cake, plus other variations that will leave your guests begging for seconds.

easy vanilla tray bake on a chopping board

This is a foolproof vanilla tray bake cake recipe that delivers heavenly results every time. Bid farewell to failed baking attempts and hello to a simple yet satisfying treat that will become your go-to dessert for any occasion.

This easy vanilla tray bake is the perfect blank canvas cake for any event, afternoon tea, children’s cooking project or when you want a slice of vanilla sponge cake at a weekend. Even served as it is the vanilla traybake is an easy quick sponge tray bake that everyone will love.

Do you remember the school sponge cake you used to have when you were a kid? A moist vanilla tray bake with a simple icing and covered in sprinkles. It was surprisingly good! Or maybe that is just the memory.

I have taken it to the next level with this easy vanilla tray bake. I’ve made it super moist and with a cream cheese butter cream it’s a perfect blank slate for all or any events.

Why Vanilla Tray Bake Cakes are a Crowd Pleaser

Vanilla cakes are a crowd pleaser and a fantastic safe cake for all guests. By mastering the art of creating these moist and flavourful cakes you can adapt this recipe and make it your own. A vanilla cake is a classic and delicious on its own and is the perfect starting point for making lots of cake this year.

Why you’ll love this easy vanilla tray bake recipe

This moist vanilla tray bake is like the Mary Berry vanilla tray bake but the buttercream is less sweet as I use Philadelphia but is still absolutely delicious.

I have the solution to all your baking woes: vanilla tray bake cakes. This delightful treat is not only easy to make but they are also guaranteed to win over everyone at your next event or party. Imagine sinking your teeth into a moist and delicious slice of cake, topped with irresistible decorations that leave everyone wanting more.

The key to a moist cake lies in the precise balance of ingredients. Start by combining softened butter and granulated sugar, beating them together until light and fluffy. This step is essential to ensure a cake with a tender crumb. Next, add the eggs one at a time, making sure not to over beat after each addition. This not only helps to incorporate air into the batter but also guarantees a velvety texture.

This vanilla tray bake is the perfect blank canvas to decorate for any occasion, pop on some candles and sprinkles on for a birthday or create some fondant Holly leaves for a festive party cake.

Opt for a high-quality vanilla extract or, if you prefer, scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean for a truly indulgent flavour. Vanilla not only adds depth to the cake but also enhances the other flavours present.

Even served as it is, this easy quick sponge tray bake is a wonderful and easy traybake cake perfect when you want a slice of classic sponge cake.

easy vanilla tray bake


For the full recipe and instructions scroll to the bottom of the page for the recipe card.

Cream Cheese

The secret to this wonderful easy vanilla traybake is in the sweet but not too sweet buttercream icing. I added about 200g of cream cheese to the icing to create a wonderful sharpness and stop the school sponge cake recipe UK from being too sweet. Making it the perfect school sponge cake.

Icing sugar

The key to perfectly smooth and sweet butter icing is using icing sugar/confectioners sugar. Whilst for an easy vanilla tray bake cake you need caster sugar, for your buttercream icing you will need finer sugar. It makes the difference between a good sponge traybake with butter icing and a great one!

How to Make a vanilla tray bake cake – Step by Step

Keep scrolling to find the full printable instructions and ingredient quantities.

Measure your butter and sugars and add them to the mixing bowl.

creaming together butter and sugar for the easy vanilla tray bake

Combine your butter and sugar and mix until light and fluffy – this will probably take longer than you think.

eggs in a mixer with batter

Add your eggs and vanilla essence and mix again.

easy vanilla tray bake ready to be poured into the traybake tin

Now it’s time to add your dry ingredients. Mix everything together and add your milk slowly until nice and smooth.

  • Pour into a lined baking tray and bake.
  • You’ll know your vanilla traybake is done when a skewer comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

cream cheese buttercream

Cream cheese buttercream is super easy to make. Simply combine and mix until light and fluffy.

easy vanilla tray bake with a layer of cream cheese buttercream

Spread onto a cooled cake and decorate!

Easy Vanilla Tray Bake Top Tips

For the best results line the edges of your baking tray before you pour in the batter. This will stop it from sticking to the edge while baking and make it easier to remove.

Be sure your cake is completely cooled before you start icing. Otherwise your buttercream may melt when you ice your easy vanilla traybake.

As it is a simple sponge cake you add extra flavours as you wish. A sprinkle of cinnamon at Christmas or fresh lemon zest for a summer flavour.

A plain easy vanilla traybake ready to be decorated for all occasions.

Easy vanilla tray bake – Serving Suggestions

This easy vanilla traybake is perfectly served with fresh strawberries in the summer sun with a tall glass of Pimms.

You could decorate your vanilla traybake with your favourite fruit, and sprinkles or you could chop up your favourite chocolate bar and scatter it across your easy vanilla traybake.

The sponge traybake with buttercream icing is the perfect base for a birthday cake, anniversary cake or any occasion where you need cake. Which in my opinion is every occasion.

Sprinkles with a white runny icing makes this cake an old School tray bake and a very popular cake choice.

Vanilla sponge tray bake with butter icing

In this sponge tray bake with butter icing I use Philadelphia in the buttercream to reduce the sugary taste but still keep it sweet.

Butter icing can be very sweet and the cream cheese in the buttercream makes it lighter and reduces the sweetness slightly too. It’s still very nice and very tasty.

A simple sponge tray bake with butter icing is a beautiful easy vanilla traybake which could be used for so many occasions. It can be used for a children’s cake decorating project, afternoon tea traybake cake or just to enjoy a very yummy slice of vanilla cake.

slab of vanilla tray bake with fresh strawberries.



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Substitutions and variations – easy vanilla tray bake

The best thing about this cake is how easy it is to adapt and decorate in any way you fancy.

Colourful Buttercream

Add a couple of drops of food colouring to your buttercream icing to create a fun colourful buttercream vanilla sponge cake. Have a princess party coming up? Add 1 or 2 drops of red food colouring into your icing to turn it pink.

You could even add the food colouring to your cake mix just before baking, then you could have a rainbow sponge or a spooky black Halloween easy vanilla sponge cake!


To truly make this a delicious old school tray bake recipe you need sprinkles. All the sprinkles. An old school tray bake cake has runny white icing topped with hundreds and thousands (sprinkles). A delicious vanilla tray bake cake that is popular with everyone.


To tease the taste buds and add a burst of colour, fruit garnishes are a perfect choice. Slice fresh strawberries, ripened blueberries, or juicy peaches to adorn your cake. Arrange the fruit in an appealing pattern or scatter it over the top for a more relaxed, organic look.

The vibrant colours and natural sweetness of the fruit serve as both a visual delight and a refreshing complement to the vanilla flavour.

With summer just around the corner, the supermarkets are bursting with strawberries, summer berries and all the fruit you can imagine! Fresh fruit is the perfect way to decorate your easy vanilla traybake. It looks amazing, tastes even better and is a great way to get fruit into the mouths of bored students this summer.

Experiment with frosting and fillings

From rich chocolate ganache to tangy cream cheese frosting, the possibilities in decorating a vanilla tray bake are endless! Consider adding a layer of raspberry jam or lemon curd for a delightful burst of flavour.

For a touch of decadence, drizzle a homemade caramel sauce over the top, allowing it to cascade down the sides, creating a stunning presentation that is sure to impress.

Add Nuts and Crunch

If you’re looking to add some crunch and texture, consider incorporating nuts or shredded coconut into your cake batter. Toasted almonds, pecans, or shredded coconut can be sprinkled on top of the frosting for an added dimension of flavour and prettiness.

Not only will this add a delightful crunch, but it will also provide a pleasant contrast to the soft and moist texture of the cake itself.

Add flowers

If you want to turn this tray bake cake recipe into a show-stopping centrepiece, consider incorporating edible flowers into your cake. Choose blossoms that are safe for consumption such as pansies, rose petals, or edible

lavender. Gently press the flowers into the buttercream or arrange them in a decorative pattern on top of the cake. Not only does this add a visual wow factor, but it also imparts a subtle floral aroma that enhances the overall sensory experience of enjoying your vanilla tray bake cake.

Flavours for a traybake cake

There are so many brilliant ways you can adapt this recipe to incorporate your favourite flavours. The easiest way to add flavour is to add flavourings like coffee extract, orange extract, rose water or even cocoa powder. Fresh zest from an orange or lemon can add a delicious citrus flavour to the cake too.


I love making a classic traybake and then decorating for the occasion, I have recipes for a few seasonal traybakes below, but you could even use this moist vanilla traybake for a Christening cake, Wedding cake, or School traybake.

My favourite traybake recipes are:

Mulled Wine Traybake

Halloween Traybake

Pimms Traybake

Leftover Chocolate Traybake – I used Easter Chocolate for this recipe but you can adapt it for Christmas, Halloween or whenever you have surplus Chocolate in the house.

Storing tray bake cakes / Making ahead of time options

There will rarely be any cake left over after you serve up this easy vanilla traybake! However, if you do need to store any leftover school sponge cake recipe I would recommend keeping it in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.

You can make a sponge cake up to 3 months ahead of when you need it and then put it in the freezer until you’re ready to decorate and serve. But this vanilla traybake is so easy that you can whip it up the morning you intend to serve it.

close up of the easy vanilla traybake

Old School tray bake recipe FAQS

How do you make a vanilla cake moist?

This recipe will help you make a vanilla cake moist! Be sure to only cook your easy vanilla sponge cake for the given time, overcooking your vanilla cake is one of the easiest ways to make your sponge cake dry and crumbly. You can add a drizzle to the cake if you really want to make it extra moist.

What makes the cake soft and spongy?

You make the cake soft and spongy by ensuring you do not overbeat it. You only need to combine your ingredients until they are all mixed together. If you overbeat your mixture it can result in a harder cake.

How long does a Traybake take to cook?

Traybakes take just 35minutes to cook! This easy vanilla sponge traybake is so quick to make and bake that you can whip up a vanilla traybake as soon as you fancy a slice!

Can you bake a cake in a baking tray?

Yes, you can bake a cake in a baking tray. If you don’t have a tray bake tin you can use a baking tray as long as it has high sides.

Make sure you don’t add the cake batter to more than three quarters of the height of the baking tray as your easy vanilla sponge will rise.

Other Tray bake Recipes you might like

If you love tray bake recipes then you will love these…

If you are having a Summer party then try out my Union Jack traybake.

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Vanilla Sponge Tray Bake

Sisley White
This easy vanilla tray bake is the perfect blank canvas cake for any event, afternoon tea, children's cooking project or when you want a slice of vanilla sponge cake at a weekend. Even served as it is the vanilla traybake is an easy quick sponge tray bake that everyone will love.
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Decorating Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Bakes, Cakes, Party Food, Sweet Treats
Cuisine American, English, International
Servings 12 Large Slices
Calories 667 kcal


  • 400 g (13.4 oz) unsalted butter (or baking block like Stork)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) light brown soft sugar
  • 250 g (1.25 cups) caster sugar
  • 4 medium (4 medium) eggs
  • 375 g (3 cups) plain flour / all purpose flour
  • 0.5 teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) baking powder
  • small pinch (small pinch) salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 ml (150 ml) semi skimmed milk

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting Decorations

  • 125 g (4.4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 150 g (1.25 cups) icing sugar / confectioners sugar
  • 180 g (6.35 oz) cream cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Grease and line a 9 inch by 12 inch traybake cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl cream together the 400g butter, 100 light brown soft sugar and 250g caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the 4 medium eggs and mix in along with the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • Sieve the 375g flour, 0.5 tsp baking powder and pinch of salt into the mixing bowl. Mix until incorporated but don't over mix.
  • Gently add in the 100ml milk little at a time. If it starts to curdle add 1 tablespoon of plain flour.
  • Pour the mix into the prepared tin and level out. Gently tap the tin on the worktop to remove any air bubbles.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until the centre of the cake is cooked – use a cake tester or skewer to check. If the tester comes out clean the cake is cooked. If it has pieces of uncooked cake on leave the cake to cook for a few minutes more and test again.
  • Leave in the tin to cool for 30 minutes and then remove from the tin to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • Make sure the unsalted butter is at room temperature as it will help make it a lot easier to make.
  • Using a hand mixer, mix the 125g butter and 150g icing sugar together.
  • Add the 180g cream cheese and create a smooth mix. It should be more thick than runny and will hold its shape. If it's too runny add a tablespoon of icing sugar at a time and whisk until it thickens up.
  • Smear the cream cheese buttercream thickly over the cold cake.



  • It makes 12 large slices but we often make these bitesize pieces where you can actually get 48 pieces out of the cake.
  • The cake will last for up to 5 days in an air tight container.
  • Store somewhere cool but not the fridge.
  • For the best results use the eggs and butter from room temperature.


Calories: 667kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 7gFat: 43gSaturated Fat: 26gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 164mgSodium: 98mgPotassium: 108mgFiber: 1gSugar: 42gVitamin A: 1382IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 2mg

Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.

Keyword bake, cake, cream cheese buttercream, cream cheese frosting, tray bake, Traybake, traybakes, vanilla tray bake, vanilla traybake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

16 thoughts on “Easy Vanilla Tray Bake”

  1. 5 stars
    Love this! It’s approachable, simple, and absolutely delicious. Some recipes out there show the beauty in simplicity and this is definitely one of them! I personally love keeping it as a “blank canvas” 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Lovely flavor and is very simple to make. I added rainbow sprinkles to the top because I have 2 visiting 4 year old nephews this week. Fun for kids and adults!

  3. 5 stars
    This truly is a fabulous, easy to make cake for any occasion. I like all your topping ideas depending on which occasion you are celebrating and leaving as is if no occasion.

  4. 5 stars
    You just can’t go wrong with a classic like vanilla cake! 🙂 So perfect when you are craving a little something sweet.


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