Vanilla Celebration Cake

The day I made this cake, I had started out by trying to imagine a birthday cake for my niece, who's going to be 11 this year. I wanted something that would appeal to a young girl, but was not too girly. Elegant, maybe, rather than in your face, but with a sense of fun. I had a number of different ideas in my mind, and although there are some I didn't use, the base was going to be inspired by the American-style 'Funfetti' cakes I have seen on a lot of the US blogs I follow.

I think they stem from a particular Pillsbury cake mix that a lot of Americans seem to remember fondly from their childhood; the vanilla sponge cake is loaded with multicoloured sugar chips which give it a peppering of colours when baked. The cakes usually seem to be  iced with a plain frosting to maximise the impact of the speckled layers. There are some great examples here, on Sweetapolita and here, on The Kitchn. I thought this was brilliant, and I wanted that element of surprise, and playfulness, as you cut into it.

I also wanted to make it suitably impressive as a three layer cake, but in a small-ish version, so tried out some 6" (15cm) cake pans I recently bought. I wanted to find a way of making this from scratch though, so looked for a recipe to base it on. The one I decided to use is from Delia Smith's 'Delia's Cakes' book, and it's actually the sponge from the Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake. I thought it looked a lovely moist sponge - and it's an all in one method - and so decided to tweak it to make it into a vanilla sponge. I added about half a cupful of multicoloured sprinkles to the batter at the last moment, folding them through carefully, as I didn't want the colours to run.

The finished cake was lovely, but I have to admit that the sprinkles  I added to the cake batter (which were 100s and 1000s) had dissolved away into nothing, so there was no multicoloured effect to the sponge. I want to try this again at some point, and I think I'll follow the advice on the Kitchn post (link above) which suggests using the longer sugar strands, or 'jimmies', that have a slightly waxy texture. Hopefully, they would hold up a bit better. The layers baked beautifully evenly though, and this was the first time I have ever baked a cake that did not 'dome', or which needed to be trimmed. The amount of batter (which in the original recipe is used in two 7" (18cm) pans) was absolutely perfect in my three 6" ones. It was quite a moist, dense sponge, and really tasty.

The icing is my favourite Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, which has a slight tang from the cream cheese, and helps to offset the sweetness of the sponge. I crumb coated the cake first, let it chill for 10 minutes, and then put the final layer of icing on it. I just used an angled palette knife to smooth the lines into the side of the cake, and then used a Wilton 2D piping tip, to pipe stars on the top. I used more of the sprinkles to fill in the centre of the cake - but I put these on after I had chilled the cake again for a couple of hours and the icing had firmed up. That meant that when I cut the cake, some of them rolled off. So next time, I'd put the sprinkles on immediately after icing, when it's still soft, and press them into the icing a little. That might help them stay in place a little longer.

Vanilla Celebration Cake


175g self-raising flour
1 level tspn baking powder
175g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbspn milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cupful (110g) of multicoloured sugar strands (optional)

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
225g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
113g softened unsalted butter
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
400g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150 Fan / 170 Conventional / Gas 3. Grease and baseline three 6" (15cm) cake pans (or use two 7" (18cm) pans at least 4cm deep). If you use the 7" pans, you can cut the layers in half horizontally to give a four layer cake.

Measure out all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a hand-held mixer (or a stand mixer) until well incorporated (this will only take a minute - be careful not to overwork it). You're looking for a smooth, creamy consistency. Fold the sprinkles, if using, gently into the mix so they are evenly distributed.

Measure the batter into the prepared tins. I wanted to try and ensure mine were as even as possible. As I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, I weighed the bowl before I added anything to it, then weighed it again after I had mixed the batter. Taking the weight of the bowl away from the total weight at the end, gave me a weight for the mixture of 825g, so I measured 275g into each pan.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until risen and golden, and springy to the touch. I managed to get the three tins onto the same oven shelf and I think that helped them bake evenly. When done, a wooden skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes, until turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. When completely cooled, you can decorate them.

To make the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix for a few seconds to a smooth consistency. Add the cream cheese, and mix again, so that they are both mixed well and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (if necessary, bit by bit). Mix well until you have a smooth icing of the consistency you want. Let the mixer run a little longer, so that you ensure that the icing is really smooth and creamy.

Crumb coated
To assemble the cake, I used a blob of frosting to fix the bottom layer to the cake plate. I then generously layered the sponges together. I used a thin layer of frosting to do a crumb coat and chilled the cake for 10 minutes in the fridge (this, literally, catches any crumbs from the cake in a layer of icing, so that the final layer of icing will go on smoothly, and you don't get pesky bits of sponge spoiling the appearance). To keep the cake plate clean, I put some strips of greaseproof paper under the edges of the bottom layer of sponge, so that I could slide them out later when the cake was fully iced, leaving a clean plate.

I did the final layer, and added a bit of piping and some more sprinkles. I was really pleased with the result, and the only disappointment was that I didn't get the multicoloured effect to the sponge I was after.

This really didn't take me long to do (about 2 hours from start to finished cake), so if you're looking for a quick, simple idea for a special cake, this could work for you.




  1. simply stunning.... you know I love a triple layer... glad Delia's new book is proving to be such a hit!... love the icing too x

    1. Thanks Dom - there are quite a few Delia recipes I want to try, including the original lemon cake this one is based on. :)

  2. For funfetti you totally need American sprinkles with artificial colors. The "natural" EU sprinkles won't cut it!

    1. Thanks for the tip Kelly - I guess that's one more item to add to my list for my trip to the States in August. :)

  3. Such a lovely cake - big tall layer cakes are my favourite! I love the sprinkles on top x

  4. Pretty! I'm wondering whether to get a copy of Delia's new book - I have her ancient one from when my Mum bought it years and years ago - is this an updated version or new recipes?

    1. Hi littleloaf,

      To be honest, I'm not sure. I don't have either of the two earlier books she refers to (1977's Book of Cakes and 2005's Baking Collection)so I can't compare. But, she does refer to someof the recipes re-appearing in this book. Whether that's alongside new ones, too, I don't know.

      I must say that it is a lovely book though, with a great 'feel' to it. The only thing that grated slightly with me is the commercialisation that seems to come with all Delia's things these days - for example she now has a range of cake tins produced in conjunction with Silverwood that she reccomends in the book (and matching cake liners!). She makes clear that, of course, you don't need to use them, but it just feels a bit cynical to me.

      Anyway, I think it's on offer in so many places now - I picked up mine in a supermarket for about £8 - it might be worth having a nose at it.


  5. Susie, this looks beautiful! I think this cake would be perfect to make not only for birthdays, but during the summer - looks stunning! x

    1. Thanks Charlene - I think you're right, and the basic recipe and decor could be tailored to any occasion. :) x

  6. This is awesome! Sorry, catching up on all my starred posts in google reader from way back when! Love how the smooth white frosting contrasts so starkly with the bright sprinkles! and just so you know you're not alone in the disappearing sprinkles! I spent a whole summer when I worked at the English Cheesecake Company trying to devise a 'birthday cake cheesecake' with a layer of funfetti sprinkle cake sandwiched in between two cheesecake layers. I made the cake 9 times with 9 different sprinkle samples that companies from all over the UK had sent me and all of them disappeared! Eventually I had to order some American sprinkles off ebay and it worked and the sprinkles bled their colour into the cake! Apparently their sprinkles have too many artificial colourings to be legally sold here in the UK! How crazy!

    1. Hmmm, well don't tell anyone. But I managed to buy a large jar of US made sprinkles in TKMAXX the other day. Can't wait to try them out - just hope they do work. :)


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