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The sponge layers can be frozen for up to 1 month. Leftovers of the assembled cake will keep for 2 days in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6. Grease and base-line 2 x 20cm loose-based sandwich tins.
Using a hand-held electric whisk, cream together the margarine and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking in between, then finally fold in the sifted flour and a pinch of salt, using a metal spoon or spatula. Add the vanilla extract to the mixture and fold in.
Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before starting to make your cake. This will make your mixture less likely to curdle.
Divide the batter equally between the 2 tins and level the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes are pale golden and springy to the touch. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto wire racks. Remove and discard the base paper.
When cold, fill with a layer of strawberry jam and whipped cream, dust the top with icing sugar and top with strawberries if you wish. Serve within an hour of assembling.
Lemon drizzle loaf - serves 6
Line 2 x 450g loaf tins and follow the classic sponge recipe (omit the vanilla) up to step 2. Add the finely grated zest of 1 large (or 2 small) lemon(s) and half of the juice to the creamed mixture. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are risen and springy to the touch. While the cakes are still warm in the tins, mix 50g granulated sugar with the juice of the other half of the lemon and spoon or brush over the cakes – the sugar mix will form a crunchy crust on top. Eat one cake now (it keeps for up to 2 days in an airtight container) and freeze the second for later. EACH
Almond and raspberry ring - serves 10
Grease a ring-shaped cake tin or bundt tin (we used a 24cm diameter ring tin, measured across the top) and follow the classic sponge recipe (omit the vanilla) up to step 2. Add 1 tsp almond extract to the mixture, transfer to the cake tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is pale golden, risen and springy to the touch (timings will depend on your tin size and the depth of the cake mixture). Turn out onto a wire rack, then transfer to a pretty plate when cold. Mix 5 tbsp icing sugar with 2 tsp lemon juice to form a semi-thick runny icing and drizzle this over the cake. Top with toasted flaked almonds and fill the centre with 125g fresh raspberries. Add a dusting of icing sugar to finish. Serve as cake or dessert.
‘Everyone should know how to make a basic sponge cake. I use margarine instead of butter because it is less likely to curdle and produces a fluffier cake.’