Fantastic Chocolate Sponge Cake

This has been a mainstay of my family for more years than I can remember. It is easy to make and produces a reliably delicious, light and fluffy cake. The only thing which you must NEVER EVER do is open the oven before 20 minutes of the cooking time have passed. You can make a seriously impressive birthday cake with this.

To make this cake you will need an electric hand whisk, a large mixing bowl, two 8″/20cm cake tins, silicone baking paper/greaseproof paper, a sieve.

Recipe: Fantastic Chocolate Sponge Cake


  • 5oz/150g self raising flour
  • 1oz/25g cocoa powder (NOT drinking chocolate)
  • 6oz/175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsps hot but not boiling water
  • 4floz/110ml flavourless vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder.
  • a little oil/Tomor for greasing if using greaseproof paper to line the tins.
  • For the icing.
  • 12oz/350g sieved icing sugar
  • 6oz/175g softened Tomor
  • 1 tbsp sweetened soya milk, plus a little more if your icing gets too stiff when you add the cocoa powder.
  • a couple of drops of vanilla extract
  • about 1oz/40g sieved cocoa powder.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200 C/400 F.
  2. Line the base of two 8″/20cm round cake tins with silicone baking paper and grease the sides. If you use ordinary greaseproof paper, grease the top surface of the paper on the bottom of the tin. A small dab of oil/grease on the base of the tin helps to keep the paper in place.
  3. Beat together the sugar, eggs and water for 2 minutes. They will go light and fluffy.
  4. Sieve in the flour and cocoa and beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the oil and beat for 3 minutes.
  6. Fold in the baking powder.
  7. Pour quickly into the tins, level gently and put in the oven. If possible, place both tins side by side on the middle shelf to get the same cooking time for both cakes.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes WITHOUT OPENING THE DOOR! This really is a must. If you open it sooner, your cake will fail: simple as that.
  9. Once 20 minutes have passed, carefully open the door just enough to get a hand in safely without burning yourself on the shelf or door edge. Test the cake to see whether it is ready by GENTLY pressing the top with your fingers. If there is some resistance and the surface springs back, it’s done. If the top still feels very soft, get your hand out and GENTLY close the door. If you slam it, you may still spoil your cake. Give it a little more time, just a couple of minutes or so at a time, until it is done.
  10. When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven, put it on a cake rack and give it a couple of minutes to cool slightly.
  11. Remove the cakes from the tins by tipping them out onto the rack and peel off the greaseproof/baking paper, then turn the cakes CAREFULLY the right way up.
  12. Leave to cool completely.
  13. While the cakes cool, make the icing.
  14. Beat the softened Tomor in a large mixing bowl to loosen it off.
  15. Sieve in the icing sugar and add the soya milk.
  16. Beat GENTLY at first to avoid covering the kitchen with icing sugar.
  17. Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract to taste. If your soya milk is vanilla flavoured, you may not need much (if any) more vanilla to get a good flavour.
  18. Split each cake in half horizontally to give you four layers each about 1/2″/1cm thick.
  19. Cover the cut surface of the base layer with little dollops of icing and smooth it out GENTLY with a knife that has been dipped in boiling water. Don’t press hard or you’ll end up with a ploughed field effect!
  20. Place the top half of that cake onto the icing, making sure that it is straight and level.
  21. Cover the top surface of the cake with icing and smooth it out as before.
  22. Add the bottom half of the second cake to the stack, levelling as before, and cover it with icing as before.
  23. Place the last piece of cake on the very top and check that the stack is straight and level.
  24. Now you need to turn the rest of your icing chocolate by adding the cocoa powder through a sieve. You may need a small splash of soya milk at this stage if your icing starts to go very dry.
  25. The precise amount of cocoa will depend on just how dark you like your chocolate icing. Remember that the icing will go paler and paler the more you beat it, so only beat it as much as is necessary to combine the cocoa evenly.
  26. Spread the chocolate icing over the top of the impressive stack you have made.

Quick Notes

This is where you get arty and add any decoration you like, or use a fork dipped in boiling water and swirled through the icing to make patterns.


This recipe is very adaptable.

For a coffee sponge, replace the cocoa powder with an extra 1oz/25g of self-raising flour. Dissolve 1 rounded dsp of instant coffee in the hot water. Make the plain icing as before, then instead of adding cocoa for the top layer, add a little more icing sugar and 1 tsp of very strong dissolved instant coffee.

For a vanilla sponge, replace the cocoa powder with another 1oz/25g self-raising flour and replace 2 tsps of the hot water with vanilla extract. When filling the cake, you can press chopped strawberries or raspberries into each layer of icing and decorate the top with more sliced or whole berries.

For a luxurious variation, you could make a vanilla sponge and use passion fruit pulp in place of berries.

For a moccha version, you could leave in the cocoa powder, but replace 2 tsps of the hot water with very strong, dissolved coffee. The icing between the layers can become coffee, with a chocolate top.

For an impressive cake for a party, use two 11″/18cm flan tins. The resulting cakes won’t be thick enough to split, but they make much more manageable slices if you are doing a buffet where people are going to be eating standing up. Simply stick them together with your chosen flavour icing and decorate.

Preparation time (duration): about 40 minutes

Cooking time (duration): 20 minutes

Diet type: Dairy-free

Number of servings (yield): 12

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: English

Microformatting by hRecipe.

2 comments to Fantastic Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • Catherine


    Can you use dairy free spread instead of Tomor? and if so, how much? As I live in Northern Ireland and there is no where that stocks this, or a similar product.



  • Hi Catherine,

    For greasing tins, I’d use oil rather than dairy-free spread: I’ve had some nasty experiences with some spreads where everything has bonded onto the sides of the tin and the cake has come out in lumps! A little oil on some kitchen roll should work just as well.

    For the icing you can definitely use spread…it just depends which one you can get hold of. Pure Sunflower tastes OK, the Soya used to be disgusting, but has improved recently. Vitalite tends to go very peculiar if you add any food colouring to your icing. It also feels quite heavy on the tongue, if you know what I mean. It’s as though a layer of greasiness remains behind. There’s a new Koko one just out. I haven’t used it in icing yet, but made ‘cheese’ sauce with it last night and found it very oily, so I’m not sure how good that one will be. The Sainsbury’s own one used not to blend properly and ended up looking rather curdled. Tasted a bit odd too as the texture was all wrong. The Tesco one has a similar problem, but less dramatically so.

    I realise this isn’t very encouraging, but I think you might do well to try out a small amount before making a whole cake’s worth. The proportions remain twice as much icing sugar as fat, with a smidgin of ‘milk’ of your choice to slacken it just a fraction.

    If you can make chocolate icing, using cocoa powder to flavour it, the result will be MUCH better than plain/coloured as the cocoa powder binds it all together and the flavour of chocolate covers a multitude of sins!

    If you’re making chocolate cake, do also look at for an alternative recipe, which I think is even quicker to make than this one and which is also very reliable.

    Good luck! I hope this helps a little.


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