“Universal” Light Butter Cake Recipe

Well, I suppose it’s not truly universal, but it’s a mighty handy cake with a multitude of applications.

I’m including the ones I often use here. I’ve loved using the various adaptations when cooking with my own children and also grandchildren – you can jazz the recipe up any way you like – it’s very forgiving.  Icings and sprinkles can provide great inspiration in that situation.

I’m sure there are more that could be invented with a little creativity and ingenuity.

Also within the following information are little substitutions that can be made if you are short on a particular ingredient, or there are dietary issues to factor in.

At the end are recipes for icings in case you would like to take that extra step.

“Universal” Light Butter Cake

 Basic Cake Batter


1 egg

¾ cup sugar (castor or regular white sugar)

¾ cup milk (or substitute)

1½ cups self raising flour

80g butter, melted or 80ml olive (or similar) oil

½ teaspoon vanilla essence (or paste), optional


Whisk the egg and sugar together until well combined.

ALL AT ONCE (that is don’t continue to mix until all are in the bowl), add the milk, flour and butter or oil and vanilla if using..

Whisk until smooth.

Grease an 18cm or 20cm cake tin and line base with baking paper (even foil will do). Pour mixture into tin and bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 40 minutes (18cm size) or 25 to 30 minutes (20cm size).

The cake can be iced if desired (see recipes to follow at end).

Some substitutions:

  • 1 egg – ¼ cup apple puree
  • Milk – almond milk , rice milk, coconut milk or even plain water
  • 80g melted butter – 80ml olive (or similar) oil
  • Regular self raising flour – can use gluten free self raising instead
  • 1½ cups plain flour + 3 teaspoons baking powder, well mixed

Suggestions for applications for the cake batter:

  • Plain butter Cake – 18cm or 20cm (see recipe)
  • Lemon, Orange or Lime Cake – add 3 teaspoons finely grated lemon, lime or orange rind (or a combination of all three)
  • Muffins or Cup Cakes (Makes 8 to 10 large muffins or approximately 18 smaller).  Add 1 cup fresh or frozen berries or diced apple, pear, banana or rhubarb to the mixture.
  • Chocolate Cake – replace 1½ tablespoons of the flour with cocoa
  • Marbled Cake or Muffins – Use food colouring to make interesting patterns. Divide the cake batter into portions, add colour and dollop into cake or muffin tins, then swirl gently with a skewer or similar
  • Cinnamon Tea Cake – when the cake comes from the oven, turn out of tin and brush the top with a little melted butter (or coconut milk) and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. The same can be done with muffins or cup cakes
  • Jam filled sponge cake – slice cooled cake in half horizontally and spread the base with a generous layer of jam (raspberry is especially nice). Replace top and dust with a sprinkling of icing sugar
  • Fruit topped cake – before baking, place apricot or pear halves on top – or tinned sliced peaches, or sliced fresh (cored) apples or pears.  They will either stay on top as the cake bakes, or sink a little into the mixture.  Either way it will be delicious.  This can also be done on top of the cake batter baked in a lamington tin 18cm x 28cm to make a Continental style fruit slice.
  • Jelly cakes – place 2 teaspoonfuls of the cake batter into scoop shaped patty tins. Bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven.

 When cool, briefly roll each in cooled red jelly mixture (which is only barely starting to        congeal) and roll in desiccated coconut. Leave on a cake cooler to set. Split and fill with whipped cream if desired

  • Butterfly cakes – two thirds fill patty or muffin papers (that are placed in appropriate sized tins) and bake for approximately 15 minutes in a moderate oven until cooked through.

When cool, cut a slice from the top or each. Pipe a rosette of whipped cream on top of the base. Cut the piece sliced from the top in half, then place on top of cream to resemble wings.

Dust with icing sugar. Place a piece of set jelly or raspberry jam in between the wings.

  • Lamingtons – bake the mixture in a greased and baking paper lined 18cm x 28cm slab tin (3cm deep) in a moderate oven for approximately 2o minutes, until cooked through but not too browned.. Turn out and leave to stand several hours before cutting into lamington sized portions.

 Roll in chocolate icing and toss in desiccated coconut. Leave to set on a cake cooler.

  • Baked Fruit Sponge – spoon the mixture over hot stewed fruit (in a casserole or pie dish) and bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 40 minutes. (Bush with butter and cinnamon and sugar when it comes from the oven, if liked)


Icings for those who like them

Vanilla Icing

180g icing sugar

1½ teaspoons softened butter (can be omitted)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

boiling water

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the butter and vanilla then stir in the boiling water, 1 teaspoon at a time, and mix to make a smooth paste of spreading consistency.

Chocolate Icing (for coating lamingtons, prepare to a thinnish consistency)

180g icing sugar

3 teaspoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons softened butter (can be omitted)

boiling water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and add the butter. Stir in the boiling water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is smooth and thick enough to spread.

Orange or Lemon or Lime Icing

180g icing sugar

Grated rind ½ orange, lemon or lime

1 teaspoon softened butter (can be omitted)

Orange, lemon or lime juice – approximately 1 tablespoon

Sift the icing sugar and rind and butter.

 Gradually add the orange juice until a spreadable consistency is reached.

2 thoughts on ““Universal” Light Butter Cake Recipe

  1. Jacky says:

    Thanks Sally, I’ve made a gluten free cinnamon teacake and raspberry and apple muffins from this recipe. Both worked really well.


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