Basic butter cake

Basic butter cake

Vanessa Levis

Follow this basic butter cake recipe and try a few simple variations such as adding grated orange or lemon rind, sultanas, spices or chopped nuts. Vary the cake tins to make a deeper cake, a loaf or a bar; see Note.


Quantity Ingredient
160g butter, softened
165g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
whipped cream, jam or lemon butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 20 cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar with the vanilla, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the beaten eggs. If using an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each.
  3. Sift the flour and salt (some cooks do this three times), and then fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour (it is important not to overwork the mixture). Add a little more milk if necessary so that the mixture drops easily from the spoon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and lightly smooth the top.
  4. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto wire racks to cool.
  5. Sandwich with whipped cream, jam or lemon butter and ice as liked.


  • Lemon cake

    Add the grated rind of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons lemon juice, but omit the vanilla essence.

    Chocolate cake

    Sift 3 tablespoons Dutch cocoa with the flour and salt, then add 1/4 cup extra milk to the mixture.

    Spice cake

    Sift 2 teaspoons spice (ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom or mixed spice) with the flour. Add 2/3 cup chopped dates or chopped walnuts to the mixture.

    Sultana cake

    Fold in 3/4 cup sultanas and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice.

    Seed cake

    Add 1 tablespoon caraway seeds to the mixture and sprinkle an extra teaspoon of seeds on top before baking.


  • If making one larger cake in a deep 20 cm tin, it will require 45–50 minutes baking time. A 23 cm x 13 cm loaf tin will take 30–40 minutes.
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