Vanilla Tray Bake
Vanilla Tray Bake
5 from 19 votes
Vanilla tray bake is a delectable dessert ideal for sharing with family and friends. This is a simple and nostalgic school dinner classic. A wonderful traybake that will brighten any occasion with its moist sponge and rainbow sprinkles.

Vanilla Tray Bake, the queen of the dessert table and a quintessential British classic. Originating from the United Kingdom, this dessert has a rich history dating back decades, loved by people of all ages. The simplicity of its ingredients—butter, sugar, eggs, and flour—belies the comfort that each bite offers.

The beauty of this cake is its humility; it doesn’t brag, but oh boy, does it deliver!

Now, let’s talk difficulty level. Is it hard to make? Absolutely not! This recipe falls under the “beginner” category but can fool anyone into thinking a pro made it.

If I had a dollar for every time someone thought this dish took me forever to make, I’d probably buy more vanilla extract for my next tray bake. It’s so easy, in fact, that it’s almost like the culinary version of connect-the-dots; you simply cannot go wrong.

One of the wonders of this recipe is its flexibility. Vanilla is the star of the show, but if you’re feeling frisky, you can add lemon zest, chocolate chips, or even a dollop of Nutella for some variations.

Some people even enjoy a fruit-infused version of the tray bake, adding a layer of sliced strawberries or blueberries on the top before glazing. The options are endless, and that’s what makes this recipe an all-time favourite.

But what’s a cake without its icing, right? Oh, the glaze is where you can let your creative juices flow. From the basic icing sugar and water blend to a more decadent cream cheese icing, the sky’s the limit. Again, this is a cake that beckons you to play around.

And don’t even get me started on the decorations; whether you are a sprinkles person or a fan of edible flowers, the choices are endless.

I’d recommend using high-quality vanilla extract because it will give your cake that luxurious aroma and rich flavour. You know, the kind that makes you close your eyes and say, “Mmm,” with a satisfying nod. Trust me; the vanilla extract is not the ingredient to skimp on in this recipe.

And don’t worry, it’s a quick bake! You can prepare, bake, and glaze this cake within an hour, making it the perfect go-to recipe for any event, planned or impromptu. Just imagine pulling this out at a family gathering or an office party and watching as people’s faces light up with the first bite.

Vanilla Tray Bake is not just a cake; it’s a crowd-pleaser, a versatile delight, and a trip down nostalgia lane all wrapped into one. So, whether you’re a baking novice or a seasoned pro, this is one recipe you’ll want to add to your arsenal.

What Ingredients to Use & Why

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty—the ingredients! Knowing the significance of each ingredient in your Vanilla Tray Bake is essential.

It’s like understanding the dynamics of a musical band; each member brings something unique to the table, contributing to the overall masterpiece. So, let’s break down each one, shall we?

Unsalted Butter: Ah, butter—the fat that makes everything better! It adds moisture, tenderness, and that melt-in-your-mouth richness to the sponge. Always go for unsalted butter; it gives you full control over the saltiness of your cake.

You can substitute with margarine, but trust me, the texture and flavour won’t be the same. Butter helps to carry the vanilla flavour throughout the cake, making each bite a velvety delight.

Sugar: Sugar is not just a sweetener here; it’s an essential component that contributes to the texture and colour of your cake.

It helps in caramelizing the top, giving your cake that beautiful golden hue. If you’re aiming for a slightly healthier version, you can substitute with coconut sugar, although it will alter the flavour a bit.

Eggs: Eggs act as the binding agent, holding all your ingredients together. They offer structure to your cake and make it fluffy.

You can use an egg substitute if you’re vegan, but the texture may be a tad different. Eggs help in distributing the fat evenly throughout the cake, ensuring a uniform texture and crumb.

Plain Flour: The backbone of any cake, plain flour provides the essential structure. It makes your cake rise evenly, giving you a soft and light texture. For gluten-free options, almond flour or coconut flour can be used, but these alternatives can make the cake a bit denser.

Baking Powder: This leavening agent makes your cake rise, contributing to its light and airy texture. Be cautious not to go overboard; otherwise, you’ll get a cake that’s too crumbly. There isn’t a direct substitute for baking powder, but a combination of cream of tartar and baking soda could work in a pinch.

Milk: Milk adds moisture and helps in combining all the ingredients to create a smooth batter. You can opt for non-dairy alternatives like almond milk or oat milk. Milk complements the vanilla extract, giving your cake a creamy undertone.

Vanilla Extract: The star of the show! It’s what gives the Vanilla Tray Bake its signature aroma and flavour. Always go for a high-quality extract for a rich vanilla essence. For a twist, you could use almond or hazelnut extract, but then it wouldn’t be a Vanilla Tray Bake, would it?

Icing Sugar: Icing sugar for the glaze is what elevates this cake from tasty to heavenly. It provides that extra layer of sweetness and helps in creating a smooth, flowing glaze. Corn-starch can be an alternative, but icing sugar is your best bet for the desired consistency and sweetness.

Sprinkles: The finishing touch! Sprinkles add a playful, colourful element to the cake. You can also use edible flowers or chocolate shavings as an alternative.

A breakdown of all the key players in the Vanilla Tray Bake game. Each ingredient has a purpose, a unique role in making this cake the masterpiece that it is.

The Evolution of the Vanilla Tray Bake

The tale of the Vanilla Tray Bake is not just a culinary journey; it’s a slice of cultural history. Originating in the United Kingdom, this simple yet mouth-watering cake has been gracing British tables for decades.

But oh boy, has it come a long way from being a homely, no-frills dessert to becoming a global sensation. From Australia to Canada, people all over the world are now trying their hand at this classic cake.

In its initial years, the Vanilla Tray Bake was considered the common man’s cake, made with easily accessible ingredients. It gained popularity for its taste, ease of preparation, and affordability.

But what really catapulted this humble cake into the spotlight were the various food festivals and baking competitions across the UK. The cake started winning prizes, and bakers started experimenting, coming up with new variations and presentation ideas.

What I find fascinating is how the cake has evolved in terms of flavour profile and ingredients. Take the vanilla extract, for instance. Once a luxury item, it has now become a pantry staple, but the best quality extracts will still make a world of difference in the flavour.

The cake itself has seen variations from lemon tray bakes to chocolate chip tray bakes, appealing to different palates and preferences.

The glaze, too, has undergone transformations, from being a simple icing sugar-water mix to more elaborate versions with cream cheese, or even flavoured with lemon or orange zest. It’s amazing how a small tweak can change the entire personality of the cake.

However, the essence of the cake remains the same. It still is a straightforward, uncomplicated bake, and that’s the beauty of it. It manages to keep its soul intact, while still being versatile enough to adapt to modern tastes and trends.

What’s also interesting is how this cake has made its way into digital platforms. From YouTube tutorials to Pinterest boards, and of course, various food blogs, the Vanilla Tray Bake recipe is just a click away for anyone interested.

The Vanilla Tray Bake is not just a cake; it’s a piece of culinary art that tells a story—a story of evolution, tradition, and global acceptance. And if history is any indication, this cake is not going anywhere, any time soon.

The Underrated Ingredient in Vanilla Tray Bake

We often go on and on about the vanilla extract or the quality of butter when making a Vanilla Tray Bake. But have you ever stopped to appreciate the unsung hero of this recipe? I’m talking about baking powder, that seemingly insignificant white powder that sits quietly in your pantry.

Many of us just toss it into the batter without a second thought, but let me tell you, it’s an ingredient that can make or break your cake. Its purpose? To give your cake that lift, creating a light, airy texture that melts in your mouth.

While the vanilla gives your cake its signature flavour, and the butter offers richness, the baking powder is hard at work, making sure your cake rises perfectly. A slight imbalance in this ingredient can result in a cake that’s too flat or too crumbly. So, it’s essential to measure it precisely.

Yes, I’ve heard of people using cream of tartar and baking soda as a replacement, but nothing works quite like good old baking powder. And let’s be honest, how often do we find ourselves stocked up on cream of tartar?

Also, baking powder has a shelf life, and using an expired one can ruin your cake. Therefore, it’s always good to check the expiry date. You could also do a simple test by dropping a little in water; if it fizzes, it’s good to go.

The baking powder deserves its moment in the spotlight. It’s not just a filler ingredient; it’s a game-changer in your Vanilla Tray Bake recipe. The next time you’re making this scrumptious cake, give a little nod to your baking powder, knowing it’s the secret to the cake’s perfect rise and texture.

The Science Behind the Perfect Vanilla Tray Bake

There’s an art to baking, sure, but let’s not forget the science that goes behind it. You see, each ingredient in a Vanilla Tray Bake plays a specific role, interacting with each other in fascinating ways.

The magic begins when you mix the flour, eggs, and sugar with the butter and watch it turn into a delicious cake. Starting with the sugar and butter, I can’t stress enough how crucial creaming is.

You want to cream them together until light and fluffy, which allows the sugar to cut through the butter, creating small air pockets. These air pockets expand as the cake bakes, thanks to our good friend, the baking powder. And, voila, you get a cake that’s tender and light as a feather.

But here’s where things can go sideways. You ever end up with a cake that’s denser than a brick?

It probably means you overmixed the batter. Overmixing develops the gluten in the flour, making your cake dense. The goal is to mix just until the ingredients are incorporated. Believe me, your arms will thank you, and so will your taste buds.

The oven temperature is another point of science. Your oven should be adequately preheated, or else the cake won’t rise properly.

A consistent oven temperature allows the cake to rise evenly while ensuring that the outside doesn’t cook faster than the inside. It’s a harmonious balance, folks, and I tell you, it’s worth every second you spend preheating that oven.

Now, don’t get me started on the glaze. The consistency of the icing should be perfect for it to gracefully cover the cake without pooling on the sides. A little water goes a long way, so add it gradually. Science has taught us that less is more, and this principle holds true in your Vanilla Tray Bake glaze.

Sprinkles: More Than Just Decoration

Let’s talk about something often seen as trivial—sprinkles. I know what you’re thinking: it’s just for decoration, right? Well, my friend, you’re in for a surprise because sprinkles do more than just add a splash of colour to your Vanilla Tray Bake.

Firstly, texture. I find that the soft, velvety sponge of the cake paired with the crunchiness of the sprinkles creates a sensory experience that’s to die for. The contrasting textures make every bite interesting, ensuring that your taste buds are on an adventure from start to finish.

Did you know that sprinkles come in various flavours? Yes, you heard me right! From chocolate and vanilla to more exotic flavours like mocha and strawberry.

Sprinkles can add subtle, unexpected flavours to your Vanilla Tray Bake, enhancing its overall taste. So the next time you’re picking out sprinkles, remember, it’s not just about the colour; it’s about the flavour, too!

But let’s get back to the visual aspect for a moment. The bright, vivid colours not only make the cake look appealing but also add a whimsical, joyful quality.

You could go for a rainbow assortment or opt for colours that complement the occasion, like red and green for Christmas, or pink and blue for a baby shower. The choice of sprinkles can set the mood and elevate your Vanilla Tray Bake from ordinary to extraordinary.

Sprinkles are not just eye-candy; they’re a full-fledged ingredient that deserves your attention and creative input. Never underestimate the power of a well-placed sprinkle to add crunch, flavour, and visual appeal to your beloved Vanilla Tray Bake.

The Role of Eggs in Your Vanilla Tray Bake

Ah, eggs, the unsung heroes of the baking world. They wear so many hats; it’s almost like they’re the multitaskers of the kitchen.

Now, when it comes to my Vanilla Tray Bake, eggs are no minor players; they’re essential. They provide structure, moisture, and that lovely golden colour that you see on your perfect cake.

You see, the proteins in eggs coagulate as they heat up, providing structure to your cake. Think of it as the backbone of your Vanilla Tray Bake. Without eggs, your cake will crumble, literally. So, while you’re whisking away, bear in mind that you’re building the structure of the cake.

Eggs also contain fats in the yolk, which interact with flour to tenderize the crumb, making each bite of your cake soft and luscious. Who knew that such a small ingredient could pack so much punch, eh?

Now, I understand that some folks might have dietary restrictions, and eggs are a no-go. Don’t fret! You can still bake a killer Vanilla Tray Bake.

Substitutes like applesauce, mashed bananas, or even commercial egg replacers can do the trick. Just remember, results might slightly differ, but hey, a cake’s a cake, right?

Why Vanilla Isn’t Just a ‘Basic’ Flavour in Vanilla Tray Bake

Vanilla often gets labelled as ‘basic’ or ‘plain,’ but let me tell you, this couldn’t be further from the truth! The humble vanilla extract in your Vanilla Tray Bake is a game-changer, my friend. It’s like the bass guitarist in a band. You may not notice it upfront, but take it away, and the music just isn’t the same.

First of all, let’s talk aroma. Ah, that intoxicating scent of vanilla wafting through your kitchen as the cake bakes. That’s the vanillin compound, working its aromatic magic. The smell alone can evoke a sense of nostalgia, comfort, or even happiness. Can your ‘basic’ do that?

When it comes to taste, vanilla adds a rich, creamy flavour profile that elevates your cake from good to divine. It balances out the sweetness and complements the buttery notes, creating a harmonious blend that sings on your palate.

And here’s a little tidbit for those who are into aesthetics: vanilla deepens the colour of your cake. It adds a warm, golden hue that makes it visually appetizing. You eat with your eyes first, right?

Now, what if you’re out of vanilla? Can you still make a Vanilla Tray Bake? Technically, yes. But don’t expect it to taste the same. However, you could use almond extract or even a splash of bourbon to add a different yet exciting flavour profile to your cake.

Unveiling the Origin of the Classic Vanilla Tray Bake

When one thinks of a Vanilla Tray Bake, images of family gatherings, birthdays, or maybe even Sunday afternoons spring to mind. It’s a recipe that has stood the test of time, but ever wondered where this comforting dessert originated? Allow me to whisk you away on a culinary history tour.

Now, the term “Tray Bake” is quintessentially British. It refers to any cake that is baked in a tray and typically served sliced, either square or rectangular.

The Vanilla Tray Bake is a variation of the classic British sponge cake, a simple yet versatile dessert dating back to the early 19th century. The sponge cake gained immense popularity in Victorian England, primarily due to its simplicity and minimal ingredients.

But it was only in the 20th century that the concept of Tray Bakes gained momentum. You see, post-WWII, there was an emphasis on easy-to-make, family-friendly meals, and desserts. Enter the Vanilla Tray Bake, which could be whipped up with pantry staples like flour, sugar, butter, and of course, vanilla.

The Vanilla Tray Bake is more than just a cake; it’s a culinary symbol of home, comfort, and togetherness. It transcends generations, making it a beloved dessert for both kids and adults alike. And though it hails from the UK, its popularity has spread far and wide, finding its way into kitchens worldwide.

Vanilla Tray Bake: A Palette for Flavours

The classic Vanilla Tray Bake! So simple, so delicious, and yet so versatile. While the vanilla version is a timeless classic, let’s not forget that this cake can serve as a canvas for a multitude of flavours and variations.

One popular twist is the Lemon Tray Bake. Swap the vanilla extract for lemon zest and lemon juice, and you’ve got a sunny, citrusy delight that’s perfect for summer soirées or springtime brunches. Add a lemon glaze on top, and your taste buds are in for a zesty treat!

If you’re a chocolate aficionado, why not go for a Chocolate Tray Bake? Replace some of the flour with cocoa powder, and you’ve got yourself a cake that’s both spongy and fudgy. A layer of chocolate glaze, and maybe some chocolate sprinkles, would make it a chocoholic’s dream come true.

Or how about a Fruit and Nut Tray Bake for a healthier version? Incorporate dried fruits like cranberries, raisins, or even pieces of dried apricots along with crushed almonds or walnuts. It’s the kind of cake that would make you feel a little less guilty about indulging.

Then there’s the Spiced Tray Bake for those who love a little warmth in their desserts. A dash of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and maybe even a sprinkle of allspice can transform your Vanilla Tray Bake into a winter wonder, ideal for the holiday season.

So you see, the Vanilla Tray Bake is not just a one-hit-wonder; it’s a versatile recipe that can be adapted to suit any occasion, season, or even mood. All you need is a little imagination, and the possibilities are endless!

Check Out These Other Recipes

If you’ve got a soft spot for this Vanilla Tray Bake, you’re in for a real treat! There’s a whole world of mouth-watering baked delights waiting for you in my recipe vault.

Imagine biting into the fluffiness of a Vanilla Cupcake, just as tender and aromatic as today’s tray bake but in a petite, single-serve form.

You don’t have to stop at vanilla; oh no, the heavenly scent of Banana Bread is the perfect follow-up. If it’s nostalgia you’re craving, then there’s my Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. I promise you, it’s grandma-approved!

Now, if you’ve got a chocolate hankering that’s making your heart race, then don’t you dare miss out on my Chocolate Brownies. A fudgy, chocolatey square that melts in your mouth faster than you can say ‘bake.’

And for those days when you’re feeling fancy, you have to whip up my Blueberry Cheesecake; it’s creaminess and fruitiness all dancing in a beautiful ballet of flavours.

Don’t be a stranger now; let me know in the comments how these recipes turn out for you. Your kitchen is waiting, and so are these delectable recipes!

Vanilla Tray Bake

by Nabeela Kauser
Vanilla tray bake is a lovely dessert ideal for sharing with family and friends. This is a simple and nostalgic school dinner classic. A wonderful traybake that will brighten any occasion with its moist sponge and rainbow sprinkles.
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Baking, Dessert
Cuisine British, Western
Servings 8
Calories 548 kcal



  • 200 g Butter Unsalted, softened
  • 200 g Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 200 g Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract


  • 300 g Icing Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Water


  • Sprinkles


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and grease a 9-inch square pan with butter and line with parchment paper
  • In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until there are no traces of sugar
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until fully incorporated after each addition. With the last egg add the vanilla extract
  • Add half of the plain flour and the baking powder then mix until just combined
  • Add the remaining flour along with the milk then mix until there are no traces of flour
  • Pour the batter into the tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before preparing the glaze
  • In a small bowl add the icing sugar and the water then mix until well combined – the icing should slowly glide off the spoon when lifted, if it is too thick then add a drop of water at a time until the right consistency is reached
  • Pour the glaze on top of the cake then top with the sprinkles
  • Allow to set for 10 minutes, then cut into slices before serving


Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 548kcalCarbohydrates: 82gProtein: 6gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 136mgSodium: 90mgPotassium: 71mgFibre: 1gSugar: 62gVitamin A: 750IUVitamin D: 1µgCalcium: 57mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Cakes, Dessert, Food, Recipe, Sprinkles, Sweet, Traybakes, Vanilla
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!



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Cook with Nabeela

Hi, I'm Nabeela!

I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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