How to Bake a Simple Cake: Our Easy Childhood Chocolate Cake Recipe!

In the recipe below you’ll find the basic formula for how to bake a cake, vanilla or chocolate. This is the way I was taught to make chocolate cake as a child. It let us bake cakes without referring to a recipe. This can be used for a simple cake, or made into a shaped cake which is a birthday tradition for us! Below is an explanation and lesson to explain all the options then a very simple recipe at the end. The idea is you too won’t need a recipe to bake a simple cake with what you have!

The Basic Formula to Bake a Simple Cake

  • The basic cake formula is a 1:1:1:1 ratio of sugar, fat, eggs and self raising flour. Mixed together this will bake into a cake.
  • As an egg weighs about 2oz, you need the same number of ounces of sugar, fat, and self raising flour, and half the number of eggs. That’s all you need to remember! Now you can have an easy to remember cake recipe that even kids can use. E.g. 4oz butter, sugar, self raising flour.. and one egg. This is the example in the recipe below.
  • You can then alter it, tweak ingredients, and change the flavours but that’s the basic idea and it works! We learned this as little kids and it’s still the recipe my whole family uses now.

Some Substitution Options

  • The most usual substitution for us is: subbing out about 1/4 of the flour for cocoa to make a chocolate cake. So in a cake with 4oz flour, switch to 3oz flour and 1oz cocoa.
  • For a more “fudgey” cake: You can sub 1/3 of the flour for almond meal – this is especially good in a chocolate cake!
  • In place of self raising flour: you can add 2/3 tsp baking powder for every egg in this recipe.
  • For fully vegan or gluten free cake recipes: I have our go to options in The Whole Treat ebook HERE.
Jared’s birthday cake: An 8 by 8 single layer in a rectangular tin.


Each ingredient has a different cup volume for its weight amount. This simple cake formula is more easily done with a scale – especially for kids. But you can look up the cup volume for each ingredient you’re using, on google. Google “2oz of coconut sugar (or other ingredient) in cups” to get the volume you need.

Items I use for this recipe:


You want the batter 3/4′-1/5″ thick uncooked in the pan so you can use any cake tin as long as you adjust the cooking time.

“2 by 2” cake: I put this amount of batter in 2 ramekins for single serving mug cakes.

“4 by 4″ will fill a 7-8” cake pan with a thinner, stackable cake.

6 by 6 can also fill the same size 7-8″ pan for a thicker single layer cake. For a tall cylindrical baby smash cake I’ve also used a 6 by 6 batter in an 8″ square and cut out 4 thin circles with a cutter or glass to stack for a mini layered cake.

16 by 16 I would use for a 4 layer large cake a 7-8″ cake pan like the one in the picture below – it will feed 20+ people.


In general you’ll want half an egg per serving – that’s half a “2 by 2” for each person. So a 2 by 2 as mug cakes will give you two desserts. And a 16 by 16 cake in 4 layers will give you more like 30 servings.


This will depend on the size of tin and your oven. The best thing is to know what to look for. You’re looking for the cake to be just firm to the touch, and for a skewer to come out clean if gently inserted in the centre. That usually means 10-15 minutes for an individual mug cake and 15-20 minutes for a 7-8″ pan cake in a 170C/340F oven. For anything larger than a 8″ round I’d check it after 25 minutes and add more time in 5-10 minute increments. Give it a touch and if it’s not springy yet, give it some more time.

Big cake: A 16×16 batter in 4 layers. Small cake: a 6×6 batter in an 8″ square tin and cut into 4 circles to stack.

The Basic Formula for a Simple Cake

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: cake recipe, chocolate, chocolate cake, easy recipe, sponge cake


  • cake tin
  • parchment paper


  • 4 (or any multiple of 2) oz butter Coconut oil or vegan butter can be used in the same amount
  • 4 oz sugar this can be honey, maple, sucanat, coconut sugar or any sugar option. A coconut sugar will give a wonderful deep flavour to a vanilla cake.
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz flour This can be self raising brown or white flour, plain white or brown flour, oat flour or a gluten free 1:1 substitute flour. If you want a chocolate cake you can sub 1/4 of the flour measurement for cocoa. For a more fudgy chocolate cake sub up to another 1/4 for ground almonds. To keep it simple for kids to remember use self raising flour so there's no baking powder to remember.
  • 1 1/3 tsp baking powder Omit if you are using self raising flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract (optional) If it's a vanilla cake, go on the higher end!


  • "Cream" together the butter and sugar ingredients – that means just mix with a fork until well combined. Depending on what you're using this will give different end results but just get it well mixed.
  • Beat in the eggs one by one, mixing with a fork until well combined.
  • Add the vanilla and mix it in.
  • Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold them in with a spoon until evenly combined.
  • Prep a 7-8" cake tin, with parchment paper on the bottom and sides and fill with batter. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
  • Place in a 340F/170C oven
  • Remove when the cake is just springy to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Turn the cake out onto a wire cooking rack and leave until fully cool before icing.


Tip: For only a few slices of a layered cake make one round and cut it into 3 or 4 pieces then stack them and cut it into 3 or 4 layered slices to serve without making a full cake! 

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