Cinnamon Vanilla Sponge with Chocolate Buttercream

This is another recipe sponsored by the chaps at Just Ingredients, using some of their delicious products. I had the idea of combining the lovely warm wintery flavours of cinnamon and vanilla with chocolate buttercream to make a fragrant spongecake that’s perfect for tea on a cold January afternoon, and I think it turned out pretty darn delicious.

3 eggs
About 180g of margarine
About 180g of granulated sugar
About 180g of self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp Just Ingredients ground cinnamon, plus more to decorate
1 Just Ingredients vanilla pod
1 Just Ingredients cinnamon stick, to decorate
To make the buttercream:
Margarine, icing sugar and cocoa powder, mixed together until it tastes good!

Start by weighing the eggs, in their shells, all together. You’ll use the same amount of margarine, granulated sugar and self-raising flour. Doing this, instead of using a standard amount, means that the sponge will turn out perfectly moist and light, whatever size the eggs are.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the margarine, beating with a wooden spoon (or an electric mixer) until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat again, then repeat with the flour and bicarbonate of soda.

Next, use a sharp knife to open the vanilla pod lengthways. Scrape the fine black seeds out with the point of the knife and pop into the mixing bowl, with a teaspoonful of cinnamon, and mix again until the little dark specks of the vanilla are evenly spread throughout the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C (180˚C fan). In the meantime, place your sponge tins on a sheet of baking parchment and trace round them with a pencil. Cut out two circles. Use a leftover corner of the baking parchment and a bit of margarine to grease the tins, and then pop the circles of paper into the bottom of the tins and press down so that they stick to the margarine. Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins and spread out roughly with a wooden spoon (the mixture will spread itself out as it cooks, so don’t worry about getting it perfect). Once the oven is up to temperature, pop the tins inside and set a timer for 20 minutes.

Once the time is up, test the cakes with a fork – the tines should come out completely clean. If they don’t, put the cakes back in for a couple of minutes. When you’re confident that they’re cooked in the middle, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning the cakes out onto a cooling rack.

Leave the cakes to cool completely before you even think about making the buttercream. If you get too impatient, the buttercream will melt when you put it on and you’ll get a big mess! When you’re ready, start preparing the buttercream by popping a couple of big spoonfuls of margarine into a bowl and adding a generous amount of icing sugar and about half a tablespoon of cocoa powder. I’m afraid I can’t get much more specific as I’ve always done this bit by trial and error! You’ll have your own preferences as to how sweet the buttercream is so just keep adding icing sugar & having a taste until it’s right.

Top one of the cakes with half of the buttercream, then lay the second sponge on top and cover with the rest. The decoration is optional, of course, but for the finishing touch, pop a cinnamon stick on the top and sprinkle with a little more ground cinnamon. Serve with a nice hot cuppa on a chilly day.