One Cake Batter Recipe – Over 40 Variations

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One basic cake batter recipe – infinite variations. A few pantry staples and whatever else you have in the kitchen this week to make a great cake easily and quickly.

basic cake recipe with variations

A homemade cake beats a packet mix cake hands down any day. And despite what advertising might have us believe, a basic butter cake is simple to make with everyday pantry staples.

What’s more, a homemade cake is made from real butter, real flour, real milk and no weird artificial ingredients like colours, preservatives, egg substitute, soy flour or an anti-caking agent.

You may already have the world’s best banana cake recipe or the most awesome chocolate cake recipe. This recipe doesn’t replace those baking winners.

The idea here is that with a few staples on hand, one basic batter recipe and a little cake baking know-how, you can create all sorts of cake variations based on what’s in your kitchen. Creative, spur-of-the-moment baking.

Cake Baking Tips for Creating Your Own Cake Variations

A couple of things to keep in mind: cakes need leavening agents to make them rise. These are the eggs and the baking powder.

If you’re adding ingredients that will make your cake dense and heavy, you may need to add an extra egg or a little extra baking powder.

Also, denser cakes will take longer to cook. Cook them at a lower temperature to prevent them burning on the top.

You don’t need a mixer or any expensive equipment. A bowl and a good old-fashioned wooden spoon work just as well. As long as you’ve softened the butter, you can have homemade cake in the oven in under 10 minutes.

Have fun and experiment. You can’t go wrong with sweet stuff. If you end up with a ‘failed’ cake, turn it into a trifle.

Yield: 1

Basic Cake Batter with 40+ Variations

one cake mix 40 variations

A basic cake mix using pantry ingredients is always handy to have in your cooking repertoire. Jazz up a basic butter cake recipe up with different added ingredients for infinite taste variations.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 125g (4 1/2 oz) butter
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy.
  2. Add the vanilla and eggs beating well.
  3. Add the flour and milk and beat well until well combined.
  4. Pour into a greased/lined tin.
  5. Cook on 180°C (350°F) for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.


  1. Add cocoa powder (1/4 – 1/2 cup + a little extra milk) for a basic chocolate cake
  2. Add cocoa powder and substitute sour cream for the milk (add a little extra to get the right consistency) for chocolate and sour cream cake.
  3. Stir in about 100g of melted chocolate and 1/4 cup cocoa for a decadent chocolate cake.
  4. Add cocoa powder and liqueur for an adult cake.
  5. For (my fav) Black Forest Cake: add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and a teaspoon or 2 of kirsch. Bake as usual and cut the cold cake in half. Whip enough cream with a little kirsch to spread between layers, fold some tinned cherries into the cream, conserving the syrup. Dissolve some sugar in the syrup and more kirsch and drizzle over one layer of cut cake. Spread with the cherry cream mix. Top with second cake layer, drizzle remaining syrup. Finish the cake off with plain whipped cream (or sweetened or add more kirsch :) ) and some grated chocolate.
  6. Add a teaspoon or two of instant coffee when you cream the butter and sugar for a coffee cake.
  7. For a mocha cake, add the coffee and substitute the milk for Tia Maria or Kahlua.
  8. For coffee and sour cream cake substitute the milk with sour cream.
  9. For Rum and Raisin cake, substitute the milk with rum and throw in a handful or two of raisins.
  10. Add one cup of mashed banana for banana cake.
  11. Add walnuts or other nuts for a banana nut cake or just a plain nut cake.
  12. For coconut cake add 1/2 tsp. Coconut essence, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut, 1 cup of sour cream and about 1/2 cup milk.
  13. For lime and coconut cake, substitute the milk for some lime juice and leave out the essence.
  14. Substitute sour cream or yoghurt for the milk and add 1/2 cup of lemon juice for lemon and sour cream cake.
  15. Use the above and add a little lemon zest and 1/2 cup poppy seeds for poppy seed cake.
  16. For orange cake substitute the milk with 1 cup of orange juice and add the zest of an orange and about 1/2 cup extra self-raising flour
  17. Substitute the milk with Greek yoghurt and stir in some frozen raspberries for raspberry swirl cake.
  18. Or use any other fresh or frozen berry.
  19. Or add some chopped white chocolate along with the raspberries.
  20. For apple cinnamon cake, substitute the milk with pureed apple and add a teaspoon or two of cinnamon. Or try chopped pear.
  21. Or add dried or glace fruit like dried apricots, glace ginger, glace pineapple.
  22. For a denser cake, add 1/2 cup of ground almonds to any recipe.
  23. For a variation, try ground hazelnut.
  24. Add some grated carrot, grated zucchini, a handful of pumpkin seeds or some mashed pumpkin. Adjust the taste with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or Allspice.
  25. For Madeira cake, add 1/2 cup of ground almonds and 2 tsp. finely grated lemon or orange zest.
  26. Stir in a tsp. or two of cinnamon for cinnamon cake.
  27. Or try ground ginger for ginger cake.
  28. Or a combination of spices, cardamom is my favourite.
  29. For upside-down cake line the base of the cake tin with tinned or fresh fruit such as pineapple or peaches or pears (or berries), sprinkle with brown sugar and pour the batter over the top. Add some of the tinned syrup to the batter for extra flavour.
  30. Add some honey for honey cake.
  31. Or add maple syrup and substitute brown sugar for the white.
  32. Substitute the milk with peanut butter.
  33. Substitute the milk with strawberry jam.
  34. Add some dates and serve with caramel sauce for an easy sticky date pudding.
  35. For a caramel self-saucing pudding, sprinkle the top of the batter with 1/2 cup of brown sugar mixed with a little cornflour and drizzle 1 cup of boiling water over the back of a metal spoon. Bake until cake part is cooked through.
  36. For a chocolate self-saucing pudding, sprinkle the top of the chocolate batter with 1/2 cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of cocoa powder, then drizzle 1 cup of boiling water over the back of a metal spoon.
  37. Use a cupcake tin instead of a large tin for cupcakes (any variation).
  38. Add choc chips.
  39. For a basic biscuit (cookie) recipe, substitute 1 cup of the self-raising flour with 1 cup of plain flour and leave out one egg and the milk.
  40. Use brown sugar instead of white for a more caramel taste.
  41. For cake disasters, make a trifle or serve with ice cream.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 399mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 1gSugar: 19gProtein: 5g

Nutrition is for basic cake only. Actual nutrition depends on the ingredients you use, so it's always a good idea to run it through a nutritional calculator yourself using the actual ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Facebook

There are infinite variations even from just the ideas above.

What about chocolate, coffee cake?

Or chocolate and raspberry jam cake, or chocolate raspberry swirl cake, or coconut and strawberry jam cake, or chocolate banana cake, chocolate ginger and fig cake…

and then there are all the different ways to ice or serve the cake. Like with cream. Or ice cream…

What is your favourite cake?

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  1. Hi Melissa,

    What a very versatile butter cake mix! Just in time, too. I was just going to find a good basic butter cake I may vary with a bit of chocolate, so you have come to my aid :-) (and saved me searching through my books for awhile) Thanks!


    1. I hope your cakes turn out well!

  2. Charmaine says:

    I love the simplicity of this recipe, it looks like it would make a great foundation for all sorts of creative baking. I will use this recipe to bake a chocolate cake for my sister who is visiting from interstate this weekend.

  3. …and can I say that the cake did turn out very well!

  4. I gonna try melted chocolate orange zest & rum. Then when cooked gonna cut slices of different flavors of ice cream & stack on top & freeze. then pipe with meringue throw in hot oven quickly. then throw more rum on it & light it instead of birthday candles.

    I was only looking for a simple birthday cake but all your ideas inspired me to do a bombe alaske tho i dont think anyone @ this cattle station has ever had one i will try.

    1. Sounds nice. Hope it works out. I’m sure it will taste great.

  5. Hi Melissa,

    First of all, I want to say that I really appreciate how you have deconstructed a basic cake batter and made so many useful suggestions and guidelines for how to create our own signature cake.

    I had one main question. I assumed this was for a traditional layer cake that consists of two 8 or 9 inch round layers. However when I looked back at the recipe, I didn’t see any such indication regarding the size of pan or number. Folowing my assumption, in order to make a 3-layer cake, I multiplied the recipe by 1.5. But when I went to fill my three pans, it was clear that I did not have enough batter. So, I just divided it into two.

    In order to bake more wisely in the future, I wanted to ask what the intended size and humber of layers were. Thanks for your help.

    P.S. I decided to go with an orange and plain yogurt cake with orance zest as well. I’ll let you know how turns out. When I licked the spoon, it was delicious!

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      It’s for a 1 layer cake, 20cm round tin. I’m not usually so adventurous for more than one layer! But if I do, I usually wait until the cake is cold and then slice it in half or thirds.

  6. Hi Melissa. Thanks for this recipe and most especially the variations . I have a baking tin like Alan Silverwood multisize 12″ X 4″ deep tin which allows me to bake 4, 6″ cakes at a time. I am hoping to make a single batter , divide it and add different flavour to each quater ( chocolate, orange, banana, vanilla)
    Do you think this Idea would work ?

    Would it be safe to use the standard 12″ square recipe , considering my other additions/variations ?
    If not, what would be the right measurements to use and the cooking time ?
    Thanks a lot

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Yes, give it a try! Sounds great. Use the cooking time you normally would with that size pan and keep an eye on it. If you’re only cooking a quarter of the batter at once (is that right?) then shorten the cooking time and test it with a skewer.

  7. Devletyan Lucin says:

    How will you do a variation for a Lemon Poppy Seed cake?

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      I would replace half the milk with lemon juice and maybe some lemon rind. I like to replace the rest of the milk with plain yoghurt but it does make a denser, moister cake and you may need to add a little extra. It’s a good idea to soak the poppy seeds (a couple of tablespoons) in a little milk before adding.

  8. Hello,
    Thanks for the recipe and variations! I was wondering on quantity, if the recipe is for a single 20cm layer, then in theory for a three layer cake one would have to triple the recipe — but that leads to 2 1/4 cup sugar and 6 cups of flour! Can that be right?

    If you have any advice for expanding the quantity, it would be super helpful!

  9. Kimberley H says:

    I juat googled recipes for basic cake mix and found this. Im making a caramel coffee cake. Something different instead of all the basic flavours. I replaced the sugar with brown sugar and added 2 teaspoons of instant coffee to the butter and sugar. Fingers crossed it works out nicely! Thank you for sharing your recipe :)

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Sounds delicious. Hope it turns out well.

  10. Vidya Agarwal says:

    Wonderful helpful recipe.
    Just a question: how much would be toomuch to add to the basic recipe in order not to spoil the texture of the cake?
    A quarter cup of say tutti frutti?

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      Not sure what tutti frutti is – do you mean lollies/candies? a quarter of a cup should be fine.

      1. Vidya Agarwal says:

        Candied peels.made from peels of raw papaya.thats what tutti frutti is in India!
        Thanks for your response.
        How can we make this eggless?
        Thanks again!

  11. Robert Henderson says:

    I tried the strawberry cake variation replacing the milk with strawberry jam. Total inedible failure. Very sad. Have you actually made the strawberry jam version? Also, you don’t say what size tin to use.

    1. Melissa Goodwin says:

      I’m sorry to hear it didn’t turn out for you, Robert. Hopefully, you can salvage it into a trifle. I have indeed made the strawberry jam version.

  12. hi,
    what size tin do you use?

  13. Heather W says:

    How would this freeze, for bake sales and school fetes? Time frame for freezer would also help if at all possible. Thanks.

    1. Un-iced/frosted cakes can be frozen. In our tuckshop, we don’t freeze things for longer than three months, otherwise the quality deteriorates.