Retirement Cake Recipe

Retirement is an important milestone in anyone’s life – and if you’ve been asked to make a retirement cake, you’ll want to make sure that the cake is perfect.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

Retirement is an important milestone in anyone’s life – and if you’ve been asked to make a retirement cake, you’ll want to make sure that the cake is perfect. 

So, which celebration cake recipe should you use?

If you want a light, moist cake that can be covered with royal icing or fondant icing, a Madeira sponge is better than a Victoria sponge because the firmer texture will be able to bear the weight of the icing.

Our favourite Madeira sponge recipe serves about 14 people, takes 10 minutes to prepare and 1 hour and 15 minutes to bake.  Once the cake has cooled, we suggest that you cover it with fondant icing which gives a smooth, professional look and creates the perfect surface for your retirement cake toppers or cake decorations.

Retirement Cake Ingredients:

  • 375 g soft margarine or butter at room temperature

  • 375 g caster sugar

  • 625 g self-raising flour

  • 6 eggs

  • 4 tablespoons milk

  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract



  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas mark 2.5

  2. Line a deep, round baking tin (23 cm) with greaseproof paper

  3. Cream the margarine or butter and the caster sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy

  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk with a fork.

  5. Add alternate spoonfuls of all the egg mixture and all the flour into the butter mixture until the egg and flour has been used

  6. Whisk the mixture until smooth and then beat in the vanilla extract

  7. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until risen and golden brown – check with a wooden skewer – if the skewer comes out clean, the cake is ready.

  8. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack

Whilst the cake is cooling, make a buttercream mixture to cover the cake before adding the fondant icing. The buttercream will take about 10 minutes to prepare.

Buttercream Ingredients

  • 140 g softened butter

  • 280 g icing sugar- sieved and lump free

  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft

  2. Add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth

  3. Add the remaining icing sugar, one tablespoon of milt and vanilla extract and beat the mixture until creamy smooth

  4. Beat in the remaining milk if the mixture is too stiff

  5. Cover the top and sides of the cooled cake with the buttercream


Icing the cake with fondant icing

You’ll need about 1 kg of fondant icing – roll-out icing rather than pouring fondant

Ideally, you’ll use ‘icing and marzipan smoother tools’ to smooth out the fondant. These are very inexpensive on ebay or from a retailer such as Lakeland. The round edge smoother is best for the top and sides of the cake.

Before rolling out the fondant, dust the board or worksurface with icing sugar to stop the fondant sticking. 

  • Knead the fondant so it’s pliable and easy to roll

  • Roll the fondant with a rolling pin, turning as you roll so that the fondant doesn’t stick to the board

  • When the fondant is about ½ cm thick, put a little water on the back to it will stick to the cake

  • Smooth the fondant over the cake with your hands - making sure there are no air bubbles

  • Use the round edge smoother to ensure a nice flat surface on top of the cake

  • Still using your hands, smooth the fondant down the sides of the cake

  • Using the round edged smoother, work it round the sides of the cake

  • Cut around the edge of the fondant – not too near to the bottom of the cake

  • Smooth the fondant around the sides again and then cut closer to the bottom of the cake


Ideas for retirement cake decoration:

To make your cake extra special, there’s a whole range of personalised and general ‘Happy Retirement’ cake toppers available on the internet – one of our favourites is ‘The Legend Has Retired.’ Prices for these glitter card toppers start from around £2.99 on Amazon.

The easiest way of decorating your fondant-covered cake is to add a ribbon, sugar flowers, edible flowers or rice paper butterflies and a retirement cake topper but it’s so much nicer to design a theme according to your friend’s interests or their occupation.

If you’re making a retirement cake for a man who loves golf for example, there are some great resin cake toppers on the internet for less than £10. If your friend is a tennis fan, players crafted in icing start from around £10 plus postage.  You can even buy sugar tennis balls – or an edible sugar icing tennis court, either plain or with a personalised message.                       

If you’re making a retirement cake for a nurse, the cake could be shaped like a nurse’s uniform and covered with coloured fondant icing and cake decorations. If you’re baking a cake for someone who was in the army, you could create a ‘camouflage’ effect with your fondant. Clocks seem to be a popular decorative theme for both sexes whilst retirement cakes for women often feature a female with her feet up.

The final word:

If you’re going to add a short message on your cake, the following may help you ‘say it with cake.’

  • Work is a bad habit…

  • You’ve retired – let the fun begin

  • Time to relax

  • The best is yet to come

  • Goodbye tension, hello pension

  • Retirement is the icing on the cake


Good luck with creating your retirement cake and we’d love to see the photographs of your creations.

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