Ellie Challis shares her #AquaticsBakeOff top tips ... and reveals her favourite recipe

Ellie Challis might be best known for smashing para-swimming records – but she also loves baking.

As part of our #AquaticsBakeOff, Ellie, who won a bronze medal at the 2019 World Para-swimming Championships in the S3 50m backstroke, reveals her top baking tips.

Ellie, who is also part of the British Swimming Para-swimming Podium Potential Programme, holds one world, two European and nine British records.

Here, she shares her favourite recipe – a Victoria sponge.

Ellie’s top tips for baking a great cake

  • Make sure to sieve the flour
  • Take your time when you ice the cake
  • For decoration, melt some chocolate then freeze it before you put it on top of the cake.

Ellie said: “Outside of swimming my passion is baking. My favourite cake to bake is a vanilla sponge, this is because it is simple to make but everyone loves it.

“Another reason it is my favourite cake to bake is because to decorate it you can use anything such as cream, jam, sugar or icing and chocolate!

“Here is the recipe I use and the method. If you make this cake, or your own recipe, have fun baking!”

Ellie’s favourite Vanilla Sponge Cake

  • To make two, nine-inch cakes you will need:
  • 2 ½ cups of flour (plus slightly more for flouring the cake tins)
  • 2 cups of sugar (plus slightly more for unmoulding the cakes)
  • ¾ cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (or oil can be used for greasing the baking tray)
  • 2 cups custard cream (optional)


Ellie Challis's cake
  1. Position a rack in the centre of the oven and pre-heat to 350F
  2. Put the flour, sugar, custard cream (if using), vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt into a mixing bowl. You can mix by hand or with a mixer but if you are using a mixer, take care not to over mix as the mixture just needs to be smooth.
  3. Add and mix in one egg at a time and don’t forget to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to integrate all the ingredients.
  4. After the last egg has been added, continue to mix for a short time afterwards. This will guarantee that the sugar has been dissolved and that the flour has been thoroughly mixed in.
  5. Add the milk, half a cup at a time, scraping the bowl between each to ensure everything is mixed thoroughly.
  6. Mix for a short while after the last of the milk has been added.
  7. The mixture (batter) should be room temperature (70–73F) before baking to avoid ‘crowning’.
  8. Grease two, nine-inch cake tins and then coat them in flour.
  9. Divide the cake mix evenly into the two cake tins, scraping the bowl with a spatula to get as much of the mixture out as possible.
  10. Bake for 20-30 minutes. The cake should start to pull from the sides of the tin and be ‘springy’ to touch.
  11. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave them to stand and cool for at least 30mins to an hour, as the cakes should be at least room temperature before you remove them from the tin.
  12. Put a piece of parchment onto a baking tray and put some sugar onto it before turning the cakes out onto it. The sugar will stop the cakes from sticking.
  13. Refrigerate until ready to decorate as you wish.

We asked you to share your cakes as part of the #AquaticsBakeOff challenge. Here, you can see a gallery of some of the cakes, biscuits and breads that were sent into us.