Fairy Cake Recipe – perfect every time

Fairy cake recipe

Preparation time:
15 mins

Cooking time:
15 mins
(may need an extra 5 mins)

Makes 12 fairy cakes

Ready in 30 minutes, this fairy cake recipe couldn’t be easier, and comes out perfectly every time.
Mary Berry’s iced fairy cake recipe is taken from one of her most famous books, Mary Berry’s Baking Bible


For the fairy cakes

  • 100 g (4 oz) softened butter
  • 100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 g (4 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder

For the icing

  • 225 g (8 oz) sifted icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp warm water
  • handful of sweets, to decorate


  1. Heat the oven to 200C fan, 180C fan, gas 6. Place fairy cake cases into a 12-hole bun tin, to keep a good even shape as they bake.
  2. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat for 2-3 mins until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Fill each paper case with the mixture.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the cakes are well risen and golden brown. Lift the paper cases out of the bun tin and cool the cakes on a wire rack.
  4. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and gradually blend in the warm water until you have a fairly stiff icing. Spoon over the top of the cakes and decorate with sweets.

Orange fairy cake recipe:
To make Orange Fairy Cakes: Add the grated rind of 1 orange in step 2. To make the icing, blend 225 g (8 oz) sifted icing sugar with the juice of 1 orange until you have a fairly stiff icing. Spoon over the tops of the cakes.

History of the fairy cake

fairy cake recipe - fairy cake with hundreds and thousandsThe history of the fairy cake is mingled with the cupcake – terms that are often used interchangeably.

The term “cupcake” was first mentioned in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook. In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the name “cup cake” or “cupcake”. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or moulds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has persisted, and the name of “cupcake” is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup.

The name “fairy cake” is a fanciful description of its size – small enough to be served to the tiny mythical creatures. The word “fairy” (or “fairie”) appeared around 1300, referring to “enchantment” and “magic.”

But what has happened to the fairy cake? That traditional standard sweet deliciousness adorning the tables of children’s birthday parties seems sadly to have taken a back seat to these new trendy “cupcakes”.

The term, fairy cake, has become less fashionable these days. The bigger, bolder, much more fattening cupcake seems to be the new kid on the block. Some have even dared to suggest fairy cakes and cupcakes are the same thing.

Before the cupcake revolution (arguably brought on by Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw and Magnolia Bakery) the Americans and the British both waxed lyrical about their nostalgic longing for the desserts, which were both staples at children’s birthday parties. Cupcakes have since become a food for adults as well, especially in America. Nigella Lawson brought the trend to the UK after including a lighter fairy cake recipe in “How To Be A Domestic Goddess.”

Fairy cake recipe differences

So just what are the differences between the fairy cake and the cupcake.

The first obvious difference is in the name of these two sponges.
The cupcake was so named from having originally been a cake baked in a small cup. Like the cupcakes of today, cake making experts designed them to be a small cake for just one person. The fairy cake followed the same idea, but is smaller than a cupcake and not made in a cup.

The ingredients and the method of making them are different too.
The fairy cake recipe is basically the standard sponge cake; made with eggs, flour, sugar and butter so is traditionally a lighter sponge cake than cupcakes. Cupcakes typically have a thicker cake mix and can also take any form of cake, for example, carrot cake – just made smaller.

The decoration also separates these culinary delights.
Though cake decorating and cake making fanatics are often willing to try anything, there are traditions for how to finish each one. The fairy cake recipe includes a topping of a thin coating of royal icing. Cupcake bakers indulge in copious amounts of butter cream icing, covering the entire top of the cake, and paying no heed to calorie counts.

The audience for the two is not the same either. Thanks to their appearance on Sex and the City and their larger size, cupcakes are very much an adult treat. Their younger sister the fairy cake is perfect for children. Smaller, with less sugar on the top it also limits the probability of sending them into a hyperactive daze.

Fairy Cakes: What fairy cakes do so well, unlike their American counterpart, is balance the topping and the sponge. As you bite in to the cake, you get the delicate resistance of the icing that quickly crumbles away releasing a wave of sweetness combined with the occasional crunch of hundreds and thousands before segueing into the star of the show, the sponge. Light as a feather, the sponge provides yet another texture that contributes almost savoury notes when compared to the icing. They may be small but they deliver big in taste and texture.

fairy cake recipe - butterfly cakesButterfly Cakes: With a slightly higher ratio of topping to sponge, butterfly cakes are sweeter offerings that deliver the same wonderfully light golden sponge but, this time, with a pillow of luxurious buttercream sitting on top and slices of sponge semi circles angled outwards in an attempt to imitate butterfly wings. Basically, soft sponge combined with a sweet and creamy topping.

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