It is officially spring and we are celebrating with these sweet little springtime fairy cakes.
What are fairy cakes?
Unlike their American cupcake counterparts, fairy cakes in the UK are smaller and lighter – like a delicate little fairy. The cakes themselves are a light sponge and are topped with a simple glaze. American cupcakes by comparison, are larger and more substantial, often including a filling and topped with clouds of buttercream – delicious in their own right, but different.
Sometimes you will find fairy cakes with the tops trimmed and cut in half. The trimmed tops are angled on top of the cakes like little wings, reinforcing the fairy cake image.
How to make fairy cakes
These fairy cakes have a light vanilla crumb, similar to a Victoria Sponge cake. The cake liners are filled no more than ¾ full – the tops should be nicely rounded but not towering like a cupcake.
Some recipes will fill the cakes with a little jam or cream. We chose to keep these simple and unfilled.
Rather than a buttercream, these cakes are glazed with a lightly lemony icing made of powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, and milk, no butter.
In keeping with the springtime theme, we found pretty paper liners to hold the fairy cakes and topped them with festive sprinkles.
A note about baking tin sizes
The smaller size of fairy cakes may be in part to the size of the baking tin. In the UK there are smaller tins that are typically used for fairy cakes. The cupcake tins in the US are often referred to as muffin tins by comparison. The smaller UK tins, however, are not as small as the mini-muffin tins used in the US.
For this recipe we are using standard American cupcake/muffin tins.
For the fairy cakes
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the icing
10 1/2 ounces powdered sugar (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
2–4 tablespoons whole milk (more if not using lemon juice)
2–3 drops food coloring
For the fairy cakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the milk and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined.
Fill each cupcake liner about ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the cupcake tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the icing
Sift the powdered sugar into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon juice and enough milk to create a smooth mixture.
If desired, divide the icing into multiple bowls and color each with different food coloring.
Be sure the cakes are fully cooled before icing.
Drizzle the icing over the cakes, sprinkle with decorations, and set aside until the icing hardens.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Inactive Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: dessert
- Cuisine: British
- Serving Size: 1 cupcake
- Calories: 331.1
- Sugar: 13.08g
- Sodium: 234.37mg
- Fat: 13.08g
- Saturated Fat: 7.83g
- Carbohydrates: 51.02
- Fiber: 0.38g
- Protein: 3.33g
- Cholesterol: 77.62g
Keywords: fairy cake, cupcake