Fairy Cake Magic

Do you ever go through a period of time where you’re feeling out of sorts, unsettled, grumpy? Having just returned from vacation, with all kinds of backlog to catch up on at w-o-r-k, I found myself in just such a state. My usual antidote is to get in the kitchen and get cooking or, better yet, baking, but I didn’t get a chance to do that until Thursday night.

Laying out the mise en place, my mood began to lift, and by the time the sweet vanilla aroma of baking cupcakes was wafting through the house, I felt right back to my usual (marvellously musing!) self. Kitchen therapy!

I wanted to have another go at decorative icing, and wanted just the most simple of cupcakes as a canvas for practicing my buttercream bling technique. Luckily I remembered Nigella Lawsons’ recipe for Fairy Cakes in How To Be  a Domestic Goddess (gotta love that title!). My kids used to enjoy these and they take no time at all to make.

As far as the buttercream goes, I started with the recipe I developed for my first attempt at cupcake decoration and made some adaptations. The last time, the icing was so stiff I could barely squeeze it through the icing tip. However, that was during cool dry weather. I planned to reduce the amount of meringue powder by half, but discovered in yesterday’s hot, humid weather that the icing was much looser even after I ended up using almost as much as before. Obviously, weather needs to be taken into account! I added some almond extract for extra flavouring, and also used a gel colouring to tint the icing a sweet shade of pink (I had my granddaughter in mind!). Normally I try to avoid artificial colourings, but I wanted these to be whimsical and fun. And let’s face it, we’re not exactly talking health food here. That said, next time I may add some berries for extra colour and flavour.

On the decorating front, I’ve made progress but I still have a long way to go before I can turn out beautifully consistent cupcake delights. I tried a couple of different approaches, with varying degrees of success, design-wise. However, the finished cupcakes do look very pretty, and the sugar star sprinkles and patterned liners add an extra fanciful touch. Next time I’ll start with a base coat of the icing, and then do the decorative piping on top of that. Always learning …

These fairy cakes worked their magic on me; making them was a soothing experience and eating them makes me happy. I can hardly wait until our LIttle Miss sees these treats; I imagine her face will light up with delight, and that’s magic for me to see. But I think only a small portion will be enough for her, otherwise the sugary goodness will interfere with nap time, and that won’t be a magical experience for her mother!

Fairy Cakes

Recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess and the method according to how I made it.

Preheat oven to 400º and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper baking cups

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter as that’s all I had)
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour (I added 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and when incorporated, fold in the flour. Add the milk to achieve a fairly loose consistency to the batter. Divide the mixture evenly among the baking cups (it won’t seem like much, but they’ll rise up beautifully). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden on top. Remove from the pan as soon as possible and cool on a wire rack.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening)
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp meringue powder (plus up to an additional 1/2 tsp to achieve the desired consistency)

Whip the butter and shortening until well incorporated. Add half the icing sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the remaining sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, meringue powder and a dab of gel colouring. Mix slowly until everything is well-combined and the consistency smooth.

Put the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice, and decorate your heart out! Add sprinkles and other bling according to your fancy.


    • Thank you Smidge. That’s high praise, given how beautiful your cakes are. I dropped off the cupcakes last night so didn’t get a chance to see her reaction today, but I just know she’ll have been eager to get her hands on one!

  1. “Not perfect”? Oh, Mar. Someday I’ll post pics of my (cup)cake decorating attempts. Even “not perfect” won’t come to mind when you view them. These look terrific and, being pink with sprinkles, I bet your Little Miss absolutely loved the treat.

    • Thank you John. A good reminder that it’s not about perfection, is it? Rather, the pleasure of creating and sharing with others. My daughter just told me she gave Little Miss a half cupcake and she ate all the icing but only one bite of cake. So now I know she’s an icing girl! My kids liked either the icing or the cake, but rarely both together. The next generation carries on the tradition!

    • I wish I’d thought of beet powder. I’m not keen on using artificial colourings, although occasionally I compromise for esthetics. It will be fun to explore alternative natural colourings. Anyway, regardless of how that icing got to be pink, I think any little girl would be tickled to see these!

    • Thanks for the information, Adam. Next time I’m looking for a substitution for a recipe from another country like Britain, I’ll go to a source there to make sure I’m making it as the recipe writer intended!

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