The fairy cake is a thing of joy to me which brings back childhood memories of cooking at home and summer picnics and birthdays.
It’s the perfect size and can easily be transformed into something far more exciting with icing, jam, fruit or flowers but it’s just as good left plain with a swirl of buttercream.
A few years ago, and largely thanks to Sex and the City, it was shortly surpassed by America’s super-sized version the cupcake. Now while I’m always happy with a cupcake and am a long-standing fan of the Hummingbird bakery’s offerings, nothing can bet the humble fairy cake.
I made these beauties for easter visiting my mum and dad as not only are they delicious, they’re also extremely portable and hardy on train and tube journeys.
Feel free to jazz them up as much as your imagination allows.
225g self raising flour
225g soft unsalted butter
3 eggs, at room temperature
50ml milk (whole is best but semi skimmed will do)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g unsalted soft butter
500g icing sugar
Dried and/or fresh flowers
How to make…
Preheat the oven to 190C/180 fan/Gas 4 and line two 24-cup cake trays with fairy cake case.
Blend together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. This takes around three minutes with an electric mixer, double without. If you’re using an electric mixer remember to scrape down the sides regularly with a spatula to make sure everything is mixed in properly.
Once the mixture has doubled and lightened in colour, add in the eggs one at a time. In between each egg pop in a dollop of flour to stop the mixture separating.
Add the vanilla essence and milk then sieve in the flour and baking powder slowly.
Carry on mixing everything together until combined – around two minutes with an electric mixer, four without.
Spoon the mixture into the cake cases until they are two thirds full. Bang each tin sharply on the table to get rid of the air bubbles and then put in the oven for 20 minutes.
Watch the cakes like a hawk and as soon as they’ve darkened in colour and spring back to your touch they re done.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack and wait until they are stone cold before attempting the icing – do not skip this stage otherwise you’ll end up with a slippy icing mess which soaks into the cakes and does not look pretty.
While you’re waiting for the cakes to cool make your icing. Beat together the butter and sugar until it forms stiff peaks. It should be thick – like soft butter – and the longer you beat it for the smoother it will become. If you’re looking for the kind of Hummingbird consistency you’ll need to do this for quite a while – five minutes at least with an electric mixer.
There are several different kinds of decorations you can choose at this point – it’s really up to you and how much time you have to spare.
For traditional fairy cakes dollop the icing on top of your cakes – I tend to do this with a spatula to create an elegant swirl but for a more refined look you can pipe on the icing to make a spiral.
Cover with the toppings of your choice – remember less is more
For the butterfly cakes you’ll need to do a little extra work. Take a sharp knife and cut a cone out of the middle of each cake. Cut this in half and it will form your butterfly ‘wings’. Then fill the gap with whatever you choose – jam, fruit or just buttercream – and then delicately place the wings on top.
Another variety is lemon curd with lemon rind sprinkled on top – the question is more how far will your imagination take you.