Fairy cake, cupcake, patty cake… whatever you call them, these dainty, frosting topped, little morsels are known by most.
Here in Britain we call them fairy cakes & they’re the stuff of childhood dreams! Present at every birthday party, fete, carnival or even better, made at home with your mam (no need to share them then). Usually dribbled with a glacé icing that never really sets, hundreds & thousands (sprinkles) haphazardly thrown over their tops or, if you were lucky enough, topped with a colourful rice paper image of your favourite cartoon character. The latter were made from very snazzy fairy cake kits where the aim when I was little was not to eat all of the batter before it even reached the oven (so good!).
Cupcakes however originated in America, they are a little larger in size & are generously topped with frosting. The true history on the invention of the cupcake is largely unknown, most recipes were passed down by families & friends who would then make adaptations to those recipes out of ease or convenience.
The name ‘cupcake’ first appeared in the 19th century, used to describe cakes which were made from ingredients that were measured by the cupful, however, early cupcakes were baked in small receptacles such as teacups or ramekins, making a cup of cake so I guess we’ll never really know.
The small size & individual portioning of cupcakes isn’t only an easy alternative to portioning & slicing a larger cake to serve with forks but keeping an oven hot was a large expense & so reducing the size of the cakes was more economical as they would bake quicker.
Whatever the reason for their invention or namesake though, I think we can all agree that cupcakes are a simple winner, a crowd-pleaser for not only lovers of cake & frosting but also, in modern days, those after that insta-worthy food snap. I will admit that I’m not normally a fan of the sugar heavy, frosting laden cupcake & wouldn’t normally part with my cash for one. I find that over the counter versions are lacking the correct ratio of frosting to cake, there’s always way too much frosting & not enough cake.
That’s why I prefer to make my own, the cake is ,& should be, the star of the show here. It’s luscious layer of buttercream is merely there to compliment its sweet, simple flavour. This is one of those recipes that everyone will have made at some point in their life (be it successfully or not!), it’s simple but when executed well it’s dessert perfection. So be it for a party, celebration or just because you don’t like to share a whole cake, do yourself a favour & master the art of the humble cupcake. Big, small, with chocolate, nuts or fruit, adapt a basic recipe to make it your own & who knows, you might be the one passing down your recipe to family & friends.
(makes 12 cupcakes)
- 175g butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp milk
For the buttercream:
- 175g butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 350g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp milk
- Line a 12 hole cake pan with cupcake cases
- In a large bowl beat together the butter & sugar until pale & fluffy
- Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time
- Sift over the flour & baking powder & mix until smooth
- Add the vanilla & milk to the mixture & mix again
- Divide the mixture equally between the cupcake cases (tip:use an ice-cream scoop)
- Bake at 180°c for 20-25 minutes, until a beautiful golden brown
- Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes before removing & placing on a cooling rack to fully cool
- To make the buttercream, simply add all of the ingredients into a bowl & beat together until smooth
- Chill the buttercream for 30 – 60 minutes before piping