Thursday, 11 April 2013

In search of the perfect Fairy Cake!

The title is not as crazy as you might first think; I have scanned my recipe books, and just about every recipe online for these little cakes, and the variation is immense!  Not only are the ingredients, and the quantities (even though most recipes are for 12 cakes) different across my research; but also the method differs, oven temperature, and cooking time!

There is a bit of background to my search...I will admit here and now that I am not a huge cupcake fan.  Well, that's not exactly true, I do like a good cupcake, and by good, I mean a tasty cake, and not just a foundation on which to build copious amounts of overly sweet, and in some instances, garishly coloured buttercream frosting.  Apparently, we have our American cousins to thank for this very popular trend, according to my research!!

The thing I do not like about cupcakes is the frosting;  and will actively remove it from the cake.  Now, I totally understand that this practice will not be shared by everyone, and I may well stand alone on this view, especially among other females!  But I would like to see a growing trend towards the actual cake part of the cupcake, and efforts to make it as good as it can be, and tasty too!  Too many are just too dry, fairly tasteless, and are completely overwhelmed by the over-the-top adornment of oh so sweet frosting.

Incidentally,  cupcakes are so called because once upon a time (in USA) cakes were made in coffee cups; why this was I don't yet know, but I will delve deeper to find out more about the origins of cupcakes, and why they require so much decoration for such a relatively small cake!

Anyway, I search for the perfect Fairy Cake continues!  Mary Berry advocates the all-in-one method which surely seems to defy the laws of science surrounding the art, or science, of baking!  I simply don't understand how the creaming method is strongly put forward in most cake recipes, yet it seems suddenly acceptable to dump all the ingredients into your mixing bowl for delicate and light Fairy Cakes!  Or am I simply being a purist?

Other methods do say to cream the butter and sugar together first, then slowly add the beaten eggs (with a little flour to begin with to prevent curdling), then gently folding in the remaining flour in order not to build up the gluten in the flour by over-beating at this stage.

There are recipes that say include baking powder, and recipes that say not to.  Some add vanilla extract, others do not.  Some say ONLY butter to be used, others say margarine.  So, no wonder we mere mortals who dabble on an amateur level into the world and its mysteries of baking get so confused!

Trying to be as objective as I can be, and in the spirit of objective scientific research, I have tried the all-in-one method as advocated by the Great baking Queen herself, and the cakes were passable.  They did have rise to them, and fairly light if somewhat dry-ish texture.  However I have to say they did taste as though something was missing from them (probably air!!).

I have tried recipes were the specific measurements for every ingredient has been given (i.e 100g of butter, 100g sugar, 100g self-raising flour, 2 eggs), and again they were passable.  Remarkably, they did have a much better aroma whilst baking.

Having made sponge cakes of the larger variety using the weight of the eggs (minus their shells) to determine the weight of the remaining ingredients, I decided to give this a try today to make today;s batch of Fairy Cakes.  The results were much lighter and indeed more airy.  I think, just how a Fairy Cake should be (which is why they are so-named...surely?).

I wanted a very understated and simple (and not too sweet) topping for my Fairy Cakes, so went with a simple glace icing...I did have an urge for a bit of experimentation and decided to add a drop (and I mean 1 tiny single pin head drop) of green food colouring to the icing mix, which gave a very pale pastel green hue.  very understated !  Just enough to make them interesting without being the central focus of attention (and taste).

You will need:

  • 2 eggs (I used medium) beaten(weigh them and write the weight down so you don't forget, as all other ingredients will need to weigh the same as the eggs)
  • Butter (or margarine, I used Utterly Butterly) - same weight as eggs
  • caster sugar - same weight as eggs
  • self-raising flour - same weight as eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder (added to flour)

1.  Cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy.  When you think it is beaten enough, beat for 5 minutes more!
2.  Add a tablespoon of beaten egg together with a tablespoon of flour, and mix in thoroughly before adding more egg.  If it looks like it may be curdling add a bit more of the flour
3.  When all egg has been beaten into butter and sugar, gently fold in flour, do not beat at this stage as you do not want to knock the air out of the batter
4.  When the mixture is smooth spoon it into your cake cases (12) which need to be placed in a 12 hole bun tin 
5.  Bake at 170 C (Fan) for 15-19 mins or until golden and springy to the touch
6.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, then decorate


  1. I am going to try this :)

  2. Let me know how they turn out Vicki :) x