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Fairy cakes

  • 11th Nov, 2005 at 3:06 PM

I've fallen head over heels with Nigella Lawson's fairy cake recipe. Peter Zion once brought them to a dinner party and they were absolutely fabulous. What I didn't know was how beautiful they were fresh out of the oven.

They are soft, light, and buttery. Interestingly enough, although the recipe originally calls for self-rising flour, using Canadian all-purpose flour works perfectly well here; the cupcakes aren't heavy at all. I wonder if they turn out even better when using cake flour? I think an experiment is in order. Do I have any volunteers?

Nigella punts on the frosting by recommending the use of instant royal icing. But royal icing is no fun to eat, so here is a quick cooked icing instead. We've also eaten these plain, and they are still delectable.

Oh yes, this recipe is entirely unhealthful. It's chock full of things like white sugar and white flour and more white sugar, which makes it absolutely sinful. But cupcakes are childishly innocent, so how could this be wrong? Just promise me you won't eat one every day, all right?

Fairy cakes


  • 125g unsalted butter, soft
  • 125g white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g white all-purpose flour
  • 3g baking powder
  • 5mL vanilla extract
  • 45mL milk
  • 60mL unsalted butter
  • 45mL fruit purée
  • 2mL salt
  • 5mL vanilla extract
  • 500mL icing sugar, sifted if lumpy


  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
  2. Get out your food processor, which makes this recipe simple and easy. Making this by hand is quite a bit more time consuming.
  3. Cube your room-temperature butter and throw that in the processor. Add the sugar, the eggs, flour, baking powder, and vanilla as well. Then blitz until smooth.
  4. Once that's done, slowly add in the milk while pulsing the mixture. The batter should form a soft, dropping consistency. It will smell pretty good now, and you will be tempted to eat a spoonful. Don't, because there isn't much extra batter. OK, you can have a small taste.
  5. Get your muffin-tin out and put a muffin paper in each hole. Spoon and scrape the mixture evenly into each paper. You'll be able to fill twelve of them, stingily. Don't worry that there's only a little bit of batter in each cup, they'll puff up in the oven.
  6. Put the tin in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are just golden. You don't want the papers to burn on the bottom, so do be careful.
  7. Take them out to cool on the muffin rack for about half an hour. Meanwhile, you can start on the frosting.
  8. Get yourself some colourful fruit. I bought some raspberries and pressed the juice out of them with a spoon and a sieve. I did this to remove the seeds because they wouldn't be very pleasant in the icing.
  9. In the top of a double-broiler, melt the butter. You can also do this over a low flame.
  10. Once it's melted, remove the butter from the heat and stir in fruit purée, the salt, the vanilla and the icing sugar.
  11. Place this back on the heat and use a whisk to work all the lumps out. As it gets hotter, the icing becomes less viscous, so you can control how spreadable it is. Don't let it boil, or it will start to harden on you.
  12. Once your cupcakes are cool, you have a choice. You can choose to leave them swollen and proud, in which case your frosting should be cooled to a spreadable consistency. You can also flatten their tops off with a knife, in which case you want to pour hot frosting into the muffin cups.
  13. While the frosting is still warm, decorate each cupcake. I put a glace cherry on the top of each, but you can put on sugar roses or chocolate buttons.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

These keep in the refrigerator for two or three days, just reheat them in the toaster oven. But I can never help myself when they come fresh out of the oven, so I can't imagine how you'd have leftovers.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
11th Nov, 2005 20:17 (UTC)
I'm a bit puzzled by Nigella's use of prepared frosting since frosting is not exactly difficult to make. The pictures of fairy cakes in How to be a Domestic Goddess are very striking, though. Good to know they taste good, too.
11th Nov, 2005 20:57 (UTC)
I think this is because she has children who like to help in the kitchen, and you probably don't want hot sugar being handled by the little ones.
12th Nov, 2005 01:03 (UTC)
Oh yes, this recipe is entirely unhealthful.

It's Nigella, darling. Unhealthful goes without saying.

My favourite was when she ranted into the camera about how she thinks it's so ridiculous of people to be afraid of sugars and butter and heavy cream.
13th Nov, 2005 05:00 (UTC)
Nigella Lawson is one of my heroines. Anyone who can hold down a full-time job as a columnist, has two young children, and takes the time to cook proper meals deserves glorious praise.

Also, she has the most seductive cookbooks. They make you want to cook. Right now!
13th Nov, 2005 05:07 (UTC)
She's great. So great. I remember the first time I saw her cooking show. It was fantastic. We all (a few straight girls, a few lesbians, and myself) immediately started fighting over which one of us Nigelia loved more. A classy moment.

And, really, have you seen her eating watermelon? Sexy!
13th Nov, 2005 05:17 (UTC)
Ahem... yes, that kind of seductive as well.
15th Nov, 2007 20:17 (UTC)
The cakes
They were horrible they expanded upwards instead of staying flat.
16th Nov, 2007 22:17 (UTC)
Re: The cakes
They're supposed to puff up. That's why you only put a little bit in the bottom of each cup. You don't want cupcakes that don't expand, otherwise you will have dense dumplings and not fluffy cupcakes.
16th Apr, 2008 22:39 (UTC)
I tried the recipe. Whenever I've tried my hand at it before they either ended up bland, flat or dry. These on the other hand *swoons* moist, melt on your tongue delicious with that slightly crispy top. Lovely. Most of them have already been snagged by the family. *hoping her blood sugar'll drop soon*
17th Apr, 2008 12:59 (UTC)
I'm very glad! :)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )