Fairy Cakes & Butterfly Cakes

FairyCakes ButterflyCakes

I am putting fairy cakes and butterfly cakes in to the same article because, firstly, a lot of people think of butterfly cakes as fairy cakes and, secondly, growing up these two cakes were like conjoined twins, that is, where one was the other would always be.


  • Don't start with that cupcake thing! Yes, the American cupcake invasion is officially upon us and people around the country are being lured in but here at TGBD I am making a stand and loading my metaphorical trebuchet with the mighty fairy and butterfly cakes. Whilst the cupcake may tower above these cakes and is decorated to kingdom come with elaborate buttercream designs on top of heavy sponge, it is all overly-sweet style over substance. The comparatively petite fairy cake is made for small hands and small mouths and is, simply put, pure jolliness on a plate with an equal respect between the dollop of icing on top and the beautifully light sponge hiding beneath. So to all cupcakes out there...be afraid, be very afraid!
  • Fetes, birthday parties, cake sales... Growing up, fairy and butterfly cakes where everywhere and always a huge hit. They were simply; had a jolly, colourful appearance; were light; had a convenient size for children's small hands and mouths(and the occasional adult hand and mouth!); cheap; and easy to make. In fact, they are probably one of the cakes most associated with childhood as we soon grow out of them and move on to more adult fare...just shows how little I've grown up I guess!
  • Scoffing the lot down! To this day, I am still a sucker for anything with hundreds and thousands on. Seeing them instantly fills me with a sensation of childish excitement manifesting itself as a big smile on my face. Combined with the fact that the cakes look so small and the sponge is so light, fairy and butterfly cakes are one of those foods that I have often eaten far too many of. In fact, school breaktimes and lunchtimes during cake sale season was like eating off a conveyor belt of fairy and butterfly cakes. As a result I realised that eating mountains of the things doesn't give you wings - just a good long session in the bathroom!


Fairy Cakes: What fairy cakes do so well, unlike their American counterpart, is balance the topping and the sponge. As you bite in to the cake, you get the delicate resistance of the icing that quickly crumbles away releasing a wave of sweetness combined with the occasional crunch of hundreds and thousands before segueing into the star of the show, the sponge. Light as a feather, the sponge provides yet another texture that contributes almost savoury notes when compared to the icing. All in all, they might be small but they deliver in taste and texture that is to be savoured.

Butterfly Cakes: With a higher ratio of topping to sponge, these are sweeter offerings that deliver the same wonderfully light golden sponge but, this time, with a pillow of luxurious buttercream sitting on top and slices of sponge semi circles angled outwards in an attempt to imitate butterfly wings. Basically, soft sponge combined with a sweet and creamy topping. Gorgeous.


The history of the fairy cake is mingled with the cupcake - terms that are often used interchangeably. As already discussed, comparing today's American cupcake with fairy and butterfly cakes shows up big differences in both taste and decoration so, to my mind, they are definitely not the same. But anyways, courtesy of Wikipedia, here is some history:

The term "cupcake" was first mentioned in 1828 in Eliza Leslie's Receipts cookbook. In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the name "cup cake" or "cupcake". In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or moulds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has persisted, and the name of "cupcake" is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. The name "fairy cake" is a fanciful description of its size, which would be appropriate for a party of diminutive fairies to share.