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What is a Fairy Cake?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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What size cake would be appropriate for feasting fairies? A cupcake size would definitely do the trick, and inspires the name fairy cake. To many, fairy cake can be defined as the UK term for cupcake, since it represents an individually sized cake, suitable for serving one person, or a lot of tiny fairies, pixies, nixies or otherwise.

Some argue that there are essential differences between the cupcake and the fairy cake. British fairy cakes are more likely to be made of lighter cake mixes, sponge cake or genoise, instead of richer and denser butter cake. Others argue there is no appreciable difference between the two, since many recipes exist for both British and American types. Frosting for the fairy cake is just as variable as cupcake frostings, though many favor the three classics: lemon, vanilla or chocolate icing.

Fairy cakes are often, as is true with American cupcakes, served at children’s birthday parties. Many adults from the UK have warm memories of fairy cakes at their own birthdays, though you can certainly still buy or make them in the UK. They haven’t by any means gone out of style, just as American cupcakes are perhaps more popular than ever. There are even cupcake wedding cakes in vogue at present.

You can decorate fairy cakes in so many ways. In fact, a current fashion is to allow children to decorate already frosted cupcakes with additional candies, nuts, chocolate chips or others. This is also fashionable in the US.

Some contend that a fairy cake should have a tiny amount of the top of the cupcake scooped out so that more frosting can be added. This is also called a butterfly cake, and there are others who argue these are quite different from most fairy cakes. It can be said the traditional fairy cake is very simply a frosted individually portioned cupcake.

Though the term is common in the UK, it has a certain magical appeal that might make it particularly ideal for children’s birthday parties. Imagine a magically themed princess party with fairy cakes as the main dessert. Many argue it just sounds more delicious and slightly more mysterious.

Most cupcakes are made from basic cake batters, and you can really choose any cake recipe or cake mix you like to make fairy cake delights. If you do use cake mix, you should probably avoid angel food cake mixes, though they sound like a good pairing with fairies. In cupcake tins, angel food cake tends to rise unpredictably, and it is difficult to frost.

Another definition of fairy cake is definitely not edible and should be avoided at all costs. The fungi Hebeloma crustuliniforme, which grows in Europe and parts of the US, is a toxic mushroom that should not be consumed. Doing so can cause extreme gastrointestinal pains and upset. Save your consumption of fairy cakes for those made in cupcake tins instead, and avoid the toxic mushrooms that go by the same name.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon220117 — On Oct 05, 2011

Growing up in the UK, I always thought a fairy cake was a small version of a cupcake, probably about a quarter of the size.

Anyone else have the same thoughts?

By CellMania — On Aug 19, 2010

@alex94: I love buttercream frosting! It is ideal to use when you need to incorporate different colors. Here is the recipe:

½ cup softened butter

½ cup shortening

4 cups powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. milk

Cream together the shortening, butter, and vanilla. Slowly blend in the sugar. Beat well. Add the milk and continue mixing until your frosting is fluffy and light. Keep it covered until you are ready to use it.

By alex94 — On Aug 19, 2010

Does anyone have the recipe for buttercream icing?

By SnowyWinter — On Aug 19, 2010

@boathugger: Any icing that you would normally use for a cake would be fine for your fairy cakes. I do fairy cakes quite often for family birthday parties. We have a lot of little girls in our family!

The recipe that I use for my icing calls for 4 ounces of icing sugar, 2 Tbsp. milk, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and 12 cherries (cut in half). While your fairy cakes are baking, mix your icing up.

Mix the icing sugar, milk and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Stir until it is semi-thick. You need it to be think enough to pour but not runny. Drizzle the icing over cakes when they are cooled off. Top them with the halved cherries and they are ready to serve.

By BoatHugger — On Aug 19, 2010

My daughter is turning 8 soon and she wants a fairy theme. I need to know what to use for fairy cake icing. Does regular icing work well since they are basically cupcakes?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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