Butterfly and fairy cakes Recipe

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Cakes River Cottage HandbookSo simple to make, these feather-light party favourites will please young and old alike. A nick with a knife transforms the basic fairy cake into a fluttering butterfly cake. Straightforward iced cup cakes can be made from this recipe too: just flood the surface with plain or flavoured Glacé icing or Buttercream and titivate with decorations of your choice.

  • Yield: 12 or 24 (depending on tray)


  • 175 g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 125 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
To finish
  • 1 quantity Vanilla buttercream
  • Icing sugar to dredge
  • 12 hole muffin tray, holes about 6.5 cm in diameter and 2 cm deep, lightly greased or lined with paper muffin cases, or 2 x 12-hole bun tins, lined with small paper cake cases
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat for a few seconds until well blended. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla extract, if using, and 1 tbsp hot water. Using an electric whisk, beat until smooth; this should take no more than 1½–2 minutes.
  2. Carefully spoon the mixture into the paper cases so they are about two-thirds full. Give the baking tray a couple of sharp taps on the work surface to level the mixture in the cases.
  3. Bake in the oven until well risen and golden; allow 12–14 minutes for smaller cakes and an extra couple of minutes for bigger cakes. Leave in the trays for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
  4. Once the cakes have cooled, you can simply top them with the vanilla buttercream to make fairy cakes.
  5. Alternatively, to make butterfly cakes, use a small sharp knife to cut a circle from the top of each cake, leaving a border of about 1 cm. Remove the cone-shaped centre, leaving a slight hollow. Cut the removed cones in half to make the butterfly wings and set aside (no nibbling, butterflies need two wings). Put 1 tsp buttercream into the hollow of each cake. Press the wings, cut side uppermost, into the icing and sift over a little icing sugar to finish. These will keep for 5 days in an airtight tin.

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