We are very proud of our fairy cakes at Fiona Cairns Ltd, which since we first sold them a few years ago have proved one of our most popular cakes ever. We make them all year round-changing the designs seasonally. I’ve been asked more times than I can remember what is the difference between cupcakes and fairy cakes? The former tend to be larger, usually topped with buttercream and originated in the States, but the smaller fairy cake I understand was first baked here in Britain.
This month I am giving a simple fairy cake recipe -they are decorated with edible crystallised summer flowers in the photo. I ‘ve just picked a few spring edible flowers (see the other photo)- tiny primroses, cowslips, violas and yes even the humble garden daisy (from my lawn!) Just make sure they havn’t been sprayed with chemicals. These little cakes are just perfect for an afternoon tea, make a lovely gift or even could be piled high on a cake stand for a wedding or a Christening. In fact a lovely centrepiece for any spring or summer celebration.
I remember well the month of April -4 years ago. We were in the midst of creating the Royal wedding cake for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We were on count down – only 4 weeks to go until the wedding – a little stressful I recall! The cake was 17 fruit cakes and 8 tiers high and stood about a metre high. Covered in handmade sugar flowers we crafted, and all selected from a list produced by the Duchess herself-from “The Language of Flowers”.
These little fairy cakes and decoration are so much simpler to create-and hopefully you will find a pleasure to make- totally stress free I hope!
Crystallised flower fairy cakes
Perfect for any garden party, these are as pretty as a picture. In this recipe, they are iced in very pale lavender and green pastels to complement the flowers used, but you can use any colours of your choice. For a large party or wedding, a stand of these on each table would make a fabulous centrepiece.
20-24 fairy cake cases
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g golden caster sugar
grated zest of 2 large oranges,
plus 75ml orange juice
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g self-raising flour, sifted
Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan 160°C/340°F/gas mark 3 ½ .Line 2 fairy cake tins with paper cases. Cream the butter, sugar and zest until very pale, light and fluffy (it will take at least 5 minutes in an electric mixer). Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition, along with 1 tbsp of the flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the remaining flour and, lastly, slowly mix in the orange juice. Divide the batter evenly between them (make sure each is only just over half full, as you need space for the icing to set flat on top). Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and spring back to the touch. Leave for 1-2 minutes in the tins, then place on a wire rack until cold.
600g icing sugar, sifted
5-7 tbsp orange juice
purple food colour
green food colour
20-30 edible crystallised flowers
and leaves (I used lavender,
tiny rosebuds, anchusa, daisies
and pinks, and geranium and
rosemary leaves, see below)
70g bag white royal icing
Divide the icing sugar between 2 bowls. Very gradually add a little orange juice to each until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add a very little purple food colour to 1 bowl and blend it in well until you achieve the desired shade. Cover the bowl with clingfilm (the icing dries out very quickly) while you colour the other bowl in the same way, using the green food colour. To ice the cakes, replace them in the fairy cake tins. This makes it much easier as the tins will hold the shapes of the cakes. Spread enough icing on to the cakes – using each colour on about half the batch – so that it is almost level with the top of the case, gently easing it to the edges with the back of a spoon. Allow to dry for a couple of hours. The cakes can be iced 2 days ahead, but add the flowers on the day they are to be eaten.
To finish, arrange the crystallised flowers and leaves on the cakes, using dabs of royal icing to hold them in place. Display on cake stands or plates, scattering any remaining flowers and leaves in between.
How to Crystallise Edible Flowers. A really simple and beautiful cake decoration.
1 egg white, lightly whisked
white caster sugar
edible flowers and leaves,
such as whole roses or rose
petals, violas, pansies, violets,
mimosa, cowslips, pinks,
primroses, lavender, sweet
geranium leaves, mint leaves
small paint brush
florists’ wire (optional)
A quick and stunning decoration that requires very little equipment, just a quiet hour and a bit of patience. These should keep for up to 1 week in a dry place. Use unsprayed flowers that are completely dry. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Place the egg white in a bowl and the sugar in another. Hold the flower, petal or leaf at the base and paint with egg, ensuring you cover every fold. Gently sprinkle on the sugar, again making sure every surface is covered, then shake off the excess. If crystallising whole roses, push a fine florists’ wire through the base of the bloom, then hook the wire over a tall glass. Leave overnight in a dry, warm place. The flower will dry while hanging. Lay petals or leaves on the lined sheet and leave overnight in a dry, warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal). They will harden in a few hours, becoming brittle.
Store in an airtight container, lined and interleaved with baking parchment. They are very fragile, so only make a couple of layers.
Please note not all flowers are edible and some are poisonous. So, ensure the flowers are fresh, dry unsprayed by pesticide(most shop bought flowers will more than likely have been sprayed). I prefer to pick mine from my garden when in season. In April ,see my list in the introduction for seasonal flowers. In a month or two the roses and lavender will be available.