Updated: Jul 3, 2018
When did we, as a nation, first get obsessed with cupcakes? If ever a plate of individual little sponges in paper cases were brought out when I was a child, I’d be overly-excited at the thought of eating a fairy cake, not a cupcake. Nowadays it’s rare to see a fairy cake, while cupcakes have taken over, making appearances at school fairs, birthday parties, weddings and more and even getting entire bakeries and cafés devoted to them.
(These are just a few examples of my cupcake designs!)
Cupcakes originate from the U.S. and, up until now, you
may have thought that they’re exactly the same as fairy cakes but, actually, there is a slight difference between the two. Our American friends make them larger and with more icing (or ‘frosting’) than we traditionally use on our fairy cakes. And I’m certainly not going to argue with the idea of eating bigger cakes, so I’m more than happy to stick to cupcakes from now on!
What’s in a name?
There are two theories as to how the cupcake got its name, with the first being the most literal. Back in 1796, when what’s thought to be the first reference to this method was made in Amelia Simmons’ book ‘American Cookery’, ovens were expensive to heat and larger cakes would take a long time to bake, often burning as they did so. Popping the mixture in to something smaller, like a cup, meant shorter baking times and less likelihood of them spoiling.
The other, just as plausible, theory is that they were called cupcakes because their ingredients were measured out using a standard sized cup. One of the first recognised recipes was ‘one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and four eggs’(this also led to them being sometimes called ‘number cakes’, ‘1234 cakes’ or ‘quarter cakes’ as well). The first time the word cupcake appears in print was, apparently, in the 19th century, in a recipe book written by an American author named Eliza Leslie. And it wasn’t until around the turn of the 20th century that cupcakes started being made in muffin tins rather than cups.
The beauty of cupcakes is that, although making ornate and detailed decorations for them is a skill that requires lots of practise, making a basic version is incredibly easy and looks lovely. Here’s a simple recipe for you to try: it makes a perfect cupcake every time!
Ingredients for the cupcakes (makes 12)
· 175 g butter (softened), cut into small pieces
· 175 g self-raising flour
· 175 g caster sugar
· 1/2 tsp baking powder
· 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
· 3 large eggs
Ingredients for the icing
· 175 g butter, room temperature
· 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
· 2-3 tbsp milk
· 350 g icing sugar, sifted
· Food colouring and decorations, if required
· Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
· Put paper cupcake cases in a 12-hole muffin tin.
· Add all the cupcake ingredients to a large bowl. Beat them with either a wooden spoon or an electric hand whisk until smooth.
· Divide the mixture between the cake cases.
· Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the cakes are firm to touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
· Transfer on to a wire rack to cool.
· While they’re cooling, make the icing by putting two tablespoons of milk, butter, vanilla extract and 175g of the icing sugar into a bowl and mixing it until its smooth.
· Mix in the rest of the icing sugar, adding more milk if necessary to ensure it’s the right consistency.
· Add a couple of drops of food colouring, if desired, and mix well.
· Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe it on to the cupcakes.
It’s great seeing how much fun the children who come to my Cupcake Decorating & Afternoon Tea parties have with all the icing and decorations; I’m always hugely impressed by their concentration and creativity!
If you’d like to book a cupcake party then please get in contact: the children get to design and take home six cupcakes and we’ll provide them with a gorgeous afternoon tea and a certificate of completion as well!
Or, if you have a special occasion coming up, how about booking me to make you a cupcake bouquet or a GIANT cupcake? Guaranteed to sweeten any celebration!
Huge thanks to Rosalind Brookman, https://www.rosalindbrookman.com/