The cake debate
Hotcourses Editor

The cake debate

Cupcake vs fairy cake a cake debate

First published date March 23 2012 Amended date August 28 2015


Cupcakes are the food of the moment right now - from the introduction of cupcake-centred bakeries in London to the popularity of cake making classes here on Hotcourses. Gone are the days when we’d have a slice of Victoria sponge at a tea party. No, now we have our own miniature version to munch at our leisure.


But what happened to the fairy cake? That old relic adorning the tables of children’s birthday parties seems to have disappeared altogether since the trendy cupcake rolled onto the cake making scene. Many people have even dared to suggest they are the same thing. 


Well, being  baking enthusiasts here at Hotcourses (check out the kind of cakes you find in our office) we’ve decided to take a stand, and explain the differences between the fairy cake and the cupcake and why we’re not ready to let the latter go. We're pitting the two against each other in a cupcake vs fairy cake battle...


The first obvious difference is in the name of these two sponges. The cupcake was given its title from having originally been a cake baked in a small cup. Like the cupcakes of today, cake making experts designed them to be a small cake for just one person. The fairy cake followed the same idea, but being smaller than a cupcake and not in a cup, it looked as though it was for a fairy to eat.


Another difference is in the ingredients and what's involved in the cake making process. Generally speaking, fairy cakes take the form of your standard sponge cake; made with eggs, flour, sugar and butter. However, cupcakes can take any form of cake, just made smaller. Though you will find many of them made with the same sponge recipe as the fairy, you will also find cupcakes made from carrot cake recipes, chocolate cake recipes and even cookies and cream.


The garnish you find on top of them also separates these culinary delights apart in this cupcakes vs fairy cakes debate. Though cake decorating and cake making fanatics are often willing to try anything, there are traditions for how to finish each one. Fairy cakes are usually topped with royal icing and only a small blob of it. On the other hand, cupcake bakers indulge in a large slathering of butter cream icing, covering the entire top of the cake, and paying no heed to calorie counts.


The audience for the two is not the same either. Thanks to their appearance on Sex and the City and their larger size, cupcakes are very much an adult treat. Their younger sister the fairy cake is perfect for children – it’s smaller, with less sugar on the top and so limits the probability of sending them into a hyperactive daze. Despite this, children are being encouraged to get involved in making cupcakes, because just like fairy cakes, they are a lot of fun to make.


So who wins this cupcake vs fairy cake debate? Though the term, fairy cake, has become less fashionable as it makes way for the bigger, bolder cupcake, it is clear that there are differences. In any case, we can never get enough cake - whether it’s at a children’s birthday party or a glamourous black tie dinner, there’s definitely room for both of them in this world.


The question is; where does this leave the muffin?

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