Some recipe classics never go out of fashion and fairy cakes top the list They are the stuff of childhood memories: just one nibble can transport you back in time and even today, no self-respecting children's birthday party would be without them. That said, why should the kids have all the fun? With just a little tweaking, fairy cakes can be turned into grown-up fare as well, perfect for a mid-morning coffee break, tea in the afternoon, packed lunch treats, OR for the Christmas tea table. The basic recipe is oh-so-simple so you can keep it plain or indulge yourself with extravagant toppings; for Christmas, I have used fondant icing snowflakes and edible sparkles/cake glitter. Some die-hard purists may omit the vanilla extract but I think fairy cakes are better with it added. Prep time includes the time it takes to decorate the fairy cakes. The edible cake sparkles and glitter is available from most good cake decorating or sugar craft shops.
- Makes 24 mini cakes or 12 larger ones.
- For mini cakes you will need a 12 hole tartlet tin (these are 5cm at the rim and 1 1/2 cm deep) and you will need to use it twice, unless you have two. For larger cakes use a 12-hole bun or muffin tin (these are 6 1/2 cm at the rim and 2cm deep). You can use the little paper cases according to the size tin you have - I have suggested silver. If not, butter the base and sides of the holes before filling with the mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5. Either butter the tin or place the paper cases in the holes (see above). In a mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. You can use an electric whisk or a wooden spoon.
- Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, whisking to incorporate, then beat in the vanilla.
- Sift in half of the flour and fold into the mixture. Add the milk and the rest of the flour and fold until well combined.
- Spoon into the tin and bake for 12 minutes or until risen and golden on top. Allow to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin. Cool the cakes on a cooling tray/rack.
- Mix a little water to the icing sugar until you have a soft glace icing - add a little vanilla extract if you wish, or other flavourings.
- Spoon the icing over the top of the cooled fairy cakes, allowing the icing to drip down into the cases or over the sides of the cakes.
- Roll out the fondant icing on a board with icing sugar sprinkled over to stop it sticking; press or cut your festive shapes and place one on top of each iced fairy cake. Sprinkle over the edible glitter or sparkles and arrange the fairy cakes on an attractive serving plate.