Fairy Cake Baskets


Preparation info

  • Makes


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

Fairy cakes are a British teatime classic. Smaller than modern cupcakes, they nevertheless have similar origins and are essentially a flavored sponge cake. This delightful version takes a simple recipe and elevates it to a suitably high-class context. The cakes are particularly good fun to make with children, and both Sybbie and George can be seen in the Downton kitchen in season 6 making much of licking the bowl.


  • ¾ cup (170 g) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the muffin cups
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (170 g) superfine sugar, plus ½ teaspoon for the espresso mixture and more for the muffin cups
  • cups (155 g) flour, plus more for the muffin cups
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 generous teaspoon baking powder
  • 3–5 drops red food coloring
  • 3–5 drops yellow food coloring
  • ¼ teaspoon pure rose extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure orange extract
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 14–16 thin strips candied angelica, each 4–5 inches (10–13 cm) long
  • Boiling water, to cover
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons strawberry jam
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • ¼ cup (1 oz) sweetened shredded dried coconut, finely chopped, or ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons orange marmalade
  • 4 teaspoons chocolate spread
  • cup (160 ml) heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter 12 standard muffin cups (about 3 inches/7.5 cm in diameter and ¾ inch/2 cm deep), then dust with a mixture of equal parts superfine sugar and flour, tapping out the excess.

In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, together with a spoonful of the flour with the first egg to stop the mix from curdling, mixing well after each addition. Then fold in the remaining flour and the baking powder, mixing thoroughly.

Divide the mixture into three equal portions, putting each portion into a separate small bowl. Color one portion with the red food coloring and one with the yellow food coloring. Stir the rose extract into the red portion and the orange extract into the yellow portion. For the third portion, stir together the espresso powder, hot water, and ½ teaspoon sugar in a small cup until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved, then fold into the remaining plain batter until evenly blended. Divide the mixtures evenly among the muffin cups, filling 4 cups with each color.

Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 16–18 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, turn upright, and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, put the angelica strips into a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. (You’ll have a few spares in case of breakage.)

Using a paring knife held at a 45-degree angle, a small spoon, or a melon baller, hollow out the center of each cake, being careful not to pierce the bottom. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons strawberry jam with 2 teaspoons of the cold water. Brush the outside and sides of each red cake with the jam and then roll the cake in the coconut to coat evenly. Repeat with the 2 tablespoons marmalade, mixing the marmalade with the remaining 2 teaspoons water, then brushing and coating the yellow cakes. Leave the brown cakes plain. Now fill each red cake with 1 teaspoon strawberry jam, each yellow cake with 1 teaspoon marmalade, and each brown cake with 1 teaspoon chocolate spread.

Whisk the cream by hand or with a handheld mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star or plain tip and pipe a little cream into the center of each basket. Finally, bend each angelica strip into a half-circle to form a “handle” and gently push the ends into the sides of each cake.

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