These pretty confections—perfect for birthday parties, baby showers and all sorts of springtime celebrations—are usually known as fairy or butterfly cakes in England. If you don’t want to bother with assembling the “wings,” you can simply frost the cupcakes and garnish them with your choice of sprinkles, candied rose petals or pesticide-free fresh flowers.
Rose and Vanilla Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 g) self-rising flour
2 pinches salt
20 Tbs. (2 1/2 sticks) (10 oz./310 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 oz./180 g) granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp. plus 1 Tbs. rose water
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups (12 oz./375 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting (optional)
3 drops pink food coloring
2 Tbs. finely chopped pistachio nuts
Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Sift the flour and 1 pinch of salt into a small bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) (6 oz./180 g) of the butter and the granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add the 4 1/2 tsp. rose water and 1 1⁄2 tsp. of the vanilla. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl and making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.
Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake until golden and a skewer inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the buttercream. In the stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the remaining 8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) butter, the confectioners’ sugar, and 1 pinch salt until smooth. Mix in the remaining 1 Tbs. rose water, the remaining 1 tsp. vanilla and the food coloring. Place the buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
To decorate, using a small paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece from the top of each cupcake. Each cone should be about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Cut each cone in half lengthwise. These 2 pieces will be the “wings” for each fairy cake. Pipe the buttercream into the center and over the top of each cupcake. Insert the wings in the center of the buttercream, poking the tips into the frosting and turning the flat side of each piece outward. Sprinkle the cakes with pistachios, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve. Makes 12 cupcakes.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends, by Alison Attenborough & Jamie Kimm