A cupcake (British English: fairy cake;
Australian English: patty cake or cup cake) is a small cake
designed to serve one person, frequently baked in a small, thin
paper or aluminum cup. As with larger cakes, frosting and
other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are common on cupcakes.
The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as
1796, when a recipe notation of "a cake to be baked in small cups"
was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simms. The earliest
documentation of the term cupcake was in “Seventy-five Receipts
for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie's
In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the
name cup cake or cupcake. In previous centuries, before muffin
tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in
individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds and took their name
from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the
name that has persisted, and the name of "cupcake" is now given to
any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. The name "fairy
cake" is a fanciful description of its size, which would be
appropriate for a party of diminutive fairies to share.
The other kind of "cup cake" referred to a cake whose ingredients
were measured by volume, using a standard-sized cup, instead of
being weighed. Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a
standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups; however, they were
more commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. In later years,
when the use of volume measurements was firmly established in home
kitchens, these recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter
cakes, so called because they are made up of four ingredients: one
cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four
They are plain yellow cakes, somewhat less rich and less expensive
than pound cake, due to using about half as much butter and eggs
compared to pound cake. The names of these two major classes of
cakes were intended to signal the method to the baker; "cup cake"
uses a volume measurement, and "pound cake" uses a weight
In the early 21st century, a trend for cupcake shops was reported
in the United States, playing off of the sense of nostalgia evoked
by the cakes. In New York City, cupcake shops like Magnolia Bakery
gained publicity in their appearances on popular television shows
like HBO's Sex and the City. In 2010, television presenter Martha
Stewart published a cook book dedicated to cupcakes.
A standard cupcake uses the same basic ingredients as
standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Nearly any
recipe that is suitable for a layer cake can be used to bake
cupcakes. Because their small size is more efficient for heat
conduction, cupcakes bake much faster than layer cakes.
A "cake in a mug" is a variant that gained popularity on many
internet cooking forums and mailing lists. The technique uses a
mug as its cooking vessel and can be done in a microwave oven. The
recipe often takes fewer than five minutes to prepare.
A butterfly cake is a variant of cupcake, also called fairy cake
for its fairy-like "wings". They can be made from any flavor of
cake. The top of the fairy cake is cut off or carved out with a
spoon, and cut in half. Then, butter cream, whipped cream or other
sweet filling (e.g. jam) is spread into the hole. Finally, the two
cut halves are stuck into the butter cream to look like butterfly
wings. The wings of the cake are often decorated using icing to
form various patterns.
A cake ball is an individual portion of cake, round like a
chocolate truffle, that is coated in chocolate. These are
typically formed from crumbled cake mixed with frosting, rather
than being baked as a sphere.
A gourmet cupcake is a somewhat recent variant of cupcake. Gourmet
cupcakes are large and filled cupcakes, based around a variety of
flavor themes, such as Tiramisu or Cappuccino. In recent years
there has been an upcropping of stores that sell only gourmet
cupcakes in metropolitan areas, such as Crumbs Bake Shop.
Originally, cupcakes were baked in heavy pottery cups. Some
bakers still use individual ramekins, small coffee mugs, large tea
cups, or other small ovenproof pottery-type dishes for baking
Cupcakes are usually baked in muffin tins. These pans are most
often made from metal, with or without a non-stick surface, and
generally have six or twelve depressions or "cups". They may also
be made from stoneware, silicone rubber, or other materials. A
standard size cup is 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter and holds about
4 ounces (110 g), although pans for both miniature and jumbo size
cupcakes exist. Specialty pans may offer many different sizes and
Individual cups, or cupcake liners, may be used in baking. These
are typically round sheets of thin paper pressed into a round,
fluted cup shape. Liners can facilitate the easy removal of the
cupcake from the tin after baking, keep the cupcake moister, and
reduce the effort needed to clean the pan. The use of liners is
also considered a more sanitary option when cupcakes are being
passed from hand to hand. Like cupcake pans, several sizes of
paper liners are available, from miniature to jumbo.
In addition to paper, cupcake liners may be made from very thin
aluminum foil or, in a non-disposable version, silicone rubber.
Because they can stand up on their own, foil and silicone liners
can also be used on a flat baking sheet, which makes them popular
among people who do not have a specialized muffin tin. Some of the
largest paper liners are not fluted and are made out of thicker
paper, often rolled at the top edge for additional strength, so
that they can also stand independently for baking without a
cupcake tin. Some bakers use two or three thin paper liners,
nested together, to simulate the strength of a single foil cup.
As an alternative to a plate of individual cakes, some bakers
place standard cupcakes into a pattern and frost them to create a
large design, such as a basket of flowers or a turtle.
Petit fours, individual-sized or bite-sized
cakes made by cutting a large sheet cake and frosting the
Muffins, cupcake sized quickbreads
Tea cake, a broad class of breads and cakes
served with tea