Butterfly Cakes

Published by Amy

Posts may contain affiliate links. Please see our Privacy Policy.

Butterfly cakes. Small sponge dairy cakes, decorated with buttercream and wings.

My kids reaction upon seeing these Butterfly Cakes in my kitchen was, “wooooah, look at those cupcakes!” What was a perfectly innocent response of glee and excitement actually made me feel a unexpected pang of sadness.

When I think of my childhood and in particular birthday parties, a few foods come to mind. Cocktail sausages, pickled onions on a stick with a cube of cheese (bonus points if they are stuck into half an orange!), slices of cold pizza, mini sausage rolls, bowls of Space Raiders, party rings, jelly & ice cream… And of course, butterfly cakes.

At 8 and [nearly] 10 years old, it dawned on me that my kids have never had the pleasure of knowing the OG of the cupcake world. And that is likely because a lot of their pivotal birthday-party-going years have been spent amidst a pandemic and who knows how many lockdowns. Cancelled birthday parties and promises of “maybe next year” are just the norm to them, and many kids around the world.

Traditional butterfly cakes recipe from Baking with Granny.

Of course, trends have changed too. The birthday parties they did go to pre-pandemic didn’t often have any pickled onions or Space Raiders, and I think most parents would be too health conscious (or lets be honest, afraid of being judged) to serve up plates of cocktail sausages or party rings. Not to mention that many parties are actually entirely hosted by venues now, who have their own catering facilities and can easily churn out a hot plate of food for each child.

For me though, a kids birthday party should always be a table of overly processed, extremely sugary and often salt-laden JUNK! With a Butterfly Cake at the end, either devoured by a child who is already on the verge of feeling queasy, or wrapped in a napkin, stuff into a party bag and taken home to enjoy it all it’s now-squished glory!

Classic butterfly fairy cakes, British recipe from Baking with Granny.


Similar to our Victoria Sponge recipe, I recommend using margarine over butter for your butterfly cake batter. Some believe butter gives a better flavour to a cake, but margarine does make a better textured and more predictable sponge. Plus, it’s pretty much guaranteed that any butterfly cakes you would have indulged in as a kid would have been made using margarine!
When it comes to what kind of margarine; a soft-spread or baking margarine is best for use in the actual cake batter, whereas a block margarine is preferable for use in the buttercream.
As with all ingredients when baking any sponge cakes, ensure it is at room temperature before starting.

Caster Sugar
Of course these little cakes need some sweetness. Caster sugar is the sugar of choice here and is preferable over granulated sugar, as it is finer and mixes better into the batter.

Free-range Eggs
The size of the eggs doesn’t matter too much (I always use medium) but just be sure you’re using free-range eggs.
As with all ingredients when baking any sponge cakes, ensure they are at room temperature before starting.

Self-raising Flour
Again, flour is a must in a cake batter and self-raising is used here to allow them to rise.

Baking Powder
There is already a bit of raising agent within the self-raising flour but these butterfly cakes call for an additional bit of lift, just so we can get some nice little wings cut from the top.

Lemon Extract
This is purely optional and you could even substitute it out for some vanilla extract. But I like to add a little lemon extract to my butterfly cakes, just to give them a little something extra.

Fairy cakes recipe from Baking with Granny.

Butterfly Cakes

Little nostalgic cupcakes, with a soft sponge, sweet buttercream and two little "wings" on top.
5 from 2 votes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: British, Scottish
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Decorating: 30 minutes
Servings: 12 cakes


For the Buttercream


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°c (160°c for fan assisted ovens of Gas Mark 4) and line a 12-hole muffin tray with fairy cake cases. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and caster sugar, until it is fluffy in texture and light in colour. Add the lemon extract (if using) and mix through.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each is mixed through before adding the next. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of your flour to help it bind.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder, and gently fold to create a batter.
  • Spoon the batter into your prepared fairy cake cases; about a tablespoon into each, filling them about half-full.
  • Bake your cakes in your pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes, until they are risen, golden in colour and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Once cool enough to touch, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare your buttercream.

For the Buttercream

  • In a large bowl, cream together the margarine/butter and icing sugar, and lemon extract (if using). If the buttercream is too stiff in consistency, add a splash of milk.
  • Using a knife, cut a circle from the top of your cakes, on a slight angel, so you end up with a little domed disk of cake. Cut this in half down the middle, giving you two little semi-circles.
  • Pipe or spread the buttercream into the circle cavity, before placing your semi-circles on top of the buttercream to resemble little wings.
  • Dust with icing sugar to finish.
Tried this recipe?Tag @bakingwithgranny or use the hashtag #bakingwithgranny!


• Nut-free: This recipe doesn’t contain any nuts but be sure to double check your ingredients individually.

• Dairy-free: If you use a dairy-free margarine, this recipe can be dairy-free.

7 Responses

  1. I always use butter and never any extra raising agent and always have enough lift for the wings. Cannot imagine the flavour of margarine and extra raising agent. Just make sure both your butter and eggs are at room temperature

    1. 5 stars
      Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, I’ve also been making these for upwards of 60yrs and they are incredible.

    2. Karen, if you are not able to imagine the flavour then you should try it once, you’d be surprised how soft and tender cakes made with soft margarine are. I use a tub marg and it’s always ready for baking!

  2. I always use soft margarine both for the sponge and the butter icing. I have been baking them for 60 years so am probably the granny!
    My daughters do the same.

Leave a Review

Got a question? Tried this recipe & want to leave some feedback? Please use the comment section below! Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hi! I'm Amy

Nice to meet you

Hello, I’m Amy, the voice-behind and creator-of Baking with Granny.

Subscribe For Recipes