The Cupcake Dilemma: American or British?


From my expertise as a History and Politics student, I can tell you that the single biggest issue facing the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ is… Cupcakes. And yes, I am being serious. Why? Cupcakes are very fashionable, and I myself have gone in spent £20 in the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road, on just 3 cakes (somewhat decadent I know.) But I feel that somewhere we’ve lost the ability to make truly good fairy cakes – the original cupcake. So what I’ve set out to do is just give you, my readers (whoever you are out there), the option over a English fairy cake or an American cupcake.

For this I’m going to use just a vanilla cupcake recipe for the comparison. For the English one, I will use the cupcake recipe that I grew up using and the Hummingbird bakery one for the American cupcake. The recipes for icing will be after the cake recipes.

My Cupcake Recipe


110g margarine

110g caster sugar

2 eggs

110g self-raising flour

1tsp of baking powder

drop or so of vanilla essence


Preheat the oven at 170C, 325F, Gas 3

Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric hand whisk until pale and fluffy. Sift in a spoonful of flour, and whisk. Then add one egg, whisk, and a spoonful of sifted flour, and the second egg and whisk.

Using a large metal spoon, fold in the rest of the sifted flour and baking powder, half at a time. Then finally fold in the drops of vanilla essence. If the mix is too stiff, add about a tablespoon of milk – though I’m reluctant to endorse this too much; adding too much milk will affect the rise of the cake so just enough to loosen it.

Spoon the mixture into a tray prepared with paper cases until 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25mins, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.

Place the cakes onto a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcake


120g plain flour

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

40g unsalted butter

120ml whole milk

1 egg

1/4 tsp vanilla extract.


Preheat oven to 170C, 325F, Gas 3

Put the flour, sugar and baking powder, salt and butter in bowl and whisk together until all combined in a ‘sandy consistency.’ Gradually pour in half the milk, and beat until combined.

Whisk the egg, vanilla extract, and remaining milk together in a separate bowl, the pour into the flour mixture. Beat until all combined and the mixture is smooth.

Spoon the mixture into a tray prepared with paper cases until 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25mins, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.

Place the cupcake onto a wire rack to cool down.

VERDICT on cakes:

I think that the end result of both is great, once decorated etc, but I did find that when I made the Hummingbird cakes yesterday, they didn’t rise and were flat. Whereas, my recipe is a lot thicker so the rise is much more obvious. Both come out very light, so no worries of a heavy cake.

So next up icing techniques:



200g sifted icing sugar

Hot water.


Stir in hot water a tablespoon at a time to the sugar to create a simple icing – the more water you add the more liquid it will be. I suggest adding a very small amount so there’s a nice dollop of thick icing on the top of the cake.



240g sifted Icing sugar

120g margarine

drops of vanilla essence.


Add half the sugar to the butter and whisk (use an electric whisk). Once combined add the other half. Continue whisking until pale and fluffy. Add the drops of vanilla essence and whisk.

Vanilla Frosting:


250g sifted icing sugar

80g unsalted butter/margarine

25ml whole milk

drops of vanilla essence


Beat the icing sugar and the butter together using an electric whisk until combined. Whisk the milk and the vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the buttercream a spoonful at a time until all mixed. Continue beating until light and fluffy.

VERDICT on icing:

I don’t actually have a preference over the frosting or buttercream. It makes a very different sort of cake. For instance, if I were to make butterfly cakes I would use buttercream, but if I were just making cupcakes I think I would go for the frosting. The simple icing is perhaps for when you are short of time or if children are making the cupcakes with you.


Well, I think I have to hand it to the yanks, they make darn good cupcakes. But I do still think that the recipe I grew up using works pretty well too – though perhaps its not as foolproof as the hummingbird one. It is a creaming method as opposed to an all-in-one. Either way I’m going to have my cake and eat it.

FYI: the picture above shows the hummingbird vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.


3 thoughts on “The Cupcake Dilemma: American or British?

    • It really is, and for the sake of scientific research one has to test the samples over and over again.. what a hardship ha! Thanks, I look forward to testing your recipe out 🙂

  1. Pingback: Baking Someone Happy | unhurriedchristmas

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