Today is my sister Madeline’s birthday. Happy birthday, Madeline! I’m capitalizing on her birthday to share my new series: If my family was dessert. (Although our Dad is always getting the short end of the stick. His birthday was in February when I was doing Whole30, so poor guy’s going to have to wait until 2018.)
Don’t some people have personalities which remind you of certain foods? It’s kind of like how dog owners look like their dogs. If Madeline was dessert, she would be cardamom fairy cakes with chamomile buttercream frosting!
When I was thinking of flavors which Madeline personifies, I was looking for something savory, but a little sweet. She’s the funniest person I know, and a damn mean cook (both she and her fiance!), so I was a little nervous to make her in dessert form first. Madeline bought me these silicon baking molds for my birthday last year, so it seemed fitting that my first time using them was to celebrate her!
We’re all having a blast helping Madeline prep for and celebrate her wedding (think a woodland theme with paper flowers everywhere), but some of my favorite memories I have of me and my two sisters are from when we were younger.
Our mom used to throw us the most elaborate tea parties for our birthdays! I can still remember them like it was yesterday – down to the designs on our teacups. At the end of the school day, we’d leap off the bus in our starchy plaid uniforms and run inside to find the entire kitchen strewn with crepe paper streamers. Small cakes and sandwiches on the fancy glass (!) dishware dotted the table, and each person would have a party favor at their spot at the table, even if it was just us four girls celebrating. I’ll never forget how excited I was when one year my favor was a brand new pack of crayons.
We all loved Mom’s tea parties! So when I stumbled upon fairy cakes – miniature sponge cakes – in the Great British Bake Off cookbook, I knew these would be the perfect thing to represent the sister who is as obsessed with small felt animals today as she was with finding Calico Critters as her tea party favor.
If Madeline is a combination of flavors, however, she’s without a doubt more exciting than vanilla. I thought cardamom would be the perfect balance of sweet and savory for one of the smartest, most well-read women I know. And what cake is complete without a frosting? I finally settled on chamomile buttercream frosting.
Just like I’ll remember Mom’s tea parties forever, there’s nothing quite like a mug of chamomile tea to make me think of our Dad. He makes the best cup this side of California (aka no one in the entire country makes a better cup, I’m sure of it) and no matter how long we’ve been away from home, it’s one of the first things my sisters and I request after we’ve dropped our bags. I suppose this recipe is as much a homage to our parents as it is an attempt to capture Madeline as a dessert! It goes without saying we wouldn’t be half the women we are today without them.
I hope you have the best year yet, Madeline! Wish we could celebrate together with a tea party and fairy cakes 🙂
Cardamom Fairy Cakes, adapted from the Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking | Makes 12 mini cakes
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 heaping teaspoon of cardamom
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 silicone liners and set aside on a cookie tray.
- Combine 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. The mixture will look almost like a soup. Every time I do this step, the butter never mixes in completely, but it always does once the flour is added. So don’t fret if your butter doesn’t look well incorporated.
- Sift the 1/2C of flour and 1/4t of baking powder into the liquid mixture. Combine.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/4 heaping teaspoon of cardamom. Combine.
- Fill each mold to the top. This cake expanded very little for me, so you don’t have to worry about spillage like you might with a cupcake or muffin.
- Bake for a total of 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
Chamomile buttercream frosting adapted from A Cozy Kitchen with the addition of an extra tablespoon of buttermilk
1 stick of butter
4 bags of chamomile tea (I used “Sleepytime” from Celestial Seasonings)
2 cups of powdered sugar
A dash of salt
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
- Melt the butter on the stovetop. Cut open the tea bags and add the tea to the melted butter. Turn off the heat and let sit for at least ten minutes.
- Strain the butter, removing the tea leaves from the mix. Place in a container in the fridge. Leave it until it’s no longer liquid but also not hard, about 30 minutes.
- Combine the butter, powdered sugar, salt and heavy cream. I found I needed nothing more than an extra tablespoon of heavy cream to make the icing more spreadable.
I thought about adding mint leaves or icing leaves to these fairy cakes, but the more I stared at them plain, the more they grew on me. If you’re going to decorate them, I recommend powdered sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or a mint leaf.