Adapted from my vanilla cupcakes, these magical Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes are lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and filled with fruity jam. Top with vanilla almond buttercream and an array of candies for a perfectly festive Nutcracker treat!
Feeling all the feelings as I type this intro!
Exactly 1 year ago (to the day!), I shared a recipe for white chocolate peppermint cupcakes. In that post, you got a glimpse of my first few days back at work from maternity leave. “Back at work” meant working in my home while caring for my newborn, Noelle. Working/mom-ing felt impossible. I forgot to add sugar to a chocolate cake, lost my left shoe, and went a little bonkers about green swirled frosting. Seems so silly, but I was trying my best in my new role as a working mother. It was really hard for me.
Fast forward one year. Noelle is now 15 months old, running through the house, her sweet giggles echoing in the hallways as she “plays” with the dogs, and our wonderful babysitter here so I can work. All this to say… what a difference a year makes. I wish I could tell 2017 Sally that everything will be ok. New parents, you eventually figure it all out. 🙂
And you’ll find your left shoe!!
Ok but now let me introduce you to the 2018 Christmas Cupcake.
Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes are the epitome of festive. In the modern Nutcracker story, the sugar plum fairy is the ruler of the Land of Sweets. We saw the Nutcracker performed by the Pennsylvania ballet every Christmas when I was younger– my sister was a ballerina and danced in it! I used the Nutcracker ballet as inspiration for these candy-topped cupcakes, complete with purple swirled buttercream, gum drops, snowflake sugar cookies, peppermint swirls, and plenty of sprinkles.
By the way, have you seen the Nutcracker & the Four Realms movie? I haven’t. Is it good?
What Flavor are Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes?
Traditional sugar plums aren’t plums at all– they’re small hard candies. The term “plum” refers to their shape and size. So where do we go from here? Flavors that came to mind when creating these sugar plum fairy cupcakes were almond, spice, vanilla, fruity, and definitely sweet.
I asked some readers and many agreed!
Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes:
- Very light spice flavor: a dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
- Sweet vanilla & almond: use both vanilla & almond extracts
- Fruity: the cupcakes are filled with peach jam
I have PLENTY of flavor suggestions in the recipe notes below, just in case “Sugar Plum Fairy” inspires you differently. Peppermint, coconut, orange, you name it!
As usual, we’re starting with my perfect vanilla cupcakes. This cupcake batter yields the softest, fluffiest, and lightest cupcakes. The power ingredients are egg whites, cake flour, and sour cream. These three additions are the difference between dense cupcakes and light cupcakes. Here’s a run-down of the vanilla cupcake recipe if you’re curious.
Tip: Fill the cupcake liners only about 2/3 full to avoid overflowing.
Video: How to Fill & Decorate Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes
I had so much fun creating these and decided a video tutorial would be helpful for you. Filling cupcakes is so easy using this little cut-out trick (watch below). For the frosting decoration, I use Wilton #8B piping tip. I LOVE this piping tip and using it is really easy, as you can see in this video.
I used my vanilla buttercream and flavored it with a little almond extract. If desired, tint it with some color. I colored half of the buttercream with mauve gel food coloring from this gel food coloring set. I strongly recommend gel food coloring when tinting buttercream. The color is very concentrated, so you only need a small amount. And as a result, it won’t ruin the consistency of the buttercream. The video above shows you how I “swirled” the white and mauve frostings together. Couldn’t be easier!
Now let’s discuss the toppings:
Use whatever candies inspire you. And, obviously, eat any hard candies separately because you don’t want to head to the dentist with a broken tooth!
The snowflakes are my cut-out sugar cookies dipped lightly in the easy sugar cookie icing. I used these snowflake cookie stamps and they came out beautifully. This sugar cookie dough holds its shape like no other! I topped them with coarse sugar sprinkles for a little sparkle.
Magical, aren’t they? Let me know if you try them!
These magical Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes are lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, flavored with vanilla and almond, and are filled with fruity jam. Make sure you read the recipe notes before beginning. Have fun decorating!
- 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract*
- 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (100g) peach jam or preserves (or your favorite flavor)
Vanilla Almond Buttercream
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 – 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or milk
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- salt, to taste
- optional for garnish: snowflake sugar cookies (see blog post above), gum drops, peppermint candies, sprinkles
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2-3 liners – this recipe makes 14-15 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour and mix in the milk *just* until combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only 2/3 full to avoid baking over the sides. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 35 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before filling and frosting.
- Fill the cupcakes: Watch video above for a visual of this step. Using a sharp knife, cut a circle/hole into the center of the cooled cupcakes to create a little pocket about 1 inch deep. The piece you removed will be the shape of a cone. Spoon jam inside each carved out cupcake. Use as much jam that will fit. Slice off the pointy end of the “cone” piece you removed so that it can fit on top of the filling. Place on top of the filling.
- Make the buttercream: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt.) If desired, tint the buttercream with gel food coloring. I colored half of it with mauve gel food coloring from this gel food coloring set and swirled it with the white buttercream. Watch video in the blog post for a quick tutorial.
- Frost cooled cupcakes. I used Wilton 8B piping tip, as shown in the video. Decorate with garnishes and candies.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Cupcake Pan | Cooling Rack | Pastel Gel Food Coloring Kit | Piping Bags (Reusable or Disposable) | Wilton#8B Piping Tip | Snowflake Cookie Stampers
- Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can use this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
- What to Do with Leftover Egg Yolks? I have some recipe ideas for you!
- Almond Extract: If you’re not a fan of almond extract, you can leave it out of the cupcakes and buttercream. Replace with equal amounts of vanilla extract or, for something different, orange extract or coconut extract. Craving peppermint? Leave out the cinnamon and nutmeg in the cupcake batter and replace the almond extract with peppermint extract.
- Why is Everything at Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.
- Cake Instead of Cupcakes: I suggest following my vanilla layer cake recipe as the base, which is almost double this cupcake recipe. Add 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons almond extract to the cake batter. Use the vanilla frosting recipe listed with the cake and add 1 teaspoon almond extract.