Fluffy almond cupcakes are filled with delicious plum preserves and topped with a tall swirl of purple buttercream. Lavender sanding sugar makes them sparkle and gives them a crunchy bite.
It’s not hard to guess what inspired these cupcakes! I can practically hear Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker Suite when I look at them. When I was a teenager, my mom would take me to see the live ballet in December, and I’d marvel at the athleticism – effortless leaps and twirls that seemed to go on and on! It was pure magic.
When I found a package of old-school ballerina toppers hidden in my stash of cake decors, I knew I wanted to capture a little of that magic in cupcake form.
This recipe makes a whole troupe of cupcakes! Plenty for you to enjoy and share with friends. If you do plan to share, you’ll need some extra-tall cupcake boxes (like this) to accommodate the tiny dancers, or you could scale down the frosting swirl just a wee bit! (I’m a frosting girl, can you tell?)
The recipe begins with a one-bowl cupcake recipe. That means that all the ingredients are stirred up in one big bowl and there’s less dishes to do! The cakes bake to a firm yet soft crumb that’s perfect for filling. Damson plum filling is delicious in these cupcakes, and you can find the brand I use here.
For the piped frosting, I used a large drop flower tip (Wilton 2D) to pipe white flowers around the outer edge of the cupcakes. For the center, a large open star tip (Ateco 828) makes a tall soft serve-style swirl.
The plum preserves give the almond cakes a tart, fruity note which is nice with all of that buttercream, but I think my favorite part is the lavender sanding sugar on top. You’ll get a little sugar crunch between your teeth when you bite them!
Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes
- 2 cups 240g all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups 300g sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening very soft but not melted, Crisco is best
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups plum preserves
- 1 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 lb. 1 large bag, about 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
- Milk or cream to thin I used 5-6 tablespoons
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- Neon purple food color
- Lavender sanding sugar
- Ballerina cupcake toppers 20 ct.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two cupcake tins with papers.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the soft/room temperature shortening, milk, vanilla and eggs. Beat together using a hand mixer until all the ingredients are well blended; don’t over-beat (over-beating will cause the centers to sink as they bake).
- Pour into the prepared pans, about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick tester comes out clean when inserted in the center of a cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to wire cooling racks and cool completely.
- When the cupcakes are cooled, cut a hole in the top of each cupcake and remove the cake piece. It should be large enough to accommodate 1 tablespoon of preserves. Trim the cake piece flat and replace on top of the cupcake.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the butter until creamy; add the confectioner’s sugar and beat on low speed. When the sugar is mostly absorbed, increase the mixer speed. Add milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture comes to piping consistency (soft, but not too lax). Beat in the almond extract.
- Transfer 1/3 of the white icing to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip. With the mixer running, add the neon purple food color a little at a time to the remaining buttercream. When a vibrant purple hue is achieved, transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Have the sanding sugar placed in a bowl and ready to hand before you begin piping.
- Using the white icing, pipe stars around the outside edge of each cupcake. Using the purple icing, pipe a large swirl in the center of a cupcake and immediately sprinkle with lavender sanding sugar. Continue piping purple swirls on the cupcakes, and immediately after piping a swirl top it with sanding sugar (don’t wait around – the buttercream will crust and the sugar won’t stick!).
- Top each cupcake with a ballerina topper, if using.