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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.