Vanilla butterfly buns

  • Makes 12-18
  • Preparation Time 15 Minutes
  • Cooking Time 20-25 Minutes

Vegan, vegetarian, nut-free and gluten-free

Fluffy butterfly cupcakes, mottled with flecks of vanilla, as good as I remember from my childhood. No birthday party or celebration was ever without this humble bake. As a youngster, I remember peeling the paper case off and getting a dusting of the icing sugar down me from the top of the cake. It was my job to sieve it over the top of the finished buns, carefully so as not to cover the kitchen. Not a job to do on a windy day near an open window.

This recipe is so easy and is made in one bowl, no electric whisk needed apart from when whisking the buttercream frosting.

Over the years I have done many different flavours to suit the occasion, such as Bakewell tart flavour, lemon, strawberries and cream, and even the now popular unicorn fairy cakes. The unicorn ones are a sure hit at any girl’s birthday part, made using different coloured icings and decorations ( will have to do a separate recipe)

I made these using Bob’s Red Mills 1 to 1 baking flour, although if they do not to be gluten-free, just use cake or plain flour. I added 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to the flour if you are using gluten-free flour.

Ingredients for the cake mixture

  • 365g of dairy-free milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 345g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (not needed if using regular flour, only GF)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 112g vegetable/ rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Vanilla buttercream

  • 215g dairy-free butter
  • 360g sieved icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract.


1. Preheat the oven to 175C and line and line your muffin tin with cases.

This recipe makes 18 fairy cake-sized cupcakes, if you use muffin cases then it will make 12 from this mixture.

Beat the icing sugar and butter together with the back of a spoon. Once all the icing sugar has been combined, add the vanilla extract and 2 tbsp of milk, using an electric whisk beat on a slow speed first and then increase to high speed until it is light and fluffy. If you are finding the buttercream a little too thick, add a little at a time and whisk. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use.

2. In a jug measure out the milk and add the vinegar and stir, set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

3. In a large bowl add the flour, xanthan gum if using, sugar, salt and baking powder and stir together. Pour into the dry mix the oil mixture, vinegar and vanilla. Beat well with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk making sure no large lumps remain

4. Fill the liners 3/4 way up and bake for 20 minutes and then check to make sure they are golden brown or that a toothpick comes out clean


5. Once done remove from the oven but leave in the muffin tray for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling wire rack until cool and ready to decorate.


6. Using a small but sharp knife, cut a hole out of the top of the fairy cakes and create a circle. Slice the cake top in half to create the “wings”.

7. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve. These need to be kept in an air-tight container for 1 day at room temperature or 3-4 days refrigerated. You could also freeze the plain buns before you cut and decorate them for up to 3 months.

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If you make this, don’t forget to tag me on Twitter as @veganalchemist1 or my Facebook page I love seeing your versions of the recipes. I would also love to hear your comments.

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