Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes

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!

Pink sugar plum fairy cupcakes

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!!


Sugar plum fairy cupcakes for Christmas

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?

Nutcracker sugar plum fairy cupcakes

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!

Almond cinnamon cupcake batter

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.

Sugar plum fairy cupcake batter

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!

Vanilla almond buttercream

Light purple buttercream

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.

Mini snowflake sugar cookies

Sugar plum fairy cupcakes with snowflake cookies

Magical, aren’t they? Let me know if you try them!

Sugar plum fairy cupcakes with snowflake cookies

Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes
  • Yield: 15 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


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 (200g) 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
  • 45 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


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. (I used these cupcake liners.) Line a second pan with 2-3 liners – this recipe makes 14-15 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes. I used Wilton 8B piping tip, as shown in the video. Decorate with garnishes and candies.
  8. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Cupcake Pan | Pink Polka Dot Cupcake Liners | Cooling Rack | Pastel Gel Food Coloring KitPiping Bags | Wilton#8B Piping TipSnowflake Cookie Stampers
  3. 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.
  4. What to Do with Leftover Egg Yolks? I have some recipe ideas for you!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.
  8. 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.

Nutcracker sugar plum fairy cupcakes


  1. Ooh, Sally, these look absolutely gorgeous! I love the name; it’s so different yet really festive! I’ll have to make these sometime soon! Thanks for all the fabulous recipes
    p.s. Noelle sounds like such a little angel!

  2. Sally, these are absolutely gorgeous! I love The Nutcracker Suite and these are so adorable. Thank you for also making a video on the decorating 🙂

    Also, thanks for reminding me of the post one year ago – it made me laugh again to read it now. Gets me thinking about myself and my kids, one year ago.

  3. These cupcakes are adorable and I loved the video. How do you attach the decorating tip to the bag? I don’t see the typical plastic coupler. And, do you have a link to purchase the larger disposable pastry bags? I can only find the smaller size. Thanks!!

    1. Thank you so much, Sally! I don’t use a coupler since I’m not switching piping tips. Plus, this piping tip is rather large and I don’t have big enough couplers for it! I usually use 16 inch piping bags and I love Wilton brand, though lately I’ve been using DayMark brand. I don’t see 16 inch available, but here are their 18 inch bags and 12 inch bags. You can cut down the 18 inch bags if needed.

  4. Time certainly flies! So glad you shared those whimsical cupcakes this year. I have a personal connection to the Sugar Plum Fairy dance, as a former ballerina, so I’m especially excited about these, haha.

  5. I love how festive these are. Those perfect vanilla cupcakes are the best. I have made the cake version and I still say its one of the best cakes I have ever made. I love the addition of the almond extract and cinnamon. Plus that sugar cookie on top is gorgeous and I am loving that pink backdrop that sits behind them. Amazing photos as always.

  6. This is the happiest cupcake I’ve seen in a long time! So fun! I especially love the addition of the sugar cookie on top. I’m so tempted to make them rightthissecond but I’m in the midst of my great Christmas cookie baking blitz week & must stay the course! Focus. Lol. Last night I made the dough for your Cinnamon Roll Cookies, Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies, (both new to me this year), and a double batch of my husband’s favorite Dark Chocolate cookies (I’m doing one batch as the salted caramel kind with the Rolo and the other with the PB cup like in your cookbook). I’ll be mixing and rolling and baking and boxing through Saturday. But maybe next week a Sugar Plum Fairy will dance through my kitchen! Thanks for another great recipe! And congrats on your work-life progress this past year!

    1. Wow! You are certainly busy in the kitchen this week- love it!! I hope you’ll have time to try these- let me know what you think if you do bake them 🙂 Enjoy!

  7. These are too cute! Trader Joe’s actually has a “sugar plum” preserve out for the season. I bought it without knowing how I would use it, but these look perfect!

  8. These are sooo pretty! I can’t wait to try them! Do you think they’d be good with cream cheese frosting? I personally love cream cheese frosting, not a big fan of buttercream.

  9. I love all of your recipes! This one looks adorable. I’m not a fan of peach jam. Is there another flavor you recommend as a substitute or should I just leave out a filling?

  10. These are so pretty. You are so creative and hardworking, Sally! I made you chocolate mint slice and bake cookies this season…so good! Happy holidays!

  11. Long time reader/viewer, big fan, first time comment… I think you underestimate your genius in this video with your technique for adding the icing to the piping bag to create the swirl. So much simpler than other techniques I have used, thank you!

    I wonder what size piping bag you are using and what container you use to support the piping bag? I’ve tried everything from drinking glasses to beer glasses to cocktail shakers and they are all too small. Would love some help here.

  12. I totally agree that a year can for sure make a big difference. So glad you have found your working yet still a mom groove because your recipes are ALWAYS fool proof. I definitely appreciate it so much. I also cannot say how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE these cupcakes. SO festive and one of the cutest and most creative ideas I have seen in a while! Love your blog!

  13. If I use the same cupcake proportions will it make a smaller cake? I’m looking to make a 6-inch layer cake. I was thinking I could do a layer of jam and frosting between the two layers instead of filling the cupcakes.

  14. I am wondering if this will be equalling good without the jam. I am not really a fan of that within a cupcake. They look divine though.

  15. My daughter made this for her class holiday party. She used apricot preserves for the filling. We were out of whole milk but had egg nog so she did 1/4 egg nog and 1/4 2percent milk. The cake is amazing. The frosting plus preserves are incredibly sweet so I am sure her classmates will love them!

  16. These were AWESOME! Not only did they look amazing but I loved the cake flavor (almost like a light spice cake) I omitted the jam in the middle only because I wasn’t sure if others would appreciate it but will definitely add that next time I make it for my family as I know we will love it. These were a HUGE hit & I had a few people tell me they thought I bought them from a bakery. Thank you, these were fun to make & walking into the party & seeing the awe in everyone’s eyes made me feel like a decorating pro!

  17. Hey Sally! Could I make the cupcakes themselves and then top with a cinnamon white chocolate frosting? What are your thoughts? Love the look of these, so pretty and fairy-like! You’re decorating skills are amazing! I love the decorating/display part of any dessert, and you beautiful decorations are a continuous source of inspiration! I look forward to every new cake/cupcake recipe you post!

  18. These are delicious! The cake is so moist and fluffy and the frosting is amazing (I was eating it off the spoon ). It was a bit sweet at first so I added a pinch of salt which definitely balanced it out. However i had a momentary lapse in concentration and added extra milk for some reason (oops) so the frosting melted all over my cupcakes oh well, they’re still delicious!! Definitely make these (but don’t fall half asleep and mess up the frosting lol)

  19. These look absolutely delish! Thoughts on how adding a pudding or similar center instead of the jam would go and ideas on flavors?

  20. I can’t wait to make these! For the yogurt, could I use a vanilla yogurt instead of plain? I’m sure the taste will change a bit, but will it mess up the chemistry part of the ingredients?

  21. I made these last night for my friend’s birthday. She’s not a fan of chocolate so I had to veer from my usual cupcakes. Decided to give these a spin and they were a HUGE hit!! I altered the frosting to a half shortening half butter buttercream and filled half with peach and half with strawberry. Everyone loved them and said the cake had just the right amount of spice to it!

  22. I made these and they were absolutely divine! I used your cream cheese frosting recipe and added a hint of cinnamon and almond. Not only are they delicious they are gorgeous as well. I added some edible glimmer dust and it really made everything pop. I want to make these again for Christmas and was wondering if the recipe can be doubled? Also just want to say all your stuff is absolutely amazing and you are my go to for any time i need to bake something. Your Salted Caramel is a staple in many of my recipes and people rave about it!

    1. Hi Maurissa, I’m thrilled that you enjoy this recipe so much! Your cupcakes sound amazing with that frosting and the glitter dust! You can double these for Christmas. Enjoy!

  23. Hi! I’m so excited to try your cupcake filling technique with your strawberry Nutella cupcakes. I followed the video link to this recipe. I see the header above in bold for the “Video: How to Fill & Decorate Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes” but I cannot find the video. Suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kristy, Give the video a few seconds to load right below that text. It’s a faded horizontal image of cupcakes. Click on the play button (triangle) in the center. Make sure any ad blockers are temporarily paused on your browser.

      1. Yes, thank you! I was able to watch the video. I’m so excited to do this, and my 7-year-old son will love helping.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally