I would love it when, as children, we'd go to Nanny and Grandad's and they'd open a box of Mr Kipling's French Fancies. I liked the yellow and brown ones best and only ever went for a pink as a last resort. Eating them as an adult, I realised it was less the taste of the actual cakes I loved so much, it was more the silliness of how how they looked - in all their bold colours striped with ribbons of white icing - and the blob of silky buttercream on top. I wanted to make French fancies with tasty cake as well as tasty buttercream and, due to the enormous amounts of cookery I'd already saddled myself with, I decided for once, I was going to make life a little easier for myself and make them all vanilla. You can easily make different flavours by changing the flavour of sponge and buttercream. I didn't stick to Kipling's yellow, pink and browns either and added in some lilac and baby blue offerings too.
for the cakes
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line a roulade tin with baking parchment
4oz/ 100 g unsalted butter
4oz/ 100 g caster sugar
4oz/ 100 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten
a generous splash of vanilla extract
A splash of milk to slacken the mixture
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and gradually whisk in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the vanilla and sift the flour and baking powder over the mixture and fold in until thoroughly combined. Add milk to slacken the mixture if necessary and pour the batter into your prepared tin. Level over the top with a spatula and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack.
for the special buttercream
3oz/ 75 g soft unsalted butter
1oz/ 25 g full fat Mascarpone
8 oz/ 200 g icing sugar
A generous splash of vanilla extract
Cream together the butter and Mascarpone. Sift half the sugar over the top and whisk until fully combined. Sift over the second half of the sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla, taste and whisk in a splash more if needed. Place the buttercream in a piping bag.
Trim off the edges of your cold sheet of cake and cut them into 2" x 2" squares. Pipe a generous blob of buttercream on the centre of each square.
for the royal icing
1 large eggs whites
14oz/ 350 g icing sugar
The juice of half a lemon
Various food colours (paste dyes are best - I used lemon yellow, pink, baby blue and lilac)
Whisk the egg white until it starts to froth, then sift over a quarter of the icing sugar and whisk until fully incorporated. Add another quarter and whisk in again. Sift over the rest of the sugar and whisk on high for 2-3 minutes. Sift the lemon juice into the icing and whisk again. Add more juice if needed and keep whisking until the icing is glossy and ribbons when you lift the beaters out of the bowl.
Place 1 spoonful of the royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a no. 2 nozzle. Divide the remaining icing between bowls and colour them with your chosen dyes.
Stick a cake square on the end of a fork, so that the buttercream side is on top and dunk it into a bowl of coloured icing. Carefully remove the cake square from the fork and leave to set on a rack. You may have to give each cake two layers, depending on the thickness of your icing.
Once set, pipe a zig zag of stripes over each cake with the bag of white royal icing reserved from earlier and allow to set. Place each cake in a fairy cake wrapper and serve.