History of the Cupcake
Cupcakes were first mentioned as far back as 1796 when a recipe notation of 'a cake to be baked in small cups' was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.
The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in 'seventy-five receipts for pastry, cakes anmd sweetmeats' in 1828 in Eliza Leslie's receipts cookbook.
In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the name cup cake or cupcake. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available the cakes were often baked in individual pottery pots, ramekins or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has remained and the name of 'cupcake' is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. The name 'fairy cake' is a fanciful description of its size.
Whilst English fairy cakes vary in size more than American cupcakes, they are traditionally smaller and are rarely topped with elaborate icing.
The other type of 'cup cake' referred to a cake whose ingredients were measured by volume, using a standard-sized cup, instead of being weighed. Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups. However, they were more commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves.
In later years, when the use of volume measurements was firmly established in home kitchens, these recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes, so called because they are made up of four ingredients, one cup butter, two cups sugar, three cups flour and 4 eggs. They are plain yellow cakes somewhat less rich and less expensive than the pound cake, due to using half as much butter and eggs.
The names of these two major classes of cakes were intended to signal the method to the baker.
Cup cake uses a volume measurement and pound cake uses a weight measurement