Wednesday, 31 July 2013

When did patty cakes become cupcakes?

My girl is often involved in preparing for events like weddings, baby showers and birthdays in the community where she lives and when I spotted a quirky cupcake holder in Homeart recently I bought it for her as there isn't a great variety of products in the small Outback town she lives in.

As I was packaging it up to send to her on the Greyhound coach, I wondered about the name change from patty cakes to cupcakes. When I was growing up my mum used to bake patty cakes regularly and sometimes they would become butterfly cakes when she carefully cut out a circle of cake from the top and cut it in two, filled the hole with jam and cream then placed the two cut pieces of cake back into the cream to form the wings of the butterfly.

Now it seems that we refer to patty cakes as cupcakes. Does anyone know why? It's a mystery to me. 

Anyway, if anyone entertains a lot and would love a quirky patty cake cupcake holder then you can buy one at Homeart while the special lasts. I said to the salesgirl that it would need to be kept up high and away from little children who would spin the ferris wheel and she said she would be more worried about the men doing that. LOL!



  1. I've always known patty cakes & cupcakes as two different things. Patty cakes were baked in a tin with round shallow depressions ( I have two of these tins actually) and sometimes had jam inserted into the middle to become fairy cakes; whereas cupcakes were always the ones cooked in the paper wrappers and were higher and usually iced or turned into butterfly cakes.

    Both of my grandmothers also made this distinction between patty cakes and cupcakes you have me wondering!

  2. I have always known them as patty cakes, until recently [2? or so years ago?, maybe a tad more] when they became fashionable under the name of cup cakes. Now Deezy's comment has me wondering ... is it a regional thing? My Mum always make them at Christmas and it was my task to put 'silver balls' on top of the icing:)

  3. This is interesting. I asked one of my friends if she knew and she said they were the same thing but now we use the American term for what we used to know as patty cakes.

    The ones we made when I was growing up in the fifties are the same as what are now called cupcakes as we never had the tin with shallow depressions in those days as far as I recall....and yes, I too used to put the silver balls on top of the icing! LOL!

  4. I think it must have happened around the same time we (well, some of us!) started calling biscuits cookies. Perhaps the sharing of American recipes started the trend but perhaps someone else can enighten me on that.

    I grew up with them being patty cakes, baked in paper patty pans or tins. I'm a bit Jackie French-ish in that I am an Aussie and to me they're patty cakes and bikkies!!

    And I have a draft post on almost the same subject!

  5. Ree, you really need to publish those draft posts! LOL! I am sure they would be interesting to read.

    I was going to say that we used to use paper patty pans as that is the terminology I remembered but my memory isn't what it once way so thought I may have been wrong. They certainly weren't called cupcake papers. I love Jackie French too. I must admit I have never called a biscuit a cookie. That would be crossing the line too much for me. Ha ha!

    1. Yes, it's crossing the line too much for me too, lol! I recently saw patty pans on a label in a shop but think it was old stock as the others displayed Cupcake. Am heading to the pantry right now...

      One packet I have states Cup Cake paper cases, the other Patty Pans.

      And I'm working on those drafts!!

  6. These are the tins I was talking about:

    and this blog has a good pic of what we called patty cakes:

    Maybe it was an English thing from the rhyme as mentioned? My great-grandmother was from the UK-so maybe that's why our family ( and most I grew up with) differentiated? :)

  7. Deezy, I can't get that ebay link to work but the cookrepublic one did. I see what you mean about the differences in the cupcakes and patty cakes. My mum was from Scotland and I never saw her make those smaller ones. Interesting eh?

    Ree, I must have a look the next time I go into the supermarket and see what they are called in the various stores. Obviously I need to get a life. LOL!

  8. I'm sure I remember both cupcakes and patty cakes when I was a kid in the fifties. Mum also had 'gem irons' which were really heavy pans with shallow bases that she put a cake mixture in, that was different to the usual patty/cup cake mix.
    I never call biscuits 'cookies' either!

  9. Gina, perhaps those gem irons are what Deezy was referring to and which she recalls being used to cook patty cakes as opposed to cupcakes which are much higher to speak.

    I thought the name difference was just due to the Americanisation of our culture to a certain extent but obviously there is a clear difference between the cupcake and patty cake in some families. Interesting!

  10. There were never any cupcakes when I was growing up. They were patty cakes. But my sister now calls them cupcakes and insists there is a difference - that cupcakes are between patty cakes and muffins in size. She also bow uses the term cookie, which I refuse to use. It's only in more recent years that both terms have crept in. It came in on our biscuit packets in the supermarkets, and with the likes of McDonald's selling cookies. As someone said, with both the tv and and cake shops using the term, the patty cakes suddenly became cupcakes. It was a term I only ever heard on tv. My mum too. "Froes" is another term that bugs me. Also "onesie", but now I'm completely off the patty cake topic, but it goes to show, we are changing our words to American ones, and I have a real issue with that

  11. I haven heard 'Froes' mentioned but 'onesie' is very popular on US sites and it took me a while to work out what they were. LOL! I still prefer to say 'Patty Cakes' to make a statement ;-)

  12. Hi I am Australian and have always thought patty cakes and cupcakes the same thing just that patty cakes is what we have always called them thought cupcakes was an American term. Same as biscuits/cookies it's always bikkies in Australia cookies in America for the sweet afternoon treat

  13. Yes Rachel, they seem the same to me. It just depends on what country you live in I think with the different terminology.

  14. My mum made patty cakes every weekend in her patty cake tins lined with paper patty pans. They were our sweet treat in our school lunch bag. The best (or is that bestest) thing was when we were having visitors on a weekend because then the patty cakes would be magically transformed into butterfly cakes or fairy cakes; butterfly being iced patty cakes with the wings formed as described by others, and fairy cakes had the bonus of 100s & 1000s sprinkled on the icing before the wings were created.

    I am convinced that the sudden widespread switch to 'cupcakes' is entirely the result of the increasing influence of American culture across Australia due to television, advertising, and the internet. Remember back when hardly any television ads were made overseas? It is the complete opposite now. :-(

    I resent this subjugation of our own identity and culture but it seems to be a losing battle. Going off-topic now -- I emailed a complaint to Arnott's about biscuits being labelled as cookies (in particular Butternut Snaps now being labelled as Butternut Snap Cookies) and received a response that this was a change that their customers were happy with.

    Anyway, I lived in the U.S.A. for a year almost 4 decades ago and the cupcakes were exactly the same as the patty cakes that my mum made. The ridiculously massive size of cupcakes sold over the counter these days is a modern phenomenon that seems to affect most bakery items; I'm sure that vanilla slices, coffee scrolls, eclairs etc. are much larger now than they were way back when I was at school.

  15. Haha, love this blog entry! I just made 'cupcake' ATC cards. And I called them "This is Australia" and on the front I wrote "Patty Cakes!" :D It really is sad that American language is changing our own culture/history.


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