Which of the images shown above (if any) is a fairy cake?
A fairy cake is something else, which I will explain in the comments
WHO CARES?? CAKE CAKE GIMME CAKE OM NOM NOM NOM
Well, to me the answer is definitely Exhibit A. A fairy cake is a small sponge cake in a paper case with royal icing (that's the flat kind made of icing sugar and water), possibly in a pastel colour, and generally with sugar sprinkly things/hundreds and thousands on the top.
However, earlier today I was reading an article in the Guardian's food blog about fairy cakes, and notice that several commenters were complaining* that fairy cakes should have wings, as seen in Exhibit B. But I disagree! To me, a small sponge cake with the top sliced off to make wings and a blob of buttercream icing and jam to hold the wings in place is called a butterfly cake. But your own cakey mileage may vary.
Exhibit C is intended to represent a cupcake. When I was a girl, this seemed to be a fairly generic term for almost any cake in a paper case, but it is now synonymous with the bigger, brasher cousin of the fairy cake. Basically it's a big lump of sponge, decorated with a huge quantity of buttercream icing that stands proud of the cakey surface.
I don't know about anywhere else in the world, but London is currently being swamped by an epidemic of twee cupcake emporia, springing up everywhere and trying to charge several quid for a bog-standard conglomeration of sugary stuff, often on the grounds that they are OMG SO STYLISH and that Madonna, Kate Moss or Sarah Jessica Wossface were once seen in the same room as one. But I ask you: would you trust any of those women to have any useful knowledge of cakes whatsoever? I certainly wouldn't.** Yes, it's nice when a cake is pretty, but it should be MORE than just pretty. The taste experience is everything, and if the taste experience is boring plain sponge and a ton of sugar, that's not enough for fussy old me. I want subtlety, texture, nutty bits, fillings, something exciting, not just flimsy glamour that gets squashed in the box.
I therefore declare that cupcakes are a triumph of style over content and I await their downfall with interest. However, you may well have another opinion and you are welcome to share it below, particularly if you can point me in the direction of a fashionable cupcake that's actually worth its exorbitant price tag. Alternatively, please tell me what multicoloured sugary sprinkle things are called where you live. Sugar strands? Hundreds and thousands? Jimmies? Nonpareils? Anyone? Nigella?
* I know, I know. People on the Guardian website complaining, whatever next? "Pope in Catholicism shock", quite possibly.
** Now, if Jo Brand, for example, wished to give her seal of approval to a particular cake shop, I would be much more inclined to listen. I'm sure she knows whereof she speaks on this important issue.