The Language of Cake

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

Whatever people call this thing that we’ve all become obsessed with it’s still something delicious! Whether you say cupcakes, cup cakes, cup-cakes, fairy cakes, muffins, pastries, cake, cakes, American cupcakes, those silly things, or something unintelligible whilst your mouth is full.


I think us native English speakers and those of us from North America take for granted the understanding of cupcakes. What’s so hard to understand? It’s just natural for us. Our mothers made them for us for our birthdays. They’ve always been around for us. For those of us outside North America the cupcake is new and hopefully exciting. The whole concept of an American cake is different to what is normal and something that wouldn’t have been a typical dessert offered. I had someone from Switzerland visit and she had never seen a cupcake before. She called it a pastry.

I received an email from a friend in Denmark. She likes to make “muffins” and would like to know what the difference between a muffin and an American Cupcake is. It got me thinking we’re maybe talking about the same thing in theory but using different words. What comes to mind when you think of a cupcake?

As an American I say cupcake, a British person would call it a Fairy Cake (setting aside the fact that recently things have changed), but as I found out at the Starlight Charity party an older woman called my cupcakes “muffins”, and what about a person who’s first language isn’t English? What if they were taught English from an English person as opposed to an American? So many variables!

I think it’s best to show pictures as we’re all confused about what word means what now.



When I say Muffin I think of a Blueberry Muffin that I would have for breakfast . A muffin in my opinion is more like bread and not as sweet as cake.

When my English partner says Muffin he thinks of one of these. I would call that an English Muffin (In England it’s just a muffin and my muffin is an American muffin).

This is a fairy cake. They are smaller and little more squat. The cake part is most likely not as fluffy.

Not to be confused with a mini-cupcake
An extra large cupcake is about the same size as a muffin…An American muffin

Who would have thought that describing cupcakes would be so complicated? I hope that this clears up some of the ambiguity around cupcakes. Whatever you want to call them they are still sweet and amazing creations!

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