Almond Cupcakes with Royal Icing

After having just finished an incredible road trip around the UK where I was treated to a variety of British sweet food, I couldn’t resist bringing a taste or two back with me to Brno.

Today’s recipe is inspired by the little town of Bakewell and their famous Bakewell tarts. Kevin and I enjoyed eating these with friends and family during our visit to Bakewell last week. I wanted to recreate this little tart and transform it into a cupcake but with all the cuteness and flavour of the tart so that you too can experience the taste of the Bakewell.

Bakewell tarts traditionally consist of a short crust pastry shell which is filled with layers of jam, frangipane and a topping of flaked almonds, or a sweet icing finished with a glacé cherry. My almond cupcakes resemble more of the later – they have a frangipane-styled filling and are iced with a smothering of royal icing and topped with a glacé cherry. Don’t they look sweet?

Iced Almond Cupcakes

They remind me the snow topped houses surrounding me in Brno at the moment. Very pretty indeed.

To make these little cakes extra special, they are filled with a dollop of raspberry jam before baking which makes them similar to their Bakewell Tart sister and also gives a sweet surprise to the person devouring them.

Royal icing topped Almond Cupcakes

I worked hard on this recipe to get it just right and I’m so excited to share it with you. These cupcakes are so tender, so light and so flavourful. The almond essence/extract gives them a slight marzipan flavour kick which is the flavour that takes me straight back to Bakewell (If you’re not a fan of marzipan then don’t be dismayed as you can easily substitute almond essence/extract with extra vanilla extract and they will be just as delicious!)

So what went on behind the scenes of these little cakes? Quite a bit really but lucky for you, I have done all the hardwork so that you don’t have to!

Baking Secrets:

Let me share some baking secrets with you, especially when it comes to baking with ground almonds. Ground almonds have the tendency to dry baked goods out and can also make them heavy and ‘stodgy’. This is easily avoided however with a few handy baking secrets:

Baking secret 1:

Using a combination of plain flour and ground almonds helps to hold the mixture together as well as create a less dense texture. The proteins in flour also help to form gluten which contribute to the structure of the cupcake.

Baking Secret 2:

Ground almonds soaks up moisture, so an extra egg yolk is used to compensate for this as well as adding more richness to the tender cupcake.

Baking Secret 3:

The creaming method is used to incorporate air into the mixture, giving the cupcakes lift and allowing more holes to be enlarged by the baking powder (creating even more lift).

Baking Secret 4:

Butter v.s. oil

Initially, I used all butter as the fat source. Although the cupcakes were delicious in flavour, the texture was dense and not as light as I would have liked them to be.


Because although butter is a great flavour enhancer, it doesn’t coat the flour proteins as well as other fats (like oil) do. Coating the flour proteins is important for preventing too much gluten from being formed.

 – Remember when it comes to cakes, we only need a tiny bit of gluten. Too much gluten means tough, chewy cakes, yuck.

Thus, I used a combination of butter (for ultimate taste) and oil (for mouthwatering tenderness and fluffiness).

The result was my idea of the perfect cupcake – so tender, so fluffy yet still so buttery and heavenly tasting. 

Take a look at the difference –

Butter vs oil cupcake

Can you guess which is which?

The top is the one which has a combination of both butter and oil and the bottom is the one with only butter. As you can see, the texture is so much lighter in the one with oil and it also rose higher than the all-butter cupcake, creating even more lift and fluffiness!

I can’t wait for you to try these to see what you think. They are the ideal afternoon tea party food and they would also be a hit at any baby/bridal shower or any New Year celebratory event.

Happy baking!


*Note – if you live in Brno and don’t know where to find ground almonds, head to M & S 🙂

** Be aware that royal icing contains raw eggs and should be used with caution (see notes below).


Fluffy Almond Cupcakes
Yields 12
A tender and light almond cupcake with a fluffy royal icing - inspired by the Bakewell Tart.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
28 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
28 min
  1. 75g (1/3 cup) butter, softened
  2. 175g (just under 3/4 cup) castor sugar
  3. 60ml (1/4 cup) oil
  4. 125g (1 cup) plain flour
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  8. 3 medium eggs + 1 medium egg yolk
  9. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 1/4 cup jam (any variety of your choice)
  12. 12 glacé cherries
Royal Icing
  1. 2 egg whites (or powdered egg whites)
  2. 375g (3 cups) icing sugar
  3. 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 180C/356F and line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. 2. In a medium bowl, beat butter for 1 minute with a hand/stand mixer. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy (for advice on creaming, see 'The Creaming Method' in the 'Baking Secrets' tab). Whilst beating, very slowly (we don't want to loose any air we have just made!) pour the oil in to the butter and sugar mixture and continue beating for another minute.
  3. 3. In a smaller bowl, crack eggs and whisk to combine. Add almond and vanilla extract. Slowly add the egg mixture into the butter mixture, incorporating as you pour until well combined.
  4. 4. In a medium sized bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add ground almonds and whisk to combine. Fold this mixture into the butter and eggs until just combined.
  5. 5. Soon mixture into cupcake tin, filling just half way. Place a dollop of jam on each cupcake then spoon more batter on top to cover the jam. The cupcake liners should be 3/4 full.
  6. 6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted (mine take exactly 18 minutes to bake).
  7. 7. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack to cool. Once cool, ice with royal icing (or any icing of your choice) and top with a glacé cherry.
Royal Icing
  1. In a medium sized bowl, beat egg whites and icing sugar with a hand/stand mixer until large in volume and shiny (about 3 minutes). Add lemon juice to create a thinner consistency.
  2. Store cupcakes in an airtight container. They are best eaten the day they are made but will keep for 3-4 days.
  1. * Note that royal icing contains raw eggs. Please use with caution and only use eggs that are fresh, clean and have been properly refrigerated. Also, avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell. You could also use eggs that have been treated to destroy salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method.
What Sarah Bakes

18 thoughts on “Almond Cupcakes with Royal Icing

  1. My daughter and I are sitting here drooling over your cupcakes — that icing is beautiful! It’s amazing the difference between butter and oil! I wouldn’t have thought that, but clearly it’s better to use the oil. I’ll remember that!

  2. Making icing has been quite the challenge for me. Your icing looks amazing, and so smooth. I’m sure it just melts in your mouth. Love this! Love the jam. What are your thoughts on storing leftover icing? How long can you save it?

    1. Hi Mica, yes it really does melt in our mouth! To store it, I would recommend placing it in a container covered with clingfilm directly on the surface of the icing, then covering with a lid and storing in the fridge.
      Fresh is always best, but if the icing has been made from fresh egg whites, I think you could store it for up to a week. The longer it sits though, the more time it has to separate so you may have to mix it a little before using. Bring to room temperature before using. I hope that helps! Let me know how you get on 🙂

  3. I love the UK and I too travel there often. When I am there I try to sample as many pastries and sweet treats as I can! So this one is a must try! I wonder if I could make a gluten free version…thoughts on that?

    1. They have so many tasty sweet treats to try, right? Their countless ‘cakeries’ like Hummingbird and Crumbs and Doillies Cupcakes makes it impossible not to try at least a few decadent treats..!
      For a gluten free version of these cupcakes you could try replacing the wheat flour with ground almonds (which would make the cupcake a little heavier) or gluten free flour. I haven’t tried baking them gluten free before though so don’t know exactly how they will turn out. Let me know if you give them a go! 🙂

    1. I hope you get a chance to make it to Bakewell some day Michelle, it’s such a sweet little village. But then again, I love all little villages in the UK! Next time you have a bakewell tart, have one for me please! 🙂

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