This is the true story of how we were given the food of fairies.
A long time ago when people believed in enchantment …
… a young man was sauntering down a country lane. The hedgerows were brimming with tangled wild roses while the oppressive heat of the midday sun beat down from overhead. The young man hummed a jaunty tune to himself and smiled as he remembered his daughter’s soft features and gleeful delight when she had opened her birthday gifts earlier that morning.
As he approached the bend where a stony farm track crossed the country lane, he became aware of a sobbing noise that seemed to be coming from somewhere in the long grass on the other side of a rickety iron gate. He paused with one hand on the rusted latch but, seeing nobody in the field, turned back to continue on his way.
All of a sudden he heard a mournful cry.
“I’ve broken my spade, I’ve broken my spade!”
The man’s brow knotted in puzzlement as he turned once again to see who would be working at such a sultry time of day. A gentle breeze parted the long blades of grass and the man glimpsed a small girl sitting on a pale, round stone. She was the prettiest fairy the man had ever seen.
The fairy held her broken spade in one hand and in her other some shining nails and a hammer. She raised her eyes to meet the man’s gaze. Smiling at him, she displayed her tools as though asking for his help.
For a long while the young man could only gape in wonderment, his hand frozen in mid-air with fingers outstretched towards the gate.
“I’ve broken my spade!” the fairy called again, breaking into the man’s trance.
It wasn’t difficult for him to mend the broken spade. With a few carefully aimed taps of the hammer, he drove the nails through the sockets and pinned the small rectangular blade onto its worn, wooden handle.
With a smile, the fairy took the mended spade from the young man’s hands and disappeared in a shimmering flurry of wings.
Later that day when the blackbird’s evening song sounded through the encroaching dusk, the young man was astonished to discover a plate of tiny cakes on his kitchen table. He understood immediately that these miniature treats were a gift from the fairy in gratitude for his help in mending her broken spade.
The young man was wise in fairy ways and knew that saying thank you would be impolitic. So he and his family simply shared the sparkling fairy cakes among themselves, savouring every bite and commenting aloud on their tastiness.
When the last crumbs had been licked from the plate, the young man opened the door to the cool evening air and wished the fairies goodnight.
Fairy Cakes (adapted from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book)
4 oz (100g) soft butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Line about 18 holes in bun trays with paper liners.
Place all the ingredients together in a large bowl and beat well for 2 to 3 minutes until well combined and smooth.
Half fill each paper liner with the batter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the cakes are well risen and golden.
Transfer each cake to a wire rack to cool.
Decorate with icing, silver balls, pink and white miniature marshmallows and sparkling pink fairy dust.
With grateful thanks to Ruth Lawrence of Party Pieces for providing such a wonderful party for my own 5-year-old fairy on her birthday in June this year.