10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes

apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

Not only are we focusing on COOKIES this month, we’re also getting our feet wet in the cupcake decorating department. I love your response so far to September’s baking challenge recipe! I hope you’re having  a lot of fun decorating the sunflowers, as well as building some confidence. Because that’s what I want these challenges to be: educational + confidence boosting + fun + delicious.

With back-to-school events, bake sales, weddings, showers, and fall baking in full swing this month, I figured it’s the best time to share another baking basics post.

And cupcakes are calling our names…

overhead image of cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting and sprinkles on a white plate

Recipe: soft and fluffy funfetti cupcakes dressed in pink!

I compiled a list of my 10 best cupcake baking tips– all geared toward helping you bake a better batch. Get your ovens preheated, my friends, because you’ll have the baking itch after reading this!

1. Follow the Recipe

Well, duh. This sounds pretty obvious, right? Well actually… no! We often substitute ingredients in recipes based on what we have. Subbing out eggs, reducing sugar, using liquid sweetener instead, all-purpose instead of cake flour, baking soda for powder (no! don’t do it!), egg whites instead of whole eggs, etc. I do not recommend doing this unless the recipe states. Don’t sabotage your time, effort, and money! Ingredients are needed for a reason and, more often than not, a cupcake recipe fail is because the recipe wasn’t properly followed. I’m guilty too!

I always recommend following a recipe the first time you try it, then making alterations as you see fit the next time.

2. Room Temperature Ingredients

This one could get a little too long so I’m just going to direct you to my entire post on the subject. To sum it up: “room temperature” isn’t listed next to ingredients for fun. There’s science and legitimate reason behind it. If a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients. See the article I linked in this paragraph for more explanation. 🙂

apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

Recipe: apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting

3. Don’t Over-mix, Don’t Under-mix

Not too much, not too little. Make sure you’re mixing the cupcake batter together *just until* the wet and dry are combined. Overmixing batter, whether that’s for cakes, cupcakes, breads, muffins, etc, lends a tough-textured baked good. Don’t turn on the mixer then leave the room. Goodness no!

Not to get all NERDY on ya or anything (hi, have we met?) but if you overmix the batter, you run the risk of over-developing the gluten. This results in squat-looking cupcakes, dense-textured cupcakes, and heavy-tasting cupcakes. Mix just until there are no more pockets of flour. And maybe a few more seconds to rid any big lumps.

Likewise, don’t undermix– obviously we want all of the ingredients incorporated together.

4. High Quality Cupcake Liners

Did you know that a cupcake liner is kind of a big deal?!?! Seems silly, right? I started using higher quality + grease-proof liners a few years ago. My cupcakes stopped sticking to the sides of the wrapper (ugh I hated that!!) and the liners no longer oozed grease. If the cupcake liner feels cheap, it probably is cheap. I swear by these parchment paper liners or any quality liners labeled “grease-proof.”

For a little pizazz, I love these!!

vanilla cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a metal whisk

5. Fill Cupcake Pans Appropriately

Did you know this one simple step can make or break your batch? It’s often something we overlook completely– just pour/scoop batter into the cupcake wrappers and bake. Well, depending on the recipe, you could be over-filling or under-filling the liners. This leads to:

  • cupcakes that rise up, then sink
  • cupcake “mushroom tops”
  • overflowing

Unfortunately, most recipes don’t tell you how far to fill your liners. My general rule? 2/3 full (about 3 scant Tablespoons). All of my cupcake recipes turn out when filled this high– with the exception of my chocolate cupcakes. 1/2 full is imperative there!

If the batter is very thin, use a bowl that has a spout and pour the batter into each cup. If the batter is thick, use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop if you prefer.

2 images of cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a colorful whisk and batter in a cupcake pan

2 images of coconut cupcake batter in a glass stand mixer bowl and batter in a cupcake pan

2 images of funfetti cupcake batter in a glass bowl and in a cupcake pan

6. Oven Thermometer, Every Time

Unless you have a brand new or regularly calibrated oven, your oven’s temperature is likely inaccurate. Isn’t that crazy?? When you set your oven to 350°F, it might not really be 350°F inside. It could only be off by a little – 10 degrees or so. Or more than that – 100 degrees or even more. While this might not seem like a big deal to you, it is a huge problem for baked treats!

A temperature mismatch results in dried-out baked goods. Burnt uneven cakes and cupcakes. Heavily browned or undercooked in the centers. And as you know, when it comes to baking– accuracy is everything; there is little room for error. Having an oven whose temperature is off can ruin your baked good, not to mention the time, energy, and money spent. The inexpensive remedy is an oven thermometer. Place it in your oven so you always know the actual temperature. Trust me!

Do you have a convection oven? Read #7 in this post.

7. 1 Batch in the Center

Only 1 batch at a time in the very center of the oven. I know that sounds crazy!! But my reason is because you get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on that 1 batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time, make sure you rotate the cupcake pans from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times in the baking process to encourage even browning. And turn the pans around as well. Ovens have hot spots!

But if you’re only baking 1 batch: center of the oven. That’s the oven’s magic spot.

vanilla cupcakes in a cupcake pan after baking

8. Bounce-Back Test

You can determine if a batch of cupcakes is done in the oven by testing with a toothpick, right? You know, sticking a toothpick into the center of the cupcake and if it comes out clean, they’re done? Sure that works. But here is what I always do instead. And you don’t need to waste time and fumble around for a toothpick!

Remove the cupcakes from the oven or leave them in, your choice. Gently press down on the cupcake. If the cupcake bounces back completely, they are done. If your finger left a dent in the cupcake, they need more time. So easy. I always do this!

And this nifty little trick can be used on muffins as well.

9. Allow to Cool Completely

This sounds like a no-brainer, but we’re often in a rush– myself included. Especially when I need to photograph a cupcake recipe! Decorating cupcakes before they are completely cool is, well, a recipe for disaster. The frosting will melt. Whenever I need a batch of cupcakes to cool down on the fly, I let them cool for 10 minutes inside the cupcake pan. Then I remove them from the pan and stick each cupcake in the freezer for about 20 minutes. They’re cool and ready for decoration. Easy and quick.

10. Store Properly

Unfrosted cupcakes are wonderful left at room temperature for a few days. Cover them tightly and they’ll stay soft, moist, and fluffy until you’re ready to decorate them. After you frost them, they’re OK for a day or two at room temperature, but should be refrigerated after that. I always let cupcakes come to room temperature before serving. The cupcake itself tastes best that way!

Traveling with cupcakes? I own and love this cupcake carrier. I have 3 of them. Sturdy, tall tops (for tall frosting!), and keep the cupcakes in place.

overhead image of chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and sprinkles

Recipe: super moist chocolate cupcakes

Make your next batch your BEST BATCH!

Q: Share your cupcake baking tips!

Further reading:


  1. How do you freeze cupcakes? Do you freeze in tray and then transfer to freezer bag???

    1. I just wrap them well and freeze them! No need to freeze in the cupcake tray first 🙂

      1. Do you wrap them individually? And with what? Saran wrap?

        I love making cupcakes (I always use your recipes!) and my cousin asked if I could make a few for his wedding in two months. I didn’t realize I was agreeing to make 200… but here we are. I figure I’ll start making and freezing them now! I’m making cookies and cream cupcakes, and lemon raspberry (or maybe blueberry) cupcakes. I feel like they don’t go together… but the groom wants oreo and the bride wants lemon something. Any suggestions you may have for a 3rd flavor would be so appreciated. I have no ideas!

        Also- everytime you like one of my instagram posts of one of your recipes it’s my favorite thing ever. Just thought I’d let you know.

      2. For that many I’d probably do single layers in ziplock freezer bags. Good luck! And I love seeing when my recipes are tagged and I try to like them all so you know I saw them even if I don’t have time to comment on them all! 🙂

  2. Janet L. Allen says:

    I love making high top bakery muffins …what do I need to do with this recipe to achieve high tops? thanks

    1. Hi Janet! My tips are to make sure your muffin batter is very thick and to use my high temperature/low temperature trick. Most of my muffin recipes include both if you want to browse!

      1. Janet L. Allen says:

        Thank You So Much for the Reply…I used extra large tulip liners and recipe filled 6 half full..baked 8 min. at 425 degrees then 7 min. at 350 degrees till toothpick came out clean tested in middele…Wonderful recipe !

  3. Michele Schuck says:

    My daughter’s birthday party is this Saturday. Would today be too early to bake the cupcakes? I will be filling and frosting the day before her party but wasn’t sure if the cupcakes would be fresh after 3 days. Thanks!

    1. Hi Michele! I recommend baking now, cooling, covering, and freezing the cupcakes until ready to decorate on Friday. Thaw on the counter.

  4. My oven’s hot spot is at the back and when I bake usually that part gets burnt and the front doesn’t cook, I am scared to open the oven because I don’t want the cupcakes to sink what should I do?

    1. Hi Valentina! I would recommend rotating your pan once halfway through baking!

      1. The cupcakes won’t sink?

    2. Andrea Smith says:

      Not usually because you’re doing it quickly and they’re only half-baked at that point.

  5. Hi! When doubling (or quadrupling) a cupcake recipe is it better to make the batter and then bake in batches or make batches of batter and bake each set as they are ready? Concerned what a wait would do to the batter.


    1. Hi Clare, I always recommend smaller batches of batter. With too much batter not only does it have to sit for a while but you run the risk of over or under mixing.

  6. How long does it take for strawberry frosting to be ready after refrigerating it overnight?

    1. I’m not sure I know what you mean, sorry! Strawberry frosting can be eaten out of the refrigerator. It might be a little too stiff to pipe, so let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before using.

  7. Hi Sally, thanks for these very helpful tips. I was strucked to the post re cupcake liner as I just bought paper cupcake liners and the 1st time I used them, the muffin sticked. I will follow your advice the next time I buy but I wanted/hopefully use those that I have (800+pcs w/ diff designs). I’m only a homebaker and so new on baking. Do you have any idea on how to use it that could at least lessen the bread that sticks? Thanks a lot.

    1. I have sprayed cupcake liners with cooking spray and had success. They may look oily in the end but the muffins/cupcakes won’t stick. I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you’re making them for someone or to take somewhere (just because they may not be as pretty), but they are fine for home. Or… You can use them for crafting!

      1. With those cheap liners, I spray lightly with baking spray, the kind with flour, and double the cupcake liner. Works every time and no grease.

  8. Agnes Wallace says:

    Hi Sally just wonderong of you know what could cause white spots on my vanilla, lemon and strawberry cupcakes when they’ve gone on the freezer. They were definitely cold before going on and are stored on a clip it container

    They taste fine but I don’t like the spots.

  9. Meagan McGuirt says:

    How do you feel about silicone cupcake liners?

    1. I love the idea that they are reusable and create less waste, but I haven’t tried baking with them!

  10. Zilma Adriana says:

    I think that silicon cupcake liners are fantastic. They are reusable, easy to clean, easy to store, easy to take what you’ve baked out of, and are environmentally friendly

  11. I live at over 7000 ft above sea level. What changes do I need to make for high elevation? I have heard a lot more flour is usually needed. Is this correct?

    1. I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  12. Missy McCord says:

    What is the best way to freeze using the tulip liners? I’m afraid if I wrap them tightly, the parchment liner will be ruined. Just fold over the best we can?

  13. VictoriaTurano says:

    I always have a problem trying to decorate cupcakes like you do on your page. What size tip do I need to get them to look like yours?

    1. Hi Victoria! Here’s my post all about piping tips with a video tutorial for decorating.

  14. Karen Williamson says:

    I am creating a wedding cake with 2″x2″ square cupcakes. Do you recommend using a cupcake recipe or a cake recipe? I would be extremely grateful for any and all expert suggestions. Some recipes have turned into the consistency of cornbread. The lemon cupcake texture worked great but they didn’t rise in the sqare pans compared to regular pans. Both filled to same level. Does not using cupcake liners affect the texture?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Karen! I don’t think it would make a difference if you used a cupcake vs a cake batter recipe for these cupcakes. As long as the cake batter is relatively thick, the mini cakes should rise nicely. My white cake is always a nice choice.

  15. I’m sorry if this is a stupid question or if you have answered it before, but should I let cupcakes cool in the tin or flip them out pretty quickly after taking them out of the oven? I know it said if you were in a rush you would let them cool 10 minutes in the pan then stick them in the fridge, if not in a hurry should I let them cool 10 minutes in the pan and then flip out onto the rack?

    1. Hi Sharon, Yes you can let them cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

  16. I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong, I love making cupcakes, but for the past 3 times now, they’re coming out wet at the bottom and I follow the recipes to the T.

    But when I use a vanilla cake recipe the cupcakes come out prefect. (Oh, I’m vegan if that makes a difference)

  17. Hi

    I see you mention mushroom tips; a far too common issue I have with cupcakes… what can I do to remedy that?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Teena, The best way to avoid them is to not overfill your liners. You can read more about how to Fill Cupcake Pans Appropriately in the post above.

  18. Hi Sally,
    The link for your recommended cupcake liners with “a little pizazz” no longer works. Would you mind updating with another pizazz option? Thank you so much!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren, Sorry those liners aren’t available anymore! You can really use any pretty cupcake liners that are labeled as “grease-proof.”

  19. Hey sally,
    have you experimented with monk fruit sugar and if it’s an okay substitute for white sugar? Specifically in the banana cupcakes 🙂

  20. My cupcakes are really hit and miss! I bake without eggs, sometimes they work, recently, more often they are not great!
    Very often, they almost separate once baked, with a lid on the cupcakes. They also stick to the cases. I always use very high quality foil cases. The same happens high quality paper cases.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shelly, We haven’t tested our cupcake recipes with egg substitutes. If you are interested we do have a section of egg free recipes.
      For liners, be sure they are labeled “grease proof.” We really love the parchment paper liners linked in the post above.

  21. Hi Sally! Love your recipes! I’m planning to make some cupcakes for a gathering, and a few people are gluten free. Have you had success with any specific flour replacements? I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 in the past with okay success. Please let me know if you have any specific suggestions! Thank you!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Patti, we haven’t tested our recipes with gluten free flour, but some readers have reported success using 1:1 flour substitutes (like Cup4Cup or Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 like you’ve tried in the past). If you make any GF cupcakes, let us know how they turn out!

1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love



Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally