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…
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. 🙂
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!!
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”
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.
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.
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 love this cupcake carrier. Sturdy, tall tops (for tall frosting!), and keep the cupcakes in place.
Recipe: super moist chocolate cupcakes
Make your next batch your BEST BATCH!
Q: Share your cupcake baking tips!
- Top 10 Baking Tips
- 5 Tips to Improve Your Next Batch of Cookies
- How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients
- Room Temperature Ingredients Make a Difference
- Stock Your Kitchen with These 8 Baking Pans
- 14 Kitchen Tools Every Baker Needs