Baking your own cupcakes at home doesn’t have to be tricky. All you need is to follow some tips so you can learn how to bake perfect cupcakes. Learn some cupcakes 101 with these 15 tips for perfect cupcakes.
Be sure to read the rest of the cupcake 101 baking series posts:
Cupcakes 101: 6 Reasons Why Your Cupcakes Are Sinking In The Middle
Over the years on this blog, it’s the cupcake recipes that are the most popular. You guys seem to love your cupcakes. And I’m so glad, because I do too. When I worked at a bakery, my job was to whip up batches of perfect cupcakes every day. Basically heaven. Since then, I still love when I get an opportunity to bake cupcakes for someone’s special day like a wedding or a shower. And isn’t that what we bake cupcakes for? All those special events! So I wanted to help you to be able to learn how to bake perfect cupcakes for all those special events in your life by giving you my 15 tips for perfect cupcakes.
Forget calling the bakery. And move away from the boxed cake mixes at the grocery store. It’s time to learn how to bake perfect cupcakes.
So I put together a list of 15 tips for perfect cupcakes.
15 Cupcake Tips
1. Prepare your pans ahead of time
Be sure to prepare your pans with cupcake liners before you begin making your batter. Your leavening agents go to work right away which means if your batter is sitting around while you prepare your pans you are losing some of that precious carbon dioxide which could result in flat cupcakes. my favorite cupcake liners are these greaseproof cupcake liners.
These are the cupcake pans I own and love as well.
2. Pre-heat your oven.
After you prepare your pan, the next thing you need to do is pre-heat that oven! You want your oven hot and ready to go when you are done making your batter so your cupcakes can bake immediately and properly. Your leavening agents- baking powder and baking soda- react to heat- so if not properly heated your cupcakes could bake unevenly.
For more oven 101 then give this post a read.
3. Use The Best Possible Ingredients
Invest in quality ingredients when baking your cupcakes like good quality butter. Cheap butter actually contains more water and air, so that means less flavor. My preferred brand of butter is Cabot, and I always make sure to use unsalted butter. Unsalted butter means you can control the amount of salt you add to your cupcakes.
I also make sure to buy and only use pure vanilla extract. My favorite vanilla extract is Nielssen-Massey, but if that’s not available to you. McCormick pure vanilla extract is a fantastic grocery store brand. Just remember, quality fresh ingredients means a quality cupcake in the end.
4. Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Be sure your butter, eggs, and other ingredients like your cream cheese, yogurt, and/or milk are at room temperature. Room temperature ingredients are easily incorporated with each other and are able to trap air. That air when inside your oven, expands helping to create a light and fluffy cupcake.
To soften your butter, you want to bring it to room temperature by letting it sit on your counter for about an hour. Here are 3 ways to soften your butter quickly if you forget to take it out ahead of time.
To bring your eggs to room temperature quickly, simply place them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes. This is one my baking secrets that will help you save time. You can download the rest of my time-saving baking secrets below 🙂
5. Be Careful When Creaming
When you go to cream your butter and sugar, it’s easy to cream too long. And it’s easy to not mix enough! I like to set my timer so I cream long enough. Creaming introduces air. Too much air and that can cause your cupcakes to collapse. That's just one reason why your cupcakes might sink in the middle. For 5 more reasons read this post!
Not enough and you won’t get as much rise. Start your mixer on low, then increase to a medium speed. And be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl with a rubber scraper to make sure all your ingredients are evenly mixed halfway through creaming.
If you are using a hand mixer, you will need to cream for an extra couple of minutes. But pay attention to the recipe on how long it says to cream for and set your timer!
6. Do NOT Overmix
Once you have added your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients, be careful to not overmix. Overmixing can lead to gluten development. Gluten is great for bread, but can lead to chewy tough cupcakes. So once you have added your dry ingredients, finish stirring by hand.
7. Check Those Expiration Dates
Your baking powder and baking soda are chemicals so they do not last forever! And if your baking soda or baking powder have expired, then you will definitely have flat cupcakes. To be sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh, test them out. For baking soda, add a little to an acid (like vinegar) and see if it bubbles. For baking powder, add some to hot water to see if it bubbles. If they bubble then they are still good to use. If not, then throw them out and buy new!
8. Do NOT overfill.
Be sure to not overfill your cupcake wells. If you add too much then they will overflow when in the oven. Aim for ⅔ to ¾ full. If it’s a new recipe, try filling and baking just one cupcake to see if you need to add more or less for the rest of the batch.
9. Invest In An Oven Thermometer
Not all ovens run at the correct temperature. So by using an oven thermometer you can tell if you need to set your temperature differently. For example, if set your oven to 350ºF, but your thermometer reads 325ºF then you need to increase your oven by 25 degrees.
10. Bake on the middle rack.
Baking your cupcakes on the middle rack means your tops and bottoms won’t heat unevenly and possibly burn.
11. Rotate Your Pans Halfway Through
Ovens can have what are called “hot spots” where certain areas are hotter than others so by rotating your pan halfway through you can ensure that all your cupcakes bake equally.
12. Set A Timer.
Set your timer to 5 minutes earlier than what the recipe calls for. All ovens are different, so it’s best to set your timer early and check your cupcakes. Insert a toothpick in the center to see if a few moist crumbs cling to it, which means they are done. Wet batter means leave it in a few minutes longer. Overbaking your cupcakes will results in a tough, dry cupcake. So it’s best to check a little bit earlier.
13. Do Not Leave Your Cupcakes In The Pan
Once you have taken them out of the oven, let them rest for only about 5 minutes then remove them from the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. They will continue to bake if left inside the pan and this can take a perfectly baked cupcake to a overbaked dried out cupcake in the end.
14. Don't Frost Too Early!
It’s tempting to want to frost right away but be warned. Frosting a cupcake that hasn’t completely cooled can result in a frosting disaster. So allow to cool on your counter for a couple hours before you attempt to slather in buttercream.
This is my go to buttercream recipe. And for help on how to frost the perfect cupcake, read this post (includes a video!)
15. Store Your Cupcakes Properly
After all that hard work, you want to make sure to store your cupcakes properly! Be sure to allow your cupcakes to cool completely uncovered first. Covering cupcakes that haven’t cooled can lead to moisture, which means sticky tops. After they have cooled, store at room temperature in an airtight container. NOT your fridge! Storing in the fridge can dry them out.
Read How To Store And Freeze Cupcakes for a complete tutorial.
Cupcakes Recipes To Try
- S’mores Cupcakes
- Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes
- Cookie Dough Cupcakes
- Hostess Cupcake Recipe
- Apple Cider Cupcakes
Cupcake 101 Posts To Check Out:
- Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home
- Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing
- Ultimate Guide To Decorating Cupcakes For Beginners
- 12 Easy Cupcake Decorating Ideas
Easy Vanilla Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cup (180 g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 113 g) unsalted butter melted, slightly cooled
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) whole milk room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups (283 g, 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
- 2 1/2 cups (283 g) confectioners sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- pinch table salt
For the cupcakes
- Prep oven and pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar. Whisk in the egg and egg white until incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla.
- Alternate dry ingredients and milk. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk into the wet ingredient mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. I do this in 3 additions (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Stir just until the last of the flour has been mixed in. Do not overmix.
- Bake. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the buttercream
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer but the time will take longer to cream) cream the butter until light and fluffy about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add powdered sugar. Add the powdered (confectioners sugar) a half cup at a time with the mixer off. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
- Add remaining ingredients. Add in your heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract, and mix on medium to high speed for 7-8 minutes until light and creamy. Once cupcakes are cooled, fill the piping bag and pipe the frosting on top. If not using immediately, store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to use, mix again until light and fluffy.
- Make Ahead: These cupcakes can be made ahead 2 days in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. The frosting can also be made 7 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. If you have leftover cupcakes they also keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- Freezing: You can also freeze these cupcakes, without filling, for up to 2-3 months. Then just thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then fill and frost as normal!
- Be sure to measure your flour correctly by scooping the flour into the measuring cup with a spoon and then level off with a knife.
- Make sure your large eggs are room temperature. Place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using them in your recipe
- Double check that your baking powder is still fresh. Because this recipe uses melted butter there is no creaming step to incorporate air, so you need to make sure the baking powder is fresh so your cupcakes rise properly. To check the freshness, add a teaspoon of baking powder to some hot water. If it bubbles, it's still fresh. If it doesn't throw it out.
- Use an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is heated correctly.
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