Baking cupcakes at home like the bakeries do is easy and something you definitely should attempt! This guide will cover everything you need to know from tools, to recipes, to decorating! Baking cupcakes is fun and totally doable!
When it comes to baking cupcakes, I’ve been doing it for awhile. From birthday parties to weddings I’ve made cupcakes for it.
But if you’re new to making cupcakes I am hoping this Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes will get you started!
Cupcake Tools Needed
Your cupcakes are only going to be as good as the tools you use to make them. So invest in quality bakeware to ensure your cupcakes come out like the pros do. For me the cupcake decorating supplies I recommend having on hand are:
- Piping Bags: These are an absolute must if you want to pipe the perfect swirl on top of your sugary creation. Two options for bags for you:
- Disposable bags: I swear by these piping bags. I always keep on hand at all times 12 inch and 18-inch sized bags. If you get them on Amazon, they come in a 100-count roll for around $7, which is crazy cheap! Trust me, I have shopped around. For most cupcake baking I do I use an 18-inch bag. This way I do not need to re-fill my bag if just frosting 1 or 2 dozen. No refill = less mess. I love these bags because they are in a convenient roll. So whenever I need one I simple just tear one off and I’m good to go. Another great option for you, are the disposable Wilton decorating bags. For these, I highly recommend getting a coupon and buying a box of these bags at your local crafts store, such as Michael’s.
- Reusable bags: A little more friend to the environment. I also keep a few of these on hand, just in case as well. When I first started out I used these primarily. As the baking became more frequent, I switched to the disposable. The great thing about these is exactly in the name. Invest one time and you’re set! Just simply need to wash and you’re good to go. If you know you are going to making different frostings, colors, and/or fillings I would recommend more than one bag. The last thing you want to do is in the middle of decorating- stop, wash, fill, repeat. So save yourself the hassle and invest in a few. Also, because these are a more permanent solution, you can only cut the bottom of the bag once, which means you have to be committed to the size of the tip you are going to use. I have smaller bags with smaller openings for small tips for when I am going to do more detailed work. I have larger bags to fit my larger cupcake tips. It’s always good to have a range of sizes! My favorite ones are from Atecco, but I also have a few from Wilton as well.
- Pastry Tips– When it comes to pastry tips for cupcakes, LARGE cupcake tips is the key. In order to get that beautiful cupcake swirl you need large pastry tips. I love having an assortment of different kinds so I can make different kinds of swirls depending on my mood. This set is a great starter set by Ateco which I love, love, love and have many of.
- Icing Bag Ties– I do not use these personally, but if you are starting out these might be quite handy for you. These ties help keep the piping bag shut on you so frosting doesn’t volcano out the back of your bag. Unpleasant for sure. If you don’t want to invest in these, seriously a clean hair tie or rubber band works well too. Either way, I recommend some sort of tie until you master holding that piping bag.
- Sprinkles– Ok I can’t talk cupcakes without talking sprinkles. And if you’re new to decorating, sprinkles will be your best friend to cover up any faux-pas you might have. If your cupcake frosting ends up looking less than stellar, bust out some sprinkles friend. I LOVE me some sprinkles. Yes I am that baking nerd that has them organized by “seasonal” and “non-seasonal”. My favorite go to sprinkles I use all the time are these, but of course there are always sprinkles in every color and season depending on your mood.
- Gel Food Coloring– Coloring your frosting can be fun. But it also can make or break your buttercream in the end if you use the wrong stuff. Liquid food coloring adds too much liquid to your buttercream and for certain buttercreams, like swiss meringue can really do some damage. So I only use gel food coloring, so no added liquid is added. My favorite brands are Americolor or Wilton Gel food colorings.
- Cupcake containers– I love using cupcake containers so my cupcakes stay nice and neat. I will use disposable, but that can expensive over time. So a good cupcake carrying case is key to bring them places and they actually look presentable still. I can’t tell how many times I brought cupcakes places only to find they have toppled over and smooshed into one giant cupcake. Ugh. And I’ve tried and received as gifts too many cupcake containers to count. They are not created equal friend. Some are too short to hold a high pile of buttercream (and I like my frosting). And some are not travel worthy. Most don’t hold the cupcakes well and they topple over in the car on me. A cupcake carrier like this one or this one, will ensure that your cupcakes are secure on your travels.
- Offset Spatulas – I have so many of these to count. But they are fantastic for spreading a layer of frosting on. I do not recommend using butter knifes if you want to frost by hand, those ridges on the knife will not give you that super smooth look like an off-set spatula will.
- Greaseproof cupcake liners– Now liners aren’t essential in the decorating process I supposse, but I do believe they can make or break what your cupcakes look like in the end. So I included these on the list. I swear by these. Please do not use those ones in the store. And for the record those metal cups aren’t actually meant to be used did you know that? They are just seperators for the actual liners? Fun fact. Moving on 🙂 But yes greaseproof liners will make your cupcakes just look that more professionally. And they come in so many fun colors! Although the classic brown is my go to.
- Apple Corer– There are different ways you can core a cupcake (I show you 4 ways in this post actually), but an apple corer is probably my favorite. And a cupcake with a surprise center like these PB & J cupcakes. Um swoon.
- Cupcake pans– Of course you need some cupcake pans. Good ones. And my favorite go to pans are these ones from Chicago Metallic and these ones from Wilton. I always recommend having two on hand!
I mean this is the fun part right? Sky’s the limit. But here are some recipes to get you started.
Classic Cupcake Flavors
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes – Of course you can’t go wrong with perfect vanilla cupcakes. From there you could make it your own. Add in a different extract, or zest of a lime or lemon.
Chocolate Cupcakes– Of course you need a good chocolate cupcake recipe. And from there you can have some fun by making one of these variations.
- Chocolate Cupcakes With Cake Batter Frosting
- Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes In A Jar
- Mocha Cupcakes
- Hostess homemade cupcakes
- White Chocolate Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes
- Milky Way Poke Chocolate Cupcakes
- Chocolate Reese’s Stuffed
- Candy Cane Chocolate cupcakes
- Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
- S’mores Cupcakes
Cupcakes with a filling
Feel free to customize them and make them your own. You could also try adding a filling. Start by coring your cupcake using one of these 4 tools and filling the center with candies, sprinkles, maybe even caramel sauce, marshmallow fluff, homemade vanilla pastry cream or lemon curd you could make in the microwave. Or try adding a crust like homemade graham cracker crust. Here are a few recipes that have either a filling or crust addition:
- Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes
- S’mores Cupcakes
- Reese’s Pieces Cupcakes
- Peanut Butter and Jelly
- Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes
- Spiced Apple Caramel Cupcakes
- Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Creative cupcake recipes:
- Small Batch Pumpkin Cupcakes
- Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes
- Cotton Candy
- Banana cupcakes
- Rainbow cupcakes
- Sparkling Cranberry Champagne Cupcakes
- Champagne Cupcakes
- Rice Krispie Treat Cupcakes
- Mint Oreo Stuffed Bailey’s Chocolate Cupcakes
- Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes
Cupcake Baking 101
Once you have your recipe you want to make, you better know a little cupcake baking 101 to help those cupcakes come out perfectly. Here are a few posts that will help you achieve perfect results every time.
- 15 tips for perfect cupcakes
- 6 reasons why your cupcakes are sinking in the middle
- #1 Must Have Tip For Perfectly Domed Cupcakes
- How To Make Perfect Cupcakes (Handle The Heat)
- 10 Tips For Baking Cupcakes (Life As A Strawberry)
And here are some baking 101 posts for no matter what you’re baking but will definitely come in handy when baking cupcakes!
- How To Measure Flour (and why it’s important)
- How To Make Buttermilk At Home
- Flour 101: What are the different kinds of flour and how to use them?
- How To Make Your Own Cake Flour
- How To Soften Your Butter Quickly
- Getting To Know Your Oven
Now no cupcake would be complete without a fantastic buttercream swirled on top. Don’t worry I got you covered. You can check out my Ultimate Guide To Making The Best Buttercream Icing.
As far as recipes go, you can choose one of these classic 6 buttercream and then download my Buttercream cheatsheet to customize the flavor yourself.
- American buttercream (super easy and crazy good)
- Flour (or ermine icing)
- Swiss Meringue buttercream (with video!)
- German Buttercream
- French Buttercream
- Italian Meringue Buttercream
You could also try swirling your cupcake flavors and color- check out that post and video here.
Now that they are baked it's time for the really fun part! Decorating and making them your own.
You could also make your cupcakes fun and festive for the holidays. For the holidays try one of these cupcake tutorials:
- 4 Holiday Cupcakes
- Halloween Spiderweb cupcakes
- 3 Easy Halloween Cupcakes
- Football cupcakes perfect for the Superbowl
- Surprise Heart Inside cupcakes for Valentine's Day
Another fun way to make beautiful cupcakes is to use Russian Piping Tips to make beautiful flower cupcakes. You will have beautiful flower cupcakes in no time!
If you want even more help in decorating your cupcakes then be sure to read my Ultimate Guide To Decorating Cupcakes For Beginners
How To Store Cupcakes
Now that your cupcakes are made. It's time to eat..well maybe. If you're like me you may need to store your cupcakes until they plan on being consumed. Or possibly travel with them.
To store unfrosted cupcakes:
- At room temperature: You need to let these cool completely. Like at least an hour, possibly more. If you store these while they are still warm, they will end up with sticky tops or your liners will peel away. Once they are cooled completely store them in an airtight container like this one. Be sure to allow them to cool on a cooling rack. This allows proper air flow around the cupcakes. I don't like storing them in the fridge because this tends to dry my cupcakes out. Frost your cupcakes within 2 days of baking. After this I feel they tend to dry out a bit and lose their freshness.
- In the freezer: Again allow your cupcakes to cool completely. Wrap each cupcake individually in plastic wrap. Then store in a larger zip-loc bag. Place in the freezer on a flat surface where they won't get squished! These should keep for up to 2 months in your freezer. When ready to frost, there is no need to thaw. Just frost as normal and they're good to go! If you take them out before you plan on frosting, be sure to unwrap them so they don't thaw in the plastic wrap, which could cause them to become sticky on top.
To store frosted cupcakes: I use these plastic containers to store my cupcakes.
- At room temperature: Store in an airtight container. You want one that is tall enough so it doesn't squish your frosting.
- In the fridge: I don't like to store them in my fridge, but if you have to because its' very hot or humid outside then be sure to store them in an airtight container. I have only done this for 1-2 days at most. When ready to serve, bring them to room temperature.
- In the freezer: I use the above mentioned containers so they don't get squished and freeze as is. Another alternative is to freeze the cupcakes uncovered first on a cookie sheet, then carefully wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap just like when they are unfrosted. I always like to use a second bag or container to help with freezer burn. Again I would only keep them frozen for 2-3 months max. When ready to enjoy, unwrap and allow to thaw uncovered.
How To Travel With Cupcakes
This can be tricky. I have bought my fair share of cupcake containers and been gifted more than I would like to admit. The thing is, most if not all of the containers I have tried have failed miserably. Cupcakes topple about. Buttercream smooshed. Swear words flying. Tears streaming. Been there. Done it all.
The best way I have found to travel with cupcakes is in a container that is not only tall enough to let them not get squished but with walls that surround the cupcakes to hold them into place.
Most of the cupcake containers either have low walls so they cupcakes topple over. Or are too low for the height of the frosting I like to shoot for. I like tall cupcakes people. If you are more in the less buttercream is better camp then some of those shorter containers might work for you.
I prefer these disposable plastic containers. They hold my cupcakes securely. And when I show up anywhere with them everyone thinks they came from a bakery, which makes me feel pretty good too. Another free option is to use the top of a box (like paper boxes with removable lids) and then place a non-slip shelf liners like this. I actually transported all of my sister's cupcakes to her wedding in these box tops and they were perfectly fine when we got to the venue. Just be sure to place them on a flat surface in your vehicle and carry them flat when you remove them from the vehicle.
There you go! I hope this Ultimate Guide To Baking Cupcakes At Home has left you feeling inspired and ready to tackle your own. If you have any questions on making cupcakes let me know! And don't forget to download my Buttercream Cheatsheet with 13 ways to customize your own buttercream today!
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 16 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk at room temperature
- 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
- 2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
- 3.Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
- 4.Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
- 5.Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.I managed to make a full 3 dozen cupcakes) 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. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
- 6. To make the vanilla buttercream frosting: Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in your powdered sugar 1/2 cup at at time with mixer on low. Cream until combined. With mixer off, add your heavy cream and vanilla extract and then mix on low until combined. Then mix on medium to medium high speed for 8 minutes until light and fluffy. Use right away on cooled cupcakes. If not using right away, then store in a closed container in the refrigerator. You will need to mix the frosting again when ready to use to bring it back to that light and fluffy texture!