Cupcakes! Sometimes a tasty treat and sometimes, the bane of a baker’s life! Over the years I’ve been asked lots and lots of cupcake conundrums. Below, I’ve answered some of the most popular questions.
I wanted to start with a few hints and tips to baking the perfect cupcake;
- Use good quality tins. The shallow tin you use for Yorkshire puddings and fairy cakes unfortunately isn’t cut out for the job of a big, sturdy cupcake. I have two Wilton 12 Hole Muffin Tins that I swear by. They are nice and deep and ensure an even bake to your cupcakes. You can pick them up on Amazon here.
- Use good quality cases. It sounds obvious, but you get what you pay for. If you buy 100 fairy cases for 50p it will be difficult to get a professional finished cupcake. I love the super cute Baking Cups you can buy from Iced Jems here and have always had success with them!
- Cupcakes are not Fairy Cakes. Cupcakes are usually 1 ½” deep and can be any flavour or colour and usually topped with sugarpaste (icing) or a swirl of buttercream. Fairy Cakes are small, (as in, a cake for a fairy…) vanilla sponge and topped with a blob of glacé icing (icing sugar and water).
- You don’t need to put cupcakes in a fridge (Or most cakes for that matter). It will only cause your tasty baked goods to dry out, and no one wants that.
- Buy an oven thermometer. You really don’t know what’s going on inside there until you have a proper look and that can really affect how your cupcakes bake. I’ll talk more about temperature below and you can read more about this subject on my previous post What Temperature Should I Bake At?
- If you’re baking in advance, you can freeze your cupcakes! Check out my article How To Freeze Cakes for more information.
Why do my cupcake cases peel away?
This is quite a common one and one with a few different answers. Cupcakes are temperamental little things. Moisture and steam are your enemies when making cupcakes. When you bake a batch up cupcakes and take them out of the oven, they start creating steam due to their heat. If you take them out of the tin straight away, the sudden change in temperature can cause quick condensation which causes the cases to peel BUT by leaving them in the tin too long, condensation quickly forms and the cases peel then too!
The way I do it is to take the tin out of the oven and leave it on the side for about a minute. Then I take the cupcakes out and transfer to a wire rack. I then leave them alone until they have gone completely cool. Messing around too much with the cupcakes can also cause the cases to come away but this is more down to force.
Too much moisture in the mix will also make the cases peel. If you are using fresh fruit, too much liquid etc. You need to make sure your mix is nicely balanced. Also, if you store your cupcakes in an airtight container when they haven’t cooled properly, this will again, cause condensation which makes the cases peel.
Storage of your cupcakes can cause an issue too. Don’t store your cupcakes in an airtight tupperware box or plastic container, you are better off storing them in a card cupcake/cake box in a cool, dry place. Finally, bad quality cases will also have an effect on the peeling.
Also, make sure you are using greaseproof cupcake cases or baking cups (available from Iced Jems) which don’t peel and are fantastic!
Why do my cupcake cases go transparent?
This one is SO annoying. You purchase lovely, patterned cases specifically for an occasion, or you manage to get an exact match on the colour for your theme, you bake your cupcakes, take them out of the oven and… oh. Where has the pattern gone?
The main reason for this is grease. When baking, grease will form around the cupcake and settle at the bottom. You need to make sure any cupcake cases you buy have ‘greaseproof‘ written on them, or use baking cups. That will ensure your pattern stays nice and bright.
A tip for this, is to pour a teaspoon of dry rice into each well of your cupcake tin before lining with cases. The rice absorbs any grease on the soggy bottom leaving your cupcakes nice and dry!
Why do my cupcakes have a sticky top once the cupcakes cools down?
The sticky top on the cupcake is due to the sugar in the cake attracting moisture (See, it really is the enemy!). You must make sure that if you are storing your cupcakes, not to do so in a completely airtight tin if there is even a chance they might be a little bit warm. Even if they feel cool to the touch, the very middle of the cupcake may not be. The slightest heat in an airtight environment will cause condensation which, as we already know, can cause the cases to peel away, but can also cause a dreaded sticky top.
Moisture in the air doesn’t help, either. On a really hot day in a steamy kitchen, cupcakes can very quickly form a sticky top. (This happened to me in the summer when I couldn’t have my window open to let air in as the gardener next door was mowing very loudly!)
A helpful tip, is to sprinkle a little icing sugar (powdered sugar) onto sticky topped cupcakes, this will absorb any moisture without too much fuss. If it’s super sticky but your cases are staying put and it isn’t causing much of an issue, I wouldn’t worry. It can be covered with a buttercream/sugarpaste (icing) topping and still be enjoyed. No one will know!
Why do my cupcakes have a ‘muffin top’?
Ah. The dreaded muffin top. We don’t want it in our jeans and we don’t want it in our cupcakes! A common cause for this is too much mixture. You want to fill your cases between 2/3 and 3/4 full. I find an easy way to do this is with a large ice cream scoop. Like this one. Any more than this and the rising mixture will just explode! Another reason for muffin tops is too much raising agent, like baking powder.
What temperature should I bake my cupcakes at?
I bake my cupcakes low and slow. I bake for 140C (fan assisted electric, Gas Mark 1) for about 45 minutes. If you bake hotter than this, you can cause your cupcakes to dry out, peak, crack and burn. By baking using the low and slow method, it ensures an even rise, an even bake and a tasty cupcake!
I have only ever baked with an electric oven, fan assisted so unfortunately I’m not sure how to get the best results from a gas oven but low and slow won’t let you down!
Why do my cupcakes have a peak on top?
As above. A peak is usually caused by an oven that’s too hot! The cake surface is baking quicker than the batter in the middle. This causes it to burst out of the top like a mini volcano. Turn your oven down and try the method above.
Why do my cupcakes sink in the middle?
The main reason for this is that your cupcakes aren’t baked completely. Make sure to keep them in for the time stated on the recipe you are using or until a cocktail stick has come out clean. This one will take practice. Cupcakes can look done but five minutes out of the oven and they start to sink and collapse.
A well baked cupcake should be nicely risen, golden in colour and springy to touch.
If cupcakes go wrong, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Baking is a science and it only takes the slightest imbalance to mess up a good batch of cupcakes. Try, try, try again. Baking fails are what make us human, we should never be ashamed of them. They show we’ve learnt something. I’m learning every day.
If you want to turn your baking hobby into a career, check out my book Cakes, Bakes & Business for everything you need to know about running a successful baking business, including pricing, marketing, insurance and much more!
Foolproof Cupcake Recipe
For 12 cupcakes.
- 200g self raising flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 200g Stork/butter
- 50g plain flour
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cream together the Stork and caster sugar.
- Add in your eggs.
- Add in your flour.
- Add the vanilla.
- Mix for 4-6 minutes on a high speed.
- Use a large ice cream scoop to put the mixture in the cases.
- Bake at 140C for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
This recipe is great for piping onto cupcakes with!
- 250g unsalted butter
- 500g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cream the butter on it’s own first
- Add in the icing sugar and mix well
- Finally add the vanilla