{Cupcake Basics} How to Bake Cupcakes

Today I’ll begin a series of posts that will cover (most) all of the basics of making cupcakes.  A pretty cupcake is always a welcome sight at parties, or as a special treat.  Before we can frost or decorate, we need a nice cupcake to start with, so let’s get baking!

First, you need a good recipe.  I rely on my favorite Chocolate Cupcake Recipe and Vanilla Cupcake Recipe the most often, but I have several other delicious options on the Cupcakes page.  You are certainly welcome to use a box mix, or other recipes as well, most of the tips below will apply to any recipe or mix you use.

1.  Follow directions.   I know… I’m sorry I have to say it, but it’s true!  Recipes are written using certain techniques, each for a reason.  If you don’t measure your ingredients properly, or omit ingredients, or over or under mix your batter, you should expect less than desirable results.

2.  Preheat your oven.  Don’t place your cupcakes in the oven until it is fully pre-heated.  The heating element in your oven is extra intense as it is pre-heating, if you put your cupcakes in while pre-heating, the cupcake bottoms may over bake.

3.  Don’t over fill the liners.  Most cupcake batters need the structure of the sides of the liners to rise properly.  Overfilling your batter will cause the batter to spill over the edges of the liners as it rises, often resulting in flat or mis-shaped cupcakes, and a big mess.  Follow the instructions for the recipe or mix you’re using, most recommend filling the batter about 2/3 full.

(above)  This is how high I fill the liners for most recipes (or box mixes), probably a bit less than 2/3

(below)  You can see the baked results.

4.  Divide the batter evenly among the liners.  It’s impossible to get exact same amount of batter in each liner, but if they can be reasonably even, the cupcakes will bake evenly as well.  For thinner batters, I use a large measuring cup with a pouring spout (shown below) to pour batter into the liners, doing my best to fill them about 2/3 full.  For thicker batters, a large cookie or ice cream scoop works great.  I have a scoop that holds about 3 tablespoons of batter, and it works great for dividing the batter.

5.  Check the cupcakes at the minimum baking time.  If the recommended baking time is 18-22 minutes, check them at 17 or 18 minutes (just a quick peek, make sure not to let too much heat out of the oven).  If the tops are rounded and no long appear wet, they may be done.  Pull out the pan and use a toothpick to check for doneness if you’re unsure.  A toothpick inserted into a cupcake should come out with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter.  Over-baking the cupcakes, by even a few minutes, can cause them to be dry.  Be carefully not to under-bake them either, the cakes need time to develop the structure to hold together.  Cupcakes removed from the oven too early may never properly rise, or will sink in the center as they cool.

6.  Cool cupcakes on a wire cooling rack, not in the cupcake pan.  When you remove the cupcakes from the oven, allow to cool only a minute or so in the cupcake pan.  Then use a potholder to hold the pan, and tilt it so you can remove the cupcakes and place them on a cooling rack.  If you leave the cupcakes in the pan, they will continue to bake from the heat of the pan, and can dry out.

7.  Store the cupcakes properly.  Once the cakes have cooled, frost or cover right away.  Cupcakes made from box mixes can be stored loosely covered, since they tend to get a bit sticky if stored airtight.  Most cakes made from scratch can be covered with plastic wrap, or in a tupperware type container.  Most cupcakes are best if eaten the day they are made.  If needed, store the cupcakes up to 1 full day at room temperature, or freeze (wrapped well) until ready to use (defrost at room temperature).

8.  With cupcakes, as with life… there are no guarantees.  These tips will hopefully help you bake beautiful, delicious cupcakes, but much of baking is experimentation.  I have made my share of over-baked, dry, ugly or otherwise sad cupcakes.  I don’t have the answer to every possible baking dilemma… your oven, the weather, your ingredients… all play a part in the end results.  In many cases, a swirl of icing and some sprinkles can cover quite a bit!

Happy Baking!

57 comments

  1. Great tips! I have one to add that works with MOST cupcake recipes. In order to get a nice dome shaped cupcake, I bake my cupcakes at 400 for the first 5 minutes, and then I turn the oven temperature down to about 350 for the remainder of the baking time. I've had perfectly shaped cupcakes every time!

  2. Thank you! I bake lots and I've often found that the simplest hints are the ones that make all the difference. I love your blog!

  3. Thanks for sharing!! Can never get enough tips and how to's : )

  4. Simple yet straight to the point…I like it! In my own blog I try to offer tips and explain the science behind its necessary to do things a certain way…check it out sometime :)

    bakeblogging.blogspot.com

  5. Thank you SO much for really explaining WHY we need to do things like not putting the cupcakes in while the oven is preheating. I've heard it a thousand times but never understood why, so I didn't always do it. Now I get it! I love your blog and your treats so much!

  6. Excellent advice!
    I cant for the life of me find a good vanilla cupcake recipe, I am going to have to try yours!

  7. Wonderful post! I love having all the tips together like this. Simple baking hints make such a difference!

  8. Love this go-to recipe for cupcakes. Now how about one for frosting?

  9. thanks for all the info. i love when you share tips and tricks. it helps newbies like me understand baking a little bit better.

  10. Great tips ~ especially the following directions one! I taught Home Ec for years and that is always where people mess up! You have to follow the directions AND read all of the recipe before you begin. Just basic stuff and people do not want to do it!

  11. Great post! Very informative for the inexperienced baker like myself :)

  12. Great post!! And very useful! I´ll copy the link in my fcbk page. Congrats!!

  13. Thanks for this great post! I have had one problem recently which is sooo annoying and frustrating. After I have removed the cupcakes from the owen and they have cooeld on a wire rack the paper liners are pulling away (and out) from the finished cupcake, here and there. I am doing exactly according to the instructions. This is with different brands of liners. What am I doing wrong? Anyone?

  14. glad i found this post! i can bake other things well… but cupcakes are the bane of my existence. (Ok not soooo dramatic) But I'll keep these tips in mind for next time!

  15. I'm having the same problem as Astrid-cupcake liners pulling away from the cupcakes. As they cool, they peel. SUPER frustrating. Any tips would be GREATLY appreciated!
    BirdBaker

  16. What a great post! I'm definitely bookmarking your site :)

  17. Thanks for all the great tips! I do have one question however, do your cupcake liners peel off before you serve them? That is the bane of my cupcake existence. I find I bake way more than I need b/c the liners peel off.
    Any ideas on how to not have this happen?

  18. What size cupcakes do you make to ice with the large tips? Im keen to make some mini cupcakes for my daughters birthday. What size tip should I be using? thanks :-)

  19. To everyone asking about the cupcake liners peeling away, I have found it is because of three reasons:

    – Poor quality liners
    – Humidity in cooling or baking area, they should be cooled with air circulating around (on a cooling rack) with minimal humidity if possible
    – They weren't fully baked. If my cupcakes aren't properly baked and the baking powder (or leavening agent) hasn't finished doing its work, the cupcake will shrink slightly, but it's enough for the liners to fall away. When you press the top of the cupcake with your finger tip, it should spring right back, with no indent at all.

    Hope that helps!! 😀

  20. Hi, I've tried this Perfectly Chocolate recipe numerous times and each time it comes out differently (same batter) my first batch in the oven comes out pointed and domed, the next batch comes out high and rounded and the last batch not as high and rounded which is how I would like them all to look. Any advice or tips for me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Kath

  21. I read that if you are baking in a pan with a dark or non-stick surface, you should lower the recommended recipe temperature by 25°F to avoid overbrowning because dark pans give your cakes a darker finish when baked at 350°F.

    Do you agree with this?

    I'm a baking novice but I plan on making your Perfect Vanilla and Perfectly Chocolate Cupcakes for my son's birthday party and I'm wondering whether I should follow the lower temperature for dark pans advice.

    Thanks!

  22. I have to make a wedding cupcake tower next week and I was getting anxious that they wouldn't turn out even in size…but after reading this I feel great about it. Thank you so much for posting this.

    Your newest follower from Pinterist…
    Jessica
    http://myworldmadebyhand.blogspot.com

  23. I love your blog!!! I feel we are alike! And I understand all the trouble to find the perfect recipe!!! Keep writing!! You´re good at it!! Thanks! :)

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  26. Thank you…thank you…thank you:) I found your site a couple of weeks before I was going to attempt cupcakes for the first time for my daughters 1st BD. Your tips and recipes were just what I needed and the cupcakes turned out perfectly, a huge hit on the day….luv it!!

  27. As the batter sits waiting to go in the oven it warms up. Make sure when you are mixing your ingredients they are all at room temperature. Your first pan in may be a little too cold which can cause it to dome. By the time your last batch goes in it has probably come to the right temperature. You can also try banging the muffin tin on the counter to break up any bubbles in the batter. These bubbles will have settled by the time the third batch goes in. Hope this helps!

  28. So…this might sound stupid but in the original post it said, "removing the cupcakes from the oven too early can cause them to sink in the middle once cooled", if this happens what should I do? Put them back in the oven, and for how long? Or will they be ok? The toothpick came out clean but they did sink a little after cooled…

  29. found your site a few weeks ago. Just tried your chocolate cup cake. Comes out perfect.Thanks!

  30. Hi! I’m from Chile, South America, and I’m totally into cupcakes! Actually, I’m planning on starting a business on this. I found your page AMAZING… it’s already among my favorites. I have one question: I need to find the best type of oven to bake cupcakes and muffins. Would you recommend electric or convection ovens?

    • Marcela- I have an electric oven, and have only used a convection oven a few times. In general, I like electric ovens for nice even heating, without the extra air blowing (as with a convection oven) which can cause cakes to rise unevenly.

  31. Thank you for these tips. I am about to bake 100 cupcakes for a charity fund raising drive and these tips will help. Perhaps you can help me with a little problem – I am making all the decorations with fondant, which I will colour myself. How can I prevent the colours from ‘bleeding’ onto the frosting????????

    • Hi Dani,
      I”ve never had a problem with the fondant bleeding onto the frosting. My best advice would be to make sure your fondant decorations are nice and dry (and have been drying for at least 2 days). Best of luck!

  32. Hi Glory ~ I love your recipes and used your vanilla cupcake one for my daughter’s bday ombre cake with great results, so thank you, thank you, thank you. When making mini cupcakes, how full do you recommend filling the liners and how long should they bake (using your go-to cupcake recipes. Thanks!

  33. Thank you so much for this…. God Bless you real good….. Merry Christmas in Advance!

  34. Very nice recipes n tips…thanks sooo much!

  35. Pingback: Green Tree Cupcakes – Spinach? In a Cake? Really? | Chocolate, Cocktails & Icing Sugar

  36. Love your recipe!!!!
    can you bake them on the bottom and middle rack or do you have to bake them 1 at a time?
    last time I placed 2 trays next to each other and they came out with the top side ways
    and for the last batch it was only 1 tray and they came out perfect!!!

    Thanks for sharing
    Liz

  37. I love your website! Is it ok to fill a cupcake (lemon curd) the day before or will the filling soak into the cake?
    Thanks for the help!

  38. Pingback: How to Bake Cupcakes | Baking Addict

  39. dear marcela
    my recepie for chocolate cup cake is:
    Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate – 4 oz (113g)
    Butter – 4 oz (113g)
    Eggs – 2
    Sugar – 1/3 cup (75 g)
    All-purpose Flour – 1/4 cup (40g)
    after preparing batter i bake this batter in 180c for 12 minutes, it was good but my cake shows some wet structure and the texture of upper layer was not OK, also i want to raise my cake volume, for that how much baking powder do i have to add?
    Please advice me on the above statement.
    Eagerly waiting for your reply.
    Thankyou
    Anshul

  40. I made these cupcakes last year for my kids birthday and they turned out great. This year I want to make a sheet cake. Do you think this same recipe will work, or do you have another recipe for sheet cakes?

  41. Your style is very unique compared to other people
    I’ve read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.

  42. Glory, following your blog is great, I’ve been trying to perfect the perfect cupcake. Using your advice about the cupcake scoop, I ordered a 3 tbsp. scoop. The cupcake still domed up. Another problem I’m having is the cupcake liners are folding in on themselves. What size do you use? My cupcake pan is from Williams and Sonoma and holds 24. Are there different sizes among the standard size pans? Thanks, any advice would be helpful.

  43. Wow! Very big help for a starter like me. Thank you so much! I love your blog instantly, definitely bookmark! I’ll try some of your recipes, hope you don’t mind. 😉

  44. Thanks for the very helpful tips! I’ve been having problems making my first batch of cupcakes – it overflow and came out hard on the top but soft & fluffy in the bottom. And then 2nd batch was worst, left it in the oven to cool for a few minutes before shifting it to the wire rack – what a bad idea.. the entire thing was hard :( So sorry, what’s the trick to achieving a flat dome? Basically just ensuring that the oven remains at constant heat while baking? Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  45. Great article! It describes all the things that done be done for baking cupcakes. It contains lots of essential information so that we can bake delicious cupcakes. These hints are simple and easy to read and understand. By reading this post anyone can bake cupcakes in an easy and practical way. All the information is included for baking cupcakes. This pictures of the cupcakes make it easily to understand and what type of equipment should we use. The advices are very essential for example, it has been mentioned the things that should not be done while baking cupcakes. Thank-you so much for sharing this post with us!

  46. I love to bake, especially cupcakes. I definitely use the ice cream scoop method but I had an issue with overfilling my cupcakes to wear they basically created a muffin top in the muffin tin. Scanting 2/3 cup full has really helped the last few batches of cupcakes I have made and now they all come out perfect instead of some looking great and some looking like a slight explosion lol. Also, I never knew that cupcakes still bake in a hot tin so that was great advice. This whole article was helpful. You rock!

  47. Apologies if I have missed this somewhere on your blog, but what are the exact dimensions of your recommended cupcake cases. In the UK there is such a variety of sizes! Love your blog SOOOOO much by the way :)

  48. I love your website; recipes, ideas, tips, designs, pictures… Simply Inspiring… ♥

  49. Hi,
    I love your site, I made your Chocolate cupcakes last night and the tops were all wrinkled. Please can you let me know why that happened.
    Thanks
    Sue

    • Hi Sue, I’m guessing the wrinkled tops appeared as the cupcakes cooled? In this case the cupcakes are slightly under-baked. Of course frosting can cover a lot, so hopefully they were enjoyed and no one saw the tops! =)

  50. Pingback: {Cupcake Basics} How to Frost Cupcakes » Glorious Treats

  51. Forgive me if I missed this information somewhere else on your site, which is BEAUTIFUL by the way!! You have a pic of three cupcakes a couple of places on your site. One is at the very top of the page. They look chocolate with chocolate frosting and a cherry on top. I wonder if you can tell me where you get/got the “cups” they are baked in? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!! When I saw them, my heart warmed remembering being a little girl going to work with my mom. At their water cooler they had these type of cups (but white of course). My sister and I would always run their immediately for a cup of water, but mostly so that we could play with the cup afterward, but I digress. I assume these are already a trend in the cupcake world and if they aren’t now, I’m sure they will be soon. I also assume they come in different colors, at least. Maybe even different sizes. Thank you, for sharing your gifts with the world!!!

  52. Hi!! Love your website!! Can I use this recipe for a 6 or 8 inch cake? If so do I need to change the measurements and baking time?

  53. What’s the ingredients ? 

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