{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!

61 comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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!!!

    • Search for Buttercream (brand) treat cups, that’s what they look like. If not that exact pattern then they have similar ones in the same style.

  3. 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! =)

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

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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. 😉

  10. 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.

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