Baking is a science and getting the right results requires a methodical approach. With these top tips for cupcakes you're guaranteed to succeed. Feature by Sarah Sibley from Bake With Sarah (www.bakewithsarah.com) 1 Use good quality ingredients Using good quality ingredients can make a big difference to your cupcakes. Always opt for flavour extracts rather than using synthetic flavourings, which can give your cupcakes a nasty artificial taste. 2 Check the date Although raising agents such as baking powder have a long shelf life, they have very limited shelf lives once opened. When they have been opened for 3 months they will start to loose their effectiveness and should be thrown away. 3 Always read the recipe Always make sure you have read the recipe properly before starting. There is nothing worse than getting half way through and realising you've forgotten to buy a key ingredient! 4 Stay organised and tidy Use as few bowls and utensils as possible and try and clear up as you go. You don’t want to take a hot tray of cupcakes out of the oven and have nowhere to put them. 5 Bring ingredients to room temperature Eggs, milk, butter and other refrigerated ingredients should be brought to room temperature before use, as they don’t combine as smoothly with the dry ingredients when chilled. 6 Preheat the oven Always turn your oven on before you start to make your batter, otherwise it won't have had time to reach the proper temperature and your baking times will be off. 7 Know your own oven All ovens work slightly differently and most people get to know the quirks of their own. So if you know that when you're cooking dinner you usually have to set the temperature slightly higher or leave it in for slightly longer than it tells you to on the packet, make the same amendments to your cupcake recipe instructions. 8 Weigh ingredients properly It is important to weigh ingredients as accurately as possible to ensure that they turn out the way they should. Adding too much or too little of something can alter the taste and texture of a cupcake. 9 Add ingredients gradually Add ingredients bit by bit, mixing between each addition rather than dumping everything in together. 10 Don’t over mix the batter By over mixing your batter, you can end up removing too many of the air bubbles. This can result in hollow tunnels forming inside your cupcakes, and a cracked, volcano-like top. Cupcake batter should only be beaten until the ingredients have combined and no more. 11 Start and finish with dry ingredients When combining dry and liquid ingredients, start and end with the dry ingredients, as it helps to get the batter to the right consistency. 12 Don't over or under fill your cupcake cases You should fill the cases half to two-thirds full. Any more and they will rise above the top and look messy, any less and they won't reach the top and look too small. 13 Use a scoop to fill cupcake liners To achieve uniform cupcakes it is important to make sure you are putting the same amount of batter in each case. The best way to do this is by using a large ice-cream scoop. 14 Bake in the centre of your oven Always bake cupcakes one tray at a time in the centre of your oven. This will ensure good airflow and even heat distribution, preventing overcooking on one side. If your oven cooks unevenly from front to back, (this can often be the case with gas ovens) rotate the tray of cupcakes two-thirds of the way through baking. 15 Don't open the door! Never be tempted to open the oven door for a peak at your cupcakes until you're at least two-thirds of the way through the baking time. Doing so may well cause your cupcakes to sink in the middle. 16 Are they done? Cupcakes are done when they are a golden colour and they bounce back if you apply some light pressure with your finger. 17 Don’t leave baked cupcakes in the tray Cupcakes should always be removed from the baking tray and transferred to a wire rack immediately after they come out of the oven. The heat from the still hot tray can cause the cupcakes to overcook, and can also make the cases peel. 18 Quicker cooling Place a mug underneath each end of the cooling rack to allow air to pass underneath the cupcakes. This will help them to cool quicker. 19 Never frost a warm cupcake As impatient as you may be, never try and frost a cupcake until it is completely cool. If the cupcakes are still warm you can end up with soggy sponge and melted frosting. 20 The taste test If you are unsure whether your frosting is sufficiently mixed, taste it. If it has a grainy texture to it, keep mixing. 21 Use a glass When filling a piping bag, place the bag into a glass and fold the top of it down over the sides. You will then be able to spoon the frosting in without making a mess. 22 Frost to the edge Always try and cover the entire top of the cupcake, piping or spreading the frosting right to the very edges. The frosting will then act as a seal, locking in the sponge's moisture and keeping it fresher for longer. 23 Make toppers ahead of time If you are decorating your cupcakes with fondant toppers, make them a few hours or even a day ahead of the cupcakes. This will allow them time to dry hard, so they don’t flop and lose their shape when they are added to the top of the cupcakes. 24 Store them correctly When cupcakes have cooled completely, store them in an airtight cardboard box. Never leave them for any length of time in a metal or Tupperware container, as they can make the cupcakes sweat and cause the wrappers to peel. Cardboard will soak up any excess moisture, preventing the wrappers from doing so. Cupcakes containing fresh cream or soft cheese should always be kept refrigerated. 25 Eat them quickly! Although some cupcakes will keep for a few days, cupcakes should ideally be eaten within 48 hours for optimum freshness. About the author: Sarah is a baker, cake artist, baking blogger and columnist for the Daily Echo, and is also the creator of 'The World's Grossest Cupcake'. Check out her blog, Bake with Sarah for a whole host of delicious baking recipes, or get in touch with her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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