Cupcakes, love them or hate them - here are some top tips for getting them just right every time you make them.
Cupcake hints and tips:
- 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 on your cupcakes.
- 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 finish.
- Cupcakes are not fairy cakes
Cupcakes are usually 4cm (1½in) deep, can be any flavour or colour and are usually topped with sugarpaste or a swirl of buttercream icing. 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.
- If you’re baking in advance, you can freeze your cupcakes!
Why do my cupcake cases peel away?
This is quite a common question 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 of 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 completely cooled. 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.
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!
Cupcake quick fire questions
Why do my cupcakes have a ‘muffin top’? The cases have been over-filled. Try using a large ice cream scoop to get an even amount. Why do my cupcakes have a peak? 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 a bit and bake for a little longer. Why do my cupcakes sink in the middle? Chances are, 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. What oven temperature should I bake cupcakes at? I bake my cupcakes low and slow. I bake for 140°C (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!
Remember, 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.