Cupcakes, those tiny cakes that look so easy, but sometimes leave us wondering what we did wrong. Here I give you a few tips on how to bake cupcakes successfully, with cases that stick and tops that are flat!
This blog post is inspired by an Instagram Live I did on January 11th, which you can watch at the bottom of the post.
I did a poll recently on Instagram, asking if bakers used a different or the same recipe for cupcakes and big cakes. I always use a different recipe, and I was surprised to see that only 31% of bakers did the same.
Using a different recipe for Cupcakes than you do for Big Cakes
Cupcakes, by their very nature are small. They are also very unique in that they come with they're own structure in terms of a cupcake case, which holds them together. Because of this you can afford to use a much more delicate recipe. It doesn't need to be as structurally sound as the one we use for bigger cakes. Personally I go for a recipe that is much more moist, has a finer crumb and a delicate internal structure. Overall it gives a better mouth feel (don't you just hate that term, but it describes it so well).
I also choose to use a different recipe to avoid the cake drying out. I have in the past used the same recipe as my big cakes, but found that within a day or 2 they have dried out very badly. As cupcakes are so small, they don't have the same volume in them to keep them as moist as big cakes. Therefore, my cupcake recipe is what I would describe as 'wet'. My big cake batter has a very clear 'dropping consistency', whereas my cupcake batter literally pours out of the bowl.
This extra moisture is added using milk, which is also a great vehicle for adding flavour. Herbs, and spices, such as lavender, chai, and cinnamon can all be steeped into the milk to add a lovely subtle flavour. Also, if I want to add a fruit flavour, I find a low sugar, low fat flavoured yoghurt in the flavour I need and use that instead. Or occasionally I use a more unusual flavour - try my Diet Cola Cupcake recipe here!.
How to avoid Peeling cases
I have lost count of the amount of times I've seen or heard cake makers despairing of peeling cupcake cases.
Cupcake cases are circles of paper, folded to make a cup. There is nothing keeping them from staying in a cup shape other than the creases. Paper, very similar to fabric, wants to return to it's natural flat state, and moisture and steam will help it to do that. Therefore, the enemy of cupcakes cases are just that - moisture and steam - and you need to avoid your cases getting getting in anyway damp.
My first tip is to remove them from your baking pan, as soon as you can bear to touch them. Getting them out of the pan, and onto a wire cooling rack, will stop them sitting in a little sauna bath, steaming and sweating. Get them on a rack, with the air flowing around them and they'll start to dry out.
Secondly, it's about the case/wrapper you use. I recommend using supermarket cases or foil cases. I'll come onto foil cases in a moment, but let's first talk about paper cases from the supermarket.
Supermarkets sell multiple million of cases. They have been tested and trialled beyond any other case you can buy. They are researched to be the perfect paper, in a selection of colours and patterns and are generally good for all occasions. They also come in a handy cup, which keeps them the right shape. Try to avoid letting your cases flatten out before you even bake with them......you'll just be fighting an already loosing battle otherwise!
Foil cases are fab! They are my go to for all big events and towers. They come in a great selection of colours, including white and black, and they stay in the right shape....forever! Foil isn't the same as paper. It doesn't want to return to it's original state It's happy to be creased and folded.
The one warning I would say though, is that because foil reflects the heat, and foil cases are usually a little smaller than paper ones, beware of your baking times and temperatures.
Lastly, I do want to say, that there are sometimes where no matter what you do, your cupcakes and cases just want to part ways! Usually this is due to the weather or air humidity. This usually happens in the summer, particularly on wet and rainy summer days, when the moisture in the air is very high. I'm sorry, I can't offer any advise for days like that, but I can tell you of a trick I came up with of making little ribbon bands to slip onto my cupcakes when I had a cupcake peeling nightmare on the day of a summer wedding!
How to bake cupcakes with flat tops
There is absolutely no secret to this, it's the same for all sizes of cakes - bake your cakes Low and Slow!
I personally bake my cupcakes at 150c fan for 20-25 minutes. If I remember I try to turn the tins round half way through baking to avoid problems with hotspots in my oven and get a better, even bake. (Read about oven problems here).
The lower the temperature, the more likely your cake will bake at an even temperature and will be able to rise evenly. Bake too hot and the outside will bake and set first, leaving the centre nowhere to go but up, developing a dome.
So, there you have my quick run down on How to Bake Cupcakes that give the best look and most delicious taste, For more information and hints and tips watch the video below or over on Instagram. And if you'd like to know where the cupcake came from read my Evolution of the Cupcake post.
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