Cupcakes 101: 10 Tips to Bake the Perfect Cupcake

Ok – I’ve been working on this cupcake series for a LONG. LONG. LONG. time. And I’ve been eating my weight in cupcakes in order to get all of the recipes tested and all of the photos taken. I know, I know, WHAT a sacrifice. It’s all for you guys. You’re totally welcome.

10 Tips to Bake the Perfect CupcakePictured: Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Maple Pumpkin Ale Frosting

Let me start by saying that I was really lucky. My grandma (a wedding cake baker) started teaching me to decorate cakes from the time I was a kiddo, and when I wasn’t learning from her I was in the kitchen with my mom (a caterer) so I was pretty much covered on the learn-to-cook front. I don’t remember ever seeing a can of cream-of-whatever in our house, and homemade pizzas and pastas were totally normal. So were homemade cupcakes (YUM).

10 Tips to Bake the Perfect CupcakePictured: Roasted Peach Muffins

It wasn’t until college that I really started to see how different my culinary education was from the norm. I cooked all the time, (even before we had a kitchen – my roomie and I got a contraband hot plate and hung a few pots and spoons from ribbons on our dorm wall. It was very chic) and I started noticing how frequently I would get a “Wait…you MADE this?!” reaction from friends.

I still make cupcakes for every special occasion (and a lot of non-special occasions that are just better with cupcakes) and I still get a “you MADE this?!” from at least one person. Every time. Without fail.

And while I can’t teach the entire world to love from-scratch cooking the way that I do (at least, not YET!), what I CAN do is give you a few tricks to give your homemade cupcakes the “WOW!” factor that a lot of people think you can only get from the store. I’ve divided my all-about-cupcakes post into three sections: Cupcakes 101 (all about baking!), Cupcakes 102 (all about frosting!) and Cupcakes 103 (How to decorate cupcakes like a professional!).

To make great cupcakes, you need to first master the basics. After all, a beautifully decorated cupcake doesn’t mean anything if the cake itself is gross. You have to start with a tasty cupcake canvas!

So let’s start with my 10 best tips for baking the perfect cupcake!

10 Tips to Bake the Perfect CupcakePictured: Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes

It’s hard to go too deep into the specifics of cake-baking here without getting super lengthy and technical, as cake recipes vary so widely. But in most cakes (and cupcakes!), the same basic principles apply:

1. Use the best ingredients available.

Think you won’t be able to tell the difference between imitation and real vanilla extract, or that Dutch Processed Cocoa won’t make a difference? WRONG! Using quality ingredients makes a HUGE difference. If you taste test a cupcake with fake/cheap/flavorless ingredients next to a cupcake with high-quality stuff, the difference will astound you. Go ahead – I dare you! My favorite flavor enhancers are some Pure Vanilla Extract and this fair trade cocoa powder – they’re both so rich and have an amazing depth of flavor. Using quality vanilla (and cocoa, if you’re making a chocolate concoction) will make the most noticeable difference in cakes, so prioritize those ingredients over others if you’re low on funds or baking supplies. If your recipe calls for white vinegar, substitute apple cider vinegar for a bit more depth. I also prefer to make my own buttermilk instead of using store-bought.

2. Bring ingredients to room temperature.

Ok, confession: I don’t always do this. But I really should. When you use eggs or milk (or beer/wine/liquor, if you’re making boozy cupcakes!) straight out of the fridge, they don’t combine as smoothly with the dry and room temperature ingredients. This can result in clumps of one ingredient sticking together and making an appearance in one unfortunate bite, which is no fun. Poorly combined ingredients can also cause a cake to be dense rather than light and fluffy. Rose Beranbaum (the guru behind The Cake Bible) suggests bringing butter to a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit while warming eggs and other liquids to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The butter’s temperature is especially important: the colder your butter is, the more time it will take to break it down into a cream consistency, which means you run the risk of overmixing your batter. Use nice, soft butter for the best results. The finished batter should ideally be between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Beranbaum. You don’t have to bust out the thermometer every time you make a cake, but give your ingredients a touch and gauge their approximate temperatures. If your eggs and butter are still cold to the touch, let them sit awhile longer before you begin baking.

10 Tips to Bake the Perfect Cupcakes

3. Don’t overmix the batter.

You know how people say “baking is a science?” Yeah. It’s for real. The reason mixing times are so important is because the length of mixing determines how much of the gluten in the flour is developed (particularly with all-purpose flour, as opposed to cake flour which has less gluten to begin with). We crush some of the air bubbles when we overmix, and any remaining air bubbles have to work harder to expand as the cake cooks due to too much gluten development. That means that a ton of pressure builds up inside each air bubble, and when they burst they burst with a lot of force rather than a gentle expansion. The result is long, hollow tunnels inside of your cake, and a cracked surface that forms when air erupts through it like a volcano. The resulting cake will be denser, with a tighter grain. When we undermix, there isn’t enough gluten, which prevents the cake from setting correctly or forming a rigid structure and results in a flaky, crumbly cake with a fallen center. To ensure proper mixing, beat cake batter on low until ingredients have just combined. Don’t leave the stand mixer on and walk away! Watch carefully to ensure you aren’t beating the mixture any more than you have to.

PS – for more info. on the science of baking, check out How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science. It’s the bestttttttt.

4. Use a scoop to fill cupcake liners – don’t eyeball it.

There’s nothing worse than pulling a tray of cupcakes out of the oven and discovering they all lie in one of two categories: overcooked or practically raw inside. The easiest way to ensure a uniform baking time is to make sure you’re putting the exact same amount of batter in each cupcake liner. This is more important with cupcakes than cakes because they’re so much smaller – a few tablespoons’ difference between two 8″ cake pans won’t make a huge difference, but if two cupcakes are off by the same amount they can come out radically different. The best way to ensure even batter distribution is to use a large scoop for standard-sized cupcakes and a small cookie scoop for minis. Fill the liners about 2/3 of the way for best results.

5. Pre-heat, and then take the temperature.

It goes without saying that you should pre-heat your oven, but I’ll say it anyway: pre-heat your oven! If you put cupcakes in before the oven is ready, it will mess up their baking process. Also, ovens can be finicky. Invest in a good oven thermometer, and then use it! Double-check the temperature of your oven before you put your cupcakes in. Old ovens are especially rotten when it comes to sticking to a certain temperature, so be sure the internal temperature matches the number on your oven dial. I once had an oven so old that all the temperature numbers had rubbed off of the dial – baking was basically a terrible guessing game. An oven thermometer can take the guesswork out of mysteriously over- or undercooked cupcakes and ensure control over the baking process.

6. Bake in the center of your oven.

When you’re ready to bake, set cupcake pans on the center of a rack set in the very middle of your oven. This will ensure good airflow and help even out heat distribution, preventing overcooking on any one side of the cupcake. If your oven cooks unevenly from front to back, rotate the cupcakes 2/3 of the way through cooking time. Don’t rotate any sooner, or the cupcakes may not have had time to set properly. If you’re baking several pans of cupcakes at a time, place each pan side by side on the same rack. If your oven isn’t wide enough for two cupcake pans at once, place two oven racks in the centermost positions of the ovens and stagger the cupcake pans so that they aren’t directly on top of each other. If one cupcake pan is directly on top of another, it will impede the oven air’s ability to circulate and can result in over- or undercooked cupcakes. Give each pan as much space as you can while still keeping each one as close to the center of the oven as possible.

7. Resist the urge to peek.

I know that cupcakes are exciting, but don’t open the oven door over and over to check on their progress! If you slam the door open or closed towards the start of cooking, it can cause fragile air bubbles in the batter to burst and you’ll end up with a dense cake. Even if you’re gentle with the oven door, a rush of cold air can disrupt the structure of the cupcakes as they begin to bake. The gluten and fat molecules in the batter are what helps the cupcake set and maintain its fluffy, light structure – give those molecules awhile (at least 2/3 of the total baking time) to set and stiffen up before you introduce any cold air to the atmosphere by sticking your nose in to check on things. If you’re too quick to poke around, you may find yourself with dense, sunken cupcakes.

8. Don’t leave the cupcakes in their pans.

Let cupcakes cool for no more than a few minutes in their baking pans before you remove them to a wire rack (I love this three-tiered one from Wilton!) The heat from the pan can cause the cupcakes to overcook, which will dry them out. Use a potholder and gently shake cupcakes out of the pan, then place them on the rack and leave them there until they’ve cooled completely. Don’t try to frost the cupcakes too soon! Even a tiny bit of warmth coming off a cupcake can melt your frosting.

9. Store cupcakes properly.

When cupcakes have cooled completely, store them in an airtight container so they retain their moisture. You can use a large tupperware (this is my first choice if I’m storing frosted cupcakes – I use a tall bin so that the heaps of frosting won’t get squished!) or, if you’re waiting to frost them, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Cupcakes will retain their moisture at room temperature for a day or two, but after that it’s good to store them in the fridge or freeze them for later. Cupcakes freeze well – wrap unfrosted cupcakes individually in plastic wrap and store a few in a plastic bag, then pop it in the freezer. Defrost a bag whenever you feel like a cupcake, then frost and enjoy!

10. Frost the whole cupcake to retain moisture.

Dry cupcakes are no fun, and cupcakes left out too long will definitely dry out. When you frost cupcakes, the frosting acts like a light seal to help the cupcakes retain moisture. Be sure to cover the entire exposed top of the cupcake with frosting as best you can, and your cupcakes will retain their moisture for longer. This is especially helpful if you’re baking cupcakes for a display or event, where they will be sitting out uncovered for a long period of time.

Cupcakes 101: 10 Tips to Bake the Perfect Cupcake

Pictured: Chocolate Greek Yogurt Cupcakes

I hope these tips will help you the next time you whip up a batch of your own cupcakes – don’t forget to check out Cupcakes 102 (Frosting) and Cupcakes 103 (Decorating)!

This post contains some affiliate links – if you purchase anything using a link on this page, I’ll receive a small commission. These funds help me keep Life As A Strawberry running!

Cupcakes 101


  1. says

    Thank you for the tips! I can’t wait to read tips 102 and 103. I’ve been seeing “award winning” cupcakes all over the internet today, and now I am on a mission to design the most decadent, moist cupcake that I can. 😉 Love your tips and tricks!

    • Jessie says

      I recommend baking cupcakes as soon as they’re mixed – there are some time-sensitive chemical reactions that take place when you mix cupcake batter (mostly between the acid and the leavening agents) and storing already mixed batter can mess with those reactions and alter the texture of your cupcake. If you need to do something in advance, I recommend measuring out and mixing some of the dry ingredients (like flour, sugar and salt), then keeping that mix in an airtight container until you’re ready to finish mixing the batter and bake the cupcakes. Hope that helps!

  2. says

    Thank you for the useful tips in baking cupcakes. I have a question though, why is that my cupcake surface is not brown when baked? I should I baked them at a high temperature, say, 190 degree ? Would that help? Thank you.

    • Jessie says

      I’m glad you found the tips helpful! Regarding the cupcake color, it’s hard to say without knowing what kind of recipe you’re using. If you’re baking vanilla or other light-colored cupcakes, the surface may not brown much at all, which is completely fine. Baking at too high a temperature can sometimes hurt more than help, because it’s easier to burn the cupcakes at higher temperatures. My best advice is to experiment with your recipe until you find out which adjustments give you the tastiest cupcake!

  3. Rachel says

    Thank you for your tips! The last time I made cupcakes, they were a bit dry. I only used 4oz butter and no vegetable oil. Some my baker friends suggested I add 2 tablespoon of oil, as well as add 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder both to my cupcake mix. Would you recommend that?

    • Jessie says

      It’s hard to say without knowing exactly what the makeup of your recipe is – I don’t use boxed cupcake mix, so I’m not sure how to doctor it up to taste more like homemade, but in my experience dry cupcakes do tend to benefit from adjusting the liquid to dry ingredient ratio (whether by adding additional fat like butter or oil or even just a bit of hot water). Dry cupcakes can also be caused by overbaking or by baking at too high of a temperature, or by leaving cupcakes out for too long after you take them out of the oven. My best advice is to keep trying different cupcake recipes until you find one that you love!

  4. Kathleen says

    My cupcakes always turn out very very light. What am I doing wrong.? I have read to bang pan on counter, don’t use mixes, etc… None of that helps. Any suggestions?

    • Jessie says

      I do find mixes to be a lot lighter than my homemade cakes – if you’ve already cut out mixes, my next thoughts would be to use richer, more flavorful ingredients: I like to use the strongest vanilla extract I can find (NOT imitation vanilla) and a good dutch process cocoa if you’re doing a chocolate cake. Also, using buttermilk (or even just mixing a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in with regular milk if a recipe calls for that) can add a nice depth of flavor to a cake. Past that, my next thought would be to just start shopping around for new cupcake recipes until you find one you like! Sometimes something as simple as adding extra vanilla extract or a bit of lemon zest to a cake can make a big difference, too – it takes a bit of trial and error but is always worth it in the end. Hope that helps – good luck!

  5. Krislene says


    I baked 12 cup cakes again today but unfortunately there is something wrong. I did replace the butter by margarine. Is that a problem?

    Thank you

    • Jessie says

      I generally don’t recommend replacing butter with margarine, because it just has a different chemical makeup that will affect how the cake turns out. If you had a problem using margarine, I’d try the recipe again with unsalted butter and see how it turns out! Hope that helps!

  6. Beau says


    I have started baking cup cakes for friends, i use butter in my mix and paper cases, i used to cook them @ 180c but found they were going like a volcano, so turned them down to 140c for a flatter top, a lasy told me to try using Stork as they will be lighter and fluffier but they keep seperating from the cases, so i have gone back to butter, i made a big batch using butter again but they seperated from the cases again, the kitchen was very warm!! how do you stop cakes from seperating?? HELP!!

  7. says


    If I bake a 30 cupcakes today and leave them in the box where they will be deliver and frost them tomorrow will they still be moist Saturday?
    Or do I need to individually wrap them today when the are cool and frost them tomorrow?

    • Jessie says

      As long as you let cupcakes cool completely and keep them in an airtight container (airtight is the key!) they should still be moist and ready to frost in a day or two. Hope that helps!

  8. Laura Nownes says

    Thank you so much for your helpful tips. I am making cupcakes for my daughters upcoming wedding and of course, want them to be wonderful! Several recipes, including your tips advise against using Dutch processed cocoa powered. I checked the Frontier Trade Cocoa Powder that you recommend only to see that it too is Dutch processed. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thank you in advance for your time and expertise.

    • Jessie says

      Hi Laura, I actually don’t advise against Dutch processed cocoa – I often use it in my recipes! I’m a big fan of that Frontier brand I listed. Click here for a great article on cocoa powders if you’d like to learn more.

    • Anon. Qy says


      I would definitely consider contacting them – who knows how much of your work they have been disguising as their own?(!)

  9. Jaime says

    When you make the batter for the cupcakes how long is it good for in the refrigerator? And also after you freeze the cupcakes and you want to defrost them what is the best way to do so?

    • Jessie says

      I tend not to keep cupcake batter in the fridge, because the chemical reaction between baking soda and the other ingredients only lasts for a short amount of time and refrigerating the batter can impact the influence of that reaction on the cupcake’s ability to rise. Basically, refrigerating the batter (rather than baking right away) can result in denser, not as tasty cupcakes. If you want to freeze cupcakes, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them WITHOUT frosting, then when you’re ready to use them let them come to room temperature, and then frost. Hope that helps!

    • Jessie says

      I recommend filling liners 2/3 of the way full – I can’t say exactly how many tablespoons that is, but you could definitely measure it out if you like! If you don’t have a scoop, eyeballing it until the liners are each 2/3 of the way full generally works fine for me. Hope that helps!

  10. Bernice Moroney says

    Thank you for sharing your talent. My question is why are my cupcakes flattening out and looking like mushrooms not a nice raised top?

    • Jessie says

      This could be a few different things – I would first check that you have enough leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder) to help the cupcakes rise. Having too little leavening agent can prevent the cupcakes from forming a nice raised top. Try adding a bit more baking soda or powder to the batter (my recipes usually call for 2-3 teaspoons) and see if that makes a difference. It could also be that the cupcakes aren’t baking long enough to let the structure set, and the tops are falling as a result. If that’s the case, I’d try experimenting with different oven temperatures and cooking time until you get the result you want. I hope that helps!

  11. Rhoda says

    I appreciate your tips. I’m making cupcakes for a noon office party and want them to present well. Should quickly frost them at work before I put them out on the serving plate? Also, do you have any tips about using cupcake wrappers?

    • Jessie says

      If you frost them in the morning before you go to work and store them in an airtight container (use a tall enough container so that the frosting doesn’t get squished down) you should be fine! No need to rush through frosting at work if you won’t have the time. I like using wrappers, because they make the cupcakes easier to handle (especially when you’re transporting them to a party) and add a nice, festive touch! I bake cupcakes in single wrappers, but sometimes will put the baked cupcakes in an additional wrapper (like you see in some of the cupcake pictures on my site) to make them stand out a little bit more. It’s totally up to you! I tend to choose either Wilton cupcake wrappers (only the big/standard size though – I find their small wrappers tend to stick together a little too much) or generic brands at the grocery store. Hope that helps!

      • Brandy says

        Do you spray the liners with any sort of non-stick spray? I always worry that foregoing this step will result in cupcakes completely stuck to the liners. Any tips for that?!?

        • Jessie says

          I don’t spray my cupcake liners. As far as cupcakes getting stuck, I recommend just trying a bunch of different liner brands until you find some that you like. Different cupcake recipes will stick more than others, too, so it’s really a lot of trial and error to find the combo that works best for you. Hope that helps!

  12. Audrey :) says

    Hi! I really need help on my cupcakes since, everytime I bake cupcakes it turns out dense. I made 7 batches already and it turns out dense. First 5 batches are with the same recipe. The sixth and seventh batch with different recipe. For the seventh batch, my mom told me to mix it a looong time, and I think it is overmixing. While overmixing it, I put a bit of baking powder and when my mom saw it, she was satisfied with the results. After baking, my mom said I can’t bake cupcakes anymore because I made the same mistakes 7 times. I also used a microwave oven for all 7 batches. I really need your help! What did I do wrong???

    • Jessie says

      The microwave oven is probably the culprit here – it “cooks” things with radiation rather than with heat, which will give you a very different end result. Try baking the cupcakes in a regular oven and follow recipe directions for temperature and cook time and that should help solve the problem. Good luck!

  13. Mariel says

    Thank you for the advice and tips! :) In these tips, I never ever tried to freeze my cupcake, I’m scared it may affect it’s fluffiness, although it must be thawed before serving. I was thinking that maybe it’ll be as hard as rock.

  14. Jess says

    Thankyou for the tips , there really helpful :)
    I made some cupcakes today but they turned out rubbish and flat :(
    But hopefully next time they will be good :)

  15. Ameera says

    I am SO impatient when I am baking! My cupcakes have NEVER turned out nice and moist. Thanks for your tips. They really helped 😀

  16. c says

    Any tips on storing cupcakes ahead of time? I have to make 50 cupcakes by Friday. Since I will be working late Thursday night I thought about making some of the cupcakes Wednesday night. My plan was to frost them and put them in an air tight Tupperware container. I will have to add more cupcakes to the container on Thursday night too. Do you think they will still be moist and ok by Friday?

  17. says

    I wish I would have read this before I overmixed my batter for my first time ever Pumpkin Cupcakes:(…boo(thanks for listening to the elders,they know what they are talking about when it comes to cooking:)…L..from Indiana

  18. Fatiha Soufan says

    The article was very interesting and I learned a lot from it.
    But how can I avoid the “muffin top” look from happening with my cupcakes?

    • Jessie says

      The muffin-top can happen when cupcake liners are over-filled – I recommend filling them no more than 2/3 of the way full.

  19. Pradnya says

    Hi, I am going to bake 24 cupcakes for my LO’s birthday this week. The party is on sat night. So I plan to bake cupcakes on thurs or fri and ice it on friday. Icing will have a milk or cream. So how do I store it :( I am in a dilemma. I have never done icing for my cakes in detail in advance. This time am also planning to bake and ice the birthday cake. I am freaking out on the storage aspect. Please help.

    • Jessie says

      If it’s just for a day or so, you can store the frosted cupcakes on the counter (but three-day-old cake at room temperature will get a little heavy and won’t taste as fresh). When I have to make them in advance of a party, I like to keep the iced cupcakes in the fridge and let them come back to room temperature just before I’m ready to serve. Hope that helps!

  20. Alisha says

    I need help!

    I have this amazing vanilla cake recipe but have a problem..
    Originally i thought it was my oven and i guess it still could be (its a gas oven), The bottoms of some of the cupcakes don’t necessarily burn but they are a lot darker and chewier then the rest of the cupcake (Tops and center, turn out perfect!).
    Im not sure if this has to do with the recipe or the oven because i have tried lowering the temp, setting cupcake pans on top of cookie sheets and that has helped but not as much as i would like.
    I end up throwing 4 or 5 cupcakes out of each batch because of this!
    Anyone have this similar problem?
    Any help would be much appreciated!!

  21. cupcake crazy girl says

    YOU’RE WEBSITE IS SUPER HELPFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’TS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW CUPCAKE CRAZY I AM.(MY CUPCAKES TAKE YOU FARTHER THEN HEAVEN) MY CUPCAKES ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Divya says

    Hi! Loved Ur tips. They r indeed very helpful. I have been trying my hand in baking cup cakes these days:), but I always encounter a problem. My first batch of cup cakes come out quite soft and fluffy at 180 deg cel for 10 minutes. But wen I put in the second batch for the same time and at the same temperature they become hard ( good enough to be used as cricket balls). Can u pls guide me regarding it. Since my oven is small I have to bake in two batches. Thank u so much. Looking forward to hear from u.

  23. Carter says

    How long do you cook 12 cupcakes I’m a starter and don’t want to mess my cupcakes up cause they are a going away present for my friend thanks!!

    • Chantel says

      I would say twenty minutes, towards the last four minutes check the cupcakes by sticking a tooth pick in it, if it comes out clean then your cupcakes are done; if not then leave the cupcakes in the oven for the remaining time. * depending on how uncooked your cupcakes are you may need to add more time after the four minutes. for example, if your tooth pick is coated with a lot of cupcake batter, then you might need to add 5-7 minutes (always start with least amount of time if unsure.) if the cupcake batter is slightly coated or there’s cupcake crums mixed with batter caoting then you might need to only add 3-5 minutes. I hope that helped. if not, then i’m sorry

    • Chantel says

      I forgot to mention, how large are your cupcakes? the larger the cupcakes the more time will be needed to bake them. If there minis then probably 10-12 minutes, standard size/ or medium size probably 16-20 minutes and large or jumbo probably 18-23 minutes. I guess what i’m really trying to know is, if your making cupcakes from starch or if your using a store bought cake batter mix? with making cupcakes from stratch there are a lot of different factors that determine the baking time, where as store bought usually has a twenty minutes baking time.

    • Jessie says

      Most cupcake recipes will include baking instructions – if so, follow those instructions and you should be fine. If you don’t have baking instructions, I generally recommend baking at 375 for 12-15 minutes for standard size cupcakes, then testing their doneness with a toothpick (toothpick will come out clean when cupcakes are done) and adding more time (2 minutes or so at a time before testing with a toothpick again) as necessary.

  24. Lisa Guglielmina says

    Thank you for these helpful tips! Someday, I will master the cupcake and bake a perfect batch. Until then, I’ll keep searching for tips and trying.

  25. Katie says

    I don’t normally have issues with cupcakes, but I made mini’s for the first time tonight and the weirdest thing happened! There was about 1/4 of an inch in the bottom of the liner that was EMPTY! With the liners on, they looked perfect. But as soon as I unwrapped one to test, it was missing almost half of what should have been there?! I have heard of cakes falling, but this is like a “reverse fall”. Any insight?

    • Jessie says

      Whoa! Crazy. I’ve never seen that either – I have no idea what might have caused it. I’ll poke around Google and a few of my books and see if I can find anything that might explain it!

  26. Carol Hetzel says

    Hi Jessie,
    I truly enjoyed reading your article, it’s good to see somebody who knows what it’s like to make and enjoy homemade from scratch. Nothing else compares. I’ve been baking for years, but recently have been having my cakes come out sunken a lot of the times. I’m very careful measuring, mixing, even trying to ensure my ingredients are not too cold. Do you have any ideas about what might be causing this? I know that my oven is very old, and even though I left it on extra long to ensure it was hot enough before I put the cakes in, there’s a possibility that it may not be consistently holding the temp, or could it be something has changed with the ingredients. I try to use quality ingredients, Swans Down Cake Flour, pure vanilla, real butter, etc. I’m wondering if the butter is the same as it used to be, given that so many things are now getting skimped on and could you recommend a brand that might work the best. After all these years of baking and suddenly feeling like a failure, I’m pulling my hair out trying to figure out what is going wrong.

    • Jessie says

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the post! As far as your question, I would definitely start by getting a good oven thermometer and using it to monitor whether your oven is working correctly. They’re fairly cheap and easy to find, and they can be lifesavers for cooks with older ovens! If the oven isn’t the problem, you might try baking the cakes a little longer in the oven (sometimes they sink because the center hasn’t fully cooked and isn’t strong enough to support the weight of the cake yet) or experiment with different oven temperatures to see if you get a different result. Cake can also sink when it’s left in the pan after being removed from the oven – let it cool in the pan for no more than a few minutes before removing it to a wire rack for cooling. Hope that helps!

  27. Honey says

    Hey Jessie !

    I just want to know why it is that each time I bake cupcakes, they taste so different to everybody else’s! They aren’t fresh and moist even though I follow the recipe to the letter. They aren’t nice and spongy like everyone else’s that I taste…

    What can I do?!
    Any tricks…?

    • Jessie says

      It’s hard to say without seeing your recipe or being in the kitchen with you. My advice is to just keep trying new cupcakes recipes until you find one you love!

  28. anna says

    i’ve been looking for ways to make cupcakes more moist and fluffy and overall to make better cupcakes; this helped so much!

  29. says

    U make really good cupcakes i love to bake cake or cupcakes but i love the pictures that u put up but in my school i am in the program pre teaching but i don’t want to be a teacher no more i want to be a baker now !!! :)

  30. lilian says

    Hi jessie, thx for this wonderful website n beautiful pictures n tips. Was trying to bake banana muffins for the first time. They came out hard, not soft n fluffy.
    1. Is it ok to just use self raising flour when normal flour, baking soda n baking powder are called for?
    2. After reading your tips, will learn not to overmix n use all ingredients at room temperature n not directly from the fridge.
    3. To use a mixer or not is the next concern.
    Hope u can advise.
    lilian from Singapore

    • Jessie says

      I never use self-rising flour – I find it alters the consistency of baked goods. I definitely recommend sticking to the recipe, especially when it comes to the leavening agents (baking soda, baking powder, etc.). I almost always use a mixer when I bake, and I find that as long as you keep an eye on the batter (don’t just walk away and leave it mixing and forget about it) it turns out just as well as hand-mixed.

  31. Ariel says

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve always been rubbish at baking. I’ve learned the Italian way – eyeball everything and hope for the best! But I shall take these tips to heart!!

  32. Elle says

    just started baking as a beginner and loving your tips!! Baked my first bath of vanilla cupcakes today but sadly came out burnt, edible insides though. Any guess on why it ended up burnt? I’m thinking temperature, had it in at 180 degrees for 20mins on highest rack. Thanks!

    • Jessie says

      I’m assuming it was at 180 celsius? Otherwise there is no way they would have burned! :) It’s always best to cook cupcakes on one rack in the center of the oven, for more even heat distribution. There are a few reasons the cupcakes could have burned: first, they may have just baked too long. Baking times can vary by batch, batter consistency, and cupcake size. I recommend checking in on them (with an oven light, not by opening the oven) every five minutes or so. When they’ve risen and look pretty solid, that’s a good time to check them with a toothpick (usually 10-15 minutes into the baking process for most of my cupcakes). If the toothpick comes out clean, they’re done! If not, bake three more minutes at a time until they’re cooked through. Another reason for burning could be the heat distribution in your oven, or possibly an inaccurate temperature reading. An oven thermometer can help see if that’s the problem. Keeping a close eye on the cupcakes next time you bake them can help you pinpoint when they start to burn, and from there you can make oven temperature or cupcake size adjustments to help alleviate the problem. Good luck!

  33. Leslie says

    Wow, these tips are very helpful. Thanks. Beautiful pictures. Will try your recipes. Hopefully I will be a better baker following your tips. I am a beginner. You are a good teacher, love your post.

  34. Sara says

    Hi, thanks for the advices, they are really useful.
    I have a question: how much time Do I have to pre heat the oven before I put the cupcakes in and at what temperature?.


    • Jessie says

      It depends on your oven and on the cupcake recipe you are using. Ovens can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to heat up – some will beep or let you know when they’re preheated. If not, I recommend an oven thermometer to help you gauge the temperature. I generally bake cupcakes at 350 or 375, but read the recipe you’re using for specific instructions.

    • Rachel says

      My “who are you” question is facetious really. On the internet it comes off more rude though, so I just wanted to clarify that what I meant by that is you are my new cupcake guru. I love cupcakes, but I haven’t found anything up to snuff at the many “gourmet” and fancy cupcake shops in Toronto. They are all too dense and the icing is never that great – more sickening than delish most of the time. Nothing as fluffy and delicious as Craves in Calgary anyway, so I want to make my own to satisfy my cravings and gift pretty creations to my friends. So thanks, because your tips really are AWESOME.

  35. Harriet says

    Made 24 devils food cupcakes. 12 were in paper liners 12 were directly in greased muffin tin. The 12 in paper liners were cracked on top. Curious. Would like to know why.

    • Jessie says

      My guess is the liners affected the heat distribution differently than those cupcakes that were just in the pan. The liners may have caused those cupcakes to bake at a slightly higher temperature (or, depending on how you had the pan(s) set up in the oven, the oven itself could be the culprit).

  36. says

    I love this post and your site! I’m definitely going to reading the whole cupcake series. 😉 I’m planning on posting my own cupcake recipes on my site I appreciate you sharing your knowledge!

  37. sue atherton says

    Can you tell me why my cupcake cases always come away from the cakes?
    I was told my mixture had too much butter, or too wet. Tried both. No joy!
    Also told oven too hot or not hot enough. Also tried. Yet again no joy.

    • Jessie says

      Honestly, I’ve looked for years for a “real” solution to this problem, but I keep coming back to the liners themselves. Different liners interact with different types of batter in different ways, so there’s no universal solution. Some liners are great with really moist cakes, some are a lot better suited to denser cakes. It’s totally hit or miss. The best advice I can give is to try a lot of different liners with your go-to cake recipes, find your favorite liner brand, and then stock up! I have really good luck with the large Wilton liners – but their mini cupcake liners haven’t worked well for me in the past. I also have good luck with generic supermarket liner brands for the most part – but again, it’s a lot of trial and error. I stick to the same cake recipes most of the time, and the exact same recipe baked in three different liner brands can often come out three different ways. If you’re having trouble with liners sticking to the cake, foil liners or liners with some wax coating might be worth a try, since they stick less to the surface of the cake. Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you! But what I DO know is that if you have a great recipe, the liners are what should change – not your delicious cake!

  38. anna wong says

    Thank you for your awesome tips! This was a awesome tip guide! I was wondering if you can give me some tips guidance. I been trying alot of different cupcakes from different cupcake shops. I notice some cupcakes taste more like a pound cake, heavier touch. While some cupcake shops have lighter cupcakes, more fluffy. Can you explain to me so i can have a better understanding of how i can reach a more pound cake type of cake vs a lighter fluffy cake. I personally perfer the pound cake type of taste for cupcakes. It just feels like your getting your money worth. Please guide!

    • Jessie says

      It really depends on the recipe – you may just have to experiment until you find a few that you like! Heavier, denser cupcakes will often have a higher fat content – butter, chocolate, milk, eggs, etc. – than their lighter counterparts. A lot of boxed cakes are lighter and airier (and, in my opinion, less delicious) than from-scratch cakes because they use water and oil and an egg or two instead of butter or milk or heavier ingredients. So the first step would be to look for recipes with butter and eggs in them if you like a little bit denser cake. Cupcakes can also get dense when the batter is overmixed – but that’s less of a pound cake consistency and more of a tough, unpleasant consistency. If you want to try some recipes, my Lemon Vanilla Cupcakes and White Chocolate Confetti cake both have a heavier touch that you might like. So does the butterscotch cake I posted awhile ago. I wouldn’t say they’re quite pound cake density, but they definitely have some substance to them that I don’t often find with boxed or store-bought cake. Another reason some stores don’t always use a high fat content is because it’s more expensive – they can make a better profit charging a markup on cheaper ingredients instead of expensive inputs like butter, eggs, and chocolate. Hope that helps!

  39. Mercy says

    I loooooved your article, thanks for all the great tips.
    My issue is that sometimes my cupcakes come out too dense. I’m working on some white choc and macadamia and I don’t know whether I should be using a whisk or my mixer? Is it ok to use the mixer for the brown sugar and eggs & get that nice and fluffy and then fold in the rest of the ingredients by hand?
    Also does adding cooled melted chocolate and butter to the rest of the ingredients more likely to make the cupcake dense?
    Would it be better to omit that and fold white chocolate chip bits by hand??

    Any help would be great :)

    • Jessie says

      I’m glad you liked the article! It’s definitely ok to use a mix of mixer and hand folding methods, but in my experience the method of mixing is less important than just making sure the ingredients aren’t over mixed. Mixing by hand can make it easier to tell when everything is incorporated, but with a bit of practice it’s easy enough to tell when to stop mixing with a mixer as well. If you’re working with white chocolate, that might have something to do with the density, actually – white chocolate has high fat and sugar content, so you often have to adjust/decrease the amounts of sugar and butter or milk in a cake recipe to allow for the white chocolate’s richness. If melted white chocolate is just added to a good vanilla cake recipe, all that extra fat and sugar can make it a bit dense. If you’re experimenting with cake and cupcake recipe development, I HIGHLY recommend The Cake Bible and How Baking Works. They both go in-depth into the science of baking, which can be a little dense but is ultimately SO helpful for recipe developers who work with cake.

  40. kat says

    If I frost my cupcake the night/day before a big event, wouldnt the frosting be crusty? I want the fresh touch of frosting like how I would get it from a store. What recipe will do that for me? HELP

    • Jessie says

      When I frost my cupcakes early, I store them in airtight tupperware bins at room temperature as soon as they’re frosted until I’m ready to serve them. Usually that does the trick. Stores generally use whipped buttercream frosting – beat a lot of air into your buttercream with a whisk or electric mixer to keep the frosting light and fluffy. Good luck!

  41. Nomah says

    ThanQ so much for the tips :) . One question, when baking muffins, should I choose the option of both the top rail and bottom rail to be on, as in where the heat comes from, or I should choose the bottom option only. When I switch both the top part and bottom part on, my muffins burn on top, and when I choose the bottom part only, the heat seems to be not distributed thoroughly,they will come out with a funny shape, please help

    • Jessie says

      It depends on your oven and how close each rack is to the top and bottom of the oven. I keep one rack in my oven in the very center at all times, and when I need two racks, I put them as close together as I can in the centermost two rack slots in the oven. My oven distributes heat pretty evenly, so I generally don’t have a problem with cupcakes burning. I also only have baking heat emanating from the bottom of my oven; the top heating coil is just the broiler (I think most ovens, if not all, are made that way). Definitely don’t turn on the broiler when baking cupcakes! If the oven is burning the cupcakes, though, I’d suggest trying only one rack in your oven in the centermost position it can be in and seeing if that helps. If you need to use two racks, I’d switch the muffin pans to the other rack about 2/3 of the way through their baking time and see if that made a difference. Unfortunately, there’s no magic combination I know of about where to put pans when – it takes some trial and error to figure out each oven. I’d suggest doing a test – bake one or two cupcakes at a time and switch up the rack position/which heating coil you use for each mini-batch, then see which arrangement produces the best cupcakes. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  42. Kevin says

    Ms. Jessie

    Thanks for article.. it is really cool. I am just starting out on making cupcake.. I am really a novice and wants to start making some great edible and hum cupcake.. but don’t where to start.. I am getting all the tools.

    My question, since I am starting out, is better to do like you just indicate and make mixes from scrath or buy cook mix? Is making cupcake easy?

    Thanks. I am looking forward to more of your newsletter

    • Jessie says

      I always prefer to make cake from scratch – I just think it can’t be beat! But if time is an issue or you’re just more comfortable cooking with a mix when you’re starting out, that’s totally fine too! These tips apply to both from-scratch and mix cupcakes.

  43. Blaze says

    Wow I could never make a perfect cupcake! I’m great at frosting but it doesn’t go well with my lop sided cupcakes XD. Anyways thank you so much for these tips all the other websites didn’t give me any help at all.

  44. ivy says

    I always watch my mom do her magic in the kitchen whether it is cooking a meal or baking cupcakes. I can never bake cupcake as tasty as hers. Fortunately for me, I found your website and it helped me a lot with my baking skills. I must admit, I made a lot of errors and that explains why my cakes taste awful. Thank you again for your tips. Well done on the layout and design of your webpage, it is very neat and informative.

  45. Winnie Nguyen (@huuynie) says

    Thank you Jessie for these lovely tips. I am learning baking so your tips are definitely helpful. Last week I tried to bake choc-chip cupcakes and it was failed. I think the main reason were over-mixing the batter and missing some ingredients. Honestly, it quite hard to identify when the flour is ready for beginners (like me ^^). So, could you please share some tips on this ???.
    Moreover, the tips about frost the whole cupcake to retain moisture is fantastic. Last two days, I baked banana cupcakes for my university group meeting and they were dry out (unfortunately) since I had to bake them 1 day before and I didn’t frost them ☹.

    • Jessie says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Overmixing the batter is definitely tricky – I still mess it up sometimes! The trick is to beat ingredients together at a relatively low speed until the ingredients are JUST incorporated. It’s mostly important during the phase where you add eggs and flour to the batter, because the egg whites and gluten in the flour, if they get too agitated, can end up toughening a cake. I like to alternate adding the flour in a recipe with any milk, water, or oil called for – a little bit of flour, mix for a second or two, then a little bit of milk, and mix just until the flour absorbs the milk and is pulled into the rest of the batter. Then repeat until it’s all been mixed in! If you watch the mixture carefully and don’t leave a stand mixer running while you do other things, you should be fine! Hope that helps :)

  46. Scott says

    When you say frost the whole cupcakes does that even mean the bottom? Just joking with you! Some really good tips and informative blog, just wondering whether the bake in the centre of your oven tip still apply’s to fan forced ovens?

    • Jessie says

      I tell people to bake in the center of an oven regardless of what type of oven it is. It’s just a good habit to get into, I think, even if it won’t always have a profound effect on the end result. If you’re cooking in a fan forced or convection oven, though, keep an eye on the cupcakes, because those ovens tend to cook things a bit faster which can result in dryness and overcooking. I’d recommend checking the cupcakes 3-5 minutes before the suggested cooking time is up, just to avoid drying them out. Hope that helps!

    • Jessie says

      Cupcakes usually rise due to a reaction caused by baking soda or baking powder. You can read my article on the rising properties of each here:

      Cupcakes will last up to a week, but they should really be eaten within a day or two for maximum freshness and flavor. Frost them as soon as they’re cooled to keep the cake moist, and store cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter for up to 48 hours or in the fridge to preserve freshness. Hope that helps!

  47. Whitney says

    I found this blog really informative. I was already aware of a lot of these tips, but I did not know the reasoning behind them. Thanks so much for explaining it.

    You mentioned that ingredients should be at room temperature before using them. If the butter is not a room temperature is it okay to put it in the microwave for a few seconds?

    • Jessie says

      Hi Whitney,

      I often microwave my butter a bit if it isn’t quite soft enough. The trick is to microwave it on the lowest possible power level (I use 1 or 2) for 10 seconds at at time, and to poke it in between each round to make sure it hasn’t gotten to the liquid-melted consistency.

    • Jessie says

      You CAN use salted butter, but I recommend cutting back on the salt called for in the recipe if you do. I like unsalted because it gives me full control over the salt content of the finished product. You can use vegetable oil if you’d like, but it can be tricky – you’ll have to use slightly less oil than the butter it calls for, and you may have to compensate with slightly more flour in order to achieve the same consistency. I recommend sticking with butter if the recipe calls for it, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience eyeballing cupcake recipes. Hope that helps!

  48. krystyna says

    Hi Jessie
    Thanks for the useful tips. The biggest problem I have is that the cupcake cases come away from the cupcakes as they cool. No one seems to be able to tell me why this might be….. any ideas?

    • Jessie says

      Hi Krystyna,

      Honestly, in my experience the biggest determinant of whether the cake will pull away from the liners is the liners themselves! When I use thinner (read: cheap-o) liners, I tend to have that problem. I’ve had good luck with the Wilton liners, though. Apart from that, one thing you can do is immediately take the cupcakes out of the pans when they come out of the oven. If they stay in a hot pan too long, they can steam, and that can cause them to pull away from the paper too. Hope that helps!

  49. says

    Hi there
    THank you so much for this blog so helpful!

    You say if your oven has hotspots then turn your cupcakes once they have set a bit roughly half way through but you also say to not open the oven – so whats the rule with this? Turn them as quick as you can, without slamming the door?

    • Jessie says

      Hi Lauren,

      I’m glad you like the post! If you have to turn your cupcakes, wait until about 2/3 of the way through the cooking time, and then move quickly without slamming the oven door. After about 2/3 of the time, the cupcakes’ structure will be relatively rigid and won’t be as susceptible to structural issues, so that’s the best time to turn pans if you need to.

  50. says

    Jessie, I work rather created, we love your work. We will be watching all your new publications. Congratulations on your good taste.
    Greetings from Spain.


  1. […] If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice I bake a lot.  I’ve actually been asked “what’s the secret”.  There IS no secret, it’s all about using quality ingredients, knowing what you’re doing, and taking the time to do it right.   For the knowing what you’re doing part : Cupcakes 101: 10 Tips to Bake the Perfect Cupcake […]

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