Baking is a science as well as an art. Most of us have found out the hard way that you can’t just guess a cupcake recipe. From adding too much baking powder to over-mixing your batter, any slight alterations can make all the difference between a flawless cupcake and a totally botched bake. But have you ever wondered why those magic numbers in your recipe book work while our made up ones don’t?
Understanding how your cupcakes are cooking can take you from being a good baker to a great baker. Many common cake baking issues can be resolved by simply learning how and why these problems might have happened. Since baking is a science, most cupcake related failures will have an explanation and, more often than not, a surprisingly easy solution.
So bakers, get your best aprons and lab coats on and read on to start your journey to cupcake perfection!
Measurements are one thing that are not to be messed with when following a cupcake recipe. Precision in measuring gives you consistent results so taking those extra few minutes to measure out all your ingredients before baking are worth it. After a whole lot of trial of error, bakers discovered a few ratios that need to be honoured in any successful cupcake recipe. The weight of the sugar must be equal to or less than the flour, and the eggs and liquids (milk or water) must be equal to the flour. If using baking powder, this should work out as one teaspoon per cup of flour.
Adding too much sugar can lead to crumbly cupcakes, too many eggs will make them rubbery and too much flour will make them dry. The long and short of it? Stick to the measurements, bakers!
When making cupcakes you will, of course, be using ingredients that are kept the fridge. However, it’s important that you bring them down to a room temperature before using them. If you add your eggs and milk to your bowl straight out the fridge they will not mix with your other ingredients quite as smoothly as they should. This means you might be left with a clumpy mixture which could cause your cupcakes to be dense rather than light and fluffy. It’s even more crucial that you do not use cold butter, simply because it requires more mixing from you in order to break it down and will lead to your batter being over-mixed, which can cause problems of its own!
High quality ingredients are an absolute must for cupcakes. Use reputable brands for your flavourings such as Nielsen Massey and Sugar & Crumbs. Poor quality food colouring can also affect your cupcake batter and icing so make sure you pick a brand that won’t affect the flavouring or consistency of your bakes such as Colour Splash. High quality ingredients mean high quality cupcakes.
Over-mixing is one of the most common technique mistakes people make when baking and can have a pretty negative effect on your cupcakes. Over-mixing your cupcake batter crushes too many air bubbles, leaving you with a dense sponge. On the other hand, under-mixing your cake can be equally as detrimental! Under-mixing can prevent the sponge from setting correctly, making it flaky and crumbly. Keep your cupcakes yummy by mixing your ingredients until they have just combined.
Folding in your ingredients is also a great way to avoid knocking air out your batter and is essential for when you are adding light mixtures (egg whites or cream) to heavier mixtures (chocolate). Use a flexible spatula and repeatedly fold from the bottom of the bowl over the top for best results. Finally, for a super moist cupcake, always remember to completely cover the surface of your cupcake with buttercream or icing. This will act as a seal and will help your cupcakes retain their moisture for a lot longer.
Preheat your oven! Yes it sounds obvious but putting cupcakes in the oven before it is at the right temperature can ruin the whole process. Once you oven has heated up, make sure you bake your cupcakes in the centre of the oven to even out heat distribution and prevent the sides of your cupcakes from overbaking. And, no matter how tempting it may be, don’t open the oven door until they’re finished! This can cause fragile air bubbles in the batter to burst and disrupt the structure of the cupcakes as they bake, ruining your chances of light, fluffy sponge.
Once your cupcakes are out the oven, be mindful of how long you leave them in the baking tray for. The heat in the tray can over cook them if left too long and cause them to dry out. Taking them straight out, however, can make them lose their shape and cause the cupcake cases to peel away. For best results, leave them in the baking tray for 2 to 3 minutes before removing – we promise it’s worth it.
So there you have it, the science behind the perfect cupcake! We hope these little tips will come in useful during your next baking adventure and help you to create the cupcake of your dreams! Check out our Facebook page for regular baking advice or to ask us any questions you might have!
Happy baking! 🙂