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5 Ways to Ruin Homemade Cupcakes

Cupcakes and other petite baked confections are well-loved worldwide–especially here in the US. Everyone adores them, and they’re the perfect addition to any event, from birthdays to office parties! On the road to baking the perfect batch of cupcakes, you might find a few bumps along the way – and these are those bumps. Here are a few things well-meaning bakers do to ruin perfectly good cupcakes. Make sure to avoid these baking blunders the next time you make a homemade batch!

1) Using warm butter rather than “room-temperature” butter
“Room temperature” butter is approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When you make cupcakes from scratch, you need butter to be the right temperature so that the dough can rise the right amount and be mixed in thoroughly. When it’s too warm, it mixes in too quickly and changes the texture of the cupcakes. To get the butter’s temperature right, it’s best to take it right out of the fridge and let it defrost in the microwave for about 10 seconds.

2) Not knowing the temperature of your oven
This is one of the most common (and most frequently undetected issues) for at-home bakers. While an ideal oven would always carry even heat throughout without hot spots or anything, many ovens function at less than ideal levels. To test how hot your oven is cooking, and if it has hot spots, line the middle rack of your oven with slices of bread and bake them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes to see how the pieces cook. If you have some spots that are burned and such, remember them, and rotate and bake your goods accordingly. If the whole tray gets burned, it may be that your oven just cooks hotter all around, and if it’s barely toasted at all, it may be too cool.

3) Making unwise substitutions
Many chefs like to get creative in the kitchen, but while substituting herbs and spice in a recipe can be great – baking is not usually that forgiving. To get your foods to rise properly and have the right textures, you need to have the right ingredients in a fairly delicate balance. If you would like to make substitutions, these are a few great emergency substitutions you can use, but otherwise substituting things in a baking recipe is a bad idea because it disrupts the underlying chemistry of the dish!

4) Baking too long
Cupcakes are very delicate given their size and higher exposed surface area.  Baking them for even a little too long can cause them to dry out very quickly. If the recipe says 30 minutes, check them at 25 minutes with a toothpick just to check how they’re doing. Once the tester comes out clean, it’s time to take them out of the oven, since residual heat will continue cooking them anyway.

5) Letting them sit too long in the pan
If you leave your baked cupcakes in their hot pan for too long, you’re likely to end up with soggy cupcake wrappers and overcooked cake! After you take them out of the oven, wait 10 minutes and remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin – otherwise they will absorb too much liquid and become wet.

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Photo Credits: Teacup and Cupcakes, Martha Stewart

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