Bake a Better Cupcake

Food Network Magazine made more than 1,750 cupcakes while working on 50 Cupcakes! Here's what the editors learned.

  • Use room-temperature butter: Cut it into pieces and let sit one hour, or microwave in five-second intervals.
  • Measure flour by spooning it into a measuring cup and then leveling it with a knife. Do not pack the flour.
  • Check the expiration dates on your baking soda and baking powder. To test for freshness, add a pinch to vinegar; it should bubble.
  • Use parchment or foil nonstick liners for batters with mix-ins like chocolate chips. The chips can stick to paper liners.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Each cup should be no more than two-thirds full.
  • Let cupcakes cool five minutes in the pans, then remove to a rack. If they're left in the pans, they may dry out.

Decorating Tips

  • To tint frosting, use gel food coloring — it's more concentrated than liquid, so you can use less (and it won't thin your frosting).
  • Spread the frosting on the cupcakes right after you mix it — it starts to harden as it sits.
  • Use disposable pastry bags or zip-top bags for piping. You don't need a tip — just snip the corner.
  • To make fun swirls and swoops in the frosting, use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.

Make-Ahead Tips

  • You can bake cupcakes up to two days ahead; arrange them (unfrosted) on a baking sheet, wrap the whole sheet with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Frost before serving.
  • To freeze, arrange unfrosted cupcakes on a baking sheet and wrap the whole sheet in plastic wrap, then in foil. Freeze up to three months. Thaw at room temperature before unwrapping.
Photographs by Ryan Dausch