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.
- 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.
- 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
Cupcakes are easy to bake, but little tips and tricks will help you make the best batches. Here are a dozen rules of thumb — plus a bonus one — for how to bake like a pro.