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How to Make Cupcakes

Anyone can make cupcakes – even if you have never baked before. Here’s everything you need to know to get started making cupcakes from scratch for birthdays, parties, or any day!


What Supplies Do You Need to Make Cupcakes?

Cupcake batter in a cupcake tin

To make cupcakes, you’ll need a muffin tin and cupcake liners. Muffin tins typically hold 12 cupcake liners.

You can also use baking cups which stand up on their own. If you use baking cups, you’ll need a cookie sheet instead of a muffin tin.

It’s also important to have the following when baking cupcakes:

  • Mixing bowls (If you don’t have a set of mixing bowls, you can use any large bowl.)
  • Measuring cups and spoons or a food scale. Most American recipes are written using measuring cups and spoons, but if you are following a recipe written outside of the United States, you’ll need a scale.

It’s really nice to have an electric mixer, especially if you plan to make homemade frosting for your cupcakes. Stand mixers like those made by KitchenAid are the easiest to use, but you can buy an electric hand mixer for about thirty dollars if you are a beginner baker.

Finally, you will need an oven.

If you are just getting started with baking, see my post on baking tools for the short list of what I consider to be the essentials for a new baker.

How to Make Cupcakes

To make cupcakes, you can either use a cake mix or make cupcakes from scratch. I always recommend baking from scratch for the best results.

First, look through the recipe and gather the ingredients you need. Measure them all out in advance to make sure that you have everything you need. This is called mise en place.

Pear Cake Ingredients

Typically, recipes call for all ingredients to be at room temperature, so make sure to plan a little bit in advance to give your butter, eggs, and and dairy in the recipe time to warm up. (Tip: If you forget to warm the butter in advance, you can warm it in the microwave for about ten seconds until your finger can easily make a dent in it but it isn’t mushy.)

Follow the recipe instructions exactly for the best results. Once you get better at making cupcakes, you can experiment with making small changes.

Important Cupcake Baking Terms and What They Mean

  • Cream the butter and sugar – This means to mix the butter and sugar together until they become light and fluffy. If you are using an electric mixer, do this on high speed for about three minutes.

Butter and sugar mixed in stand mixer

  • Whisk together – This means to use the whisk attachment on your electric mixer or to simply use a whisk. If you don’t own a whisk, you can also use a fork to whisk. The goal of whisking wet ingredients like eggs is to incorporate air into them. For mixtures of wet and/or dry ingredients, whisking makes sure they are fully combined and evenly distributed.

Whisking eggs, sour cream, and vanilla

  • Sift together – To sift ingredients, you can either use a sifter or a sieve. The goal of sifting is to remove any clumps in your dry ingredients. If your ingredients are nice and smooth, you may be able to skip this step in a recipe.

Sieve with dry ingredients including cocoa powder being sifted

  • Mix until just combined – If the recipe says to mix until just combined, do exactly as it says. Overmixing the batter can cause the cupcakes to come out rubbery.
  • Fold in – When a recipe says to fold in ingredients, carefully dump the ingredients on top of your batter. Then, reach your spatula under the batter and fold it gently over the ingredients on top. Repeat until the new ingredients are fully integrated into the batter.

folding egg whites into tres leches cake batter

Abbreviations Sometimes Used in Recipes

You may see the following abbreviations used when looking at a cupcake recipe:

  • t or tsp = teaspoon
  • T or tbsp = tablespoon
  • C = cup
  • oz = ounce
  • lb = pound

How to Fill Cupcake Liners

Chocolate cupcake batter on a red disher

Using an ice cream scoop with a lever (otherwise known as a disher) to push to batter out is the easiest way to fill cupcake liners. It works great! Whatever you have on hand is great, but if you want to buy some special dishers for the task, I recommend:

Get more details in my post about how to fill cupcake liners.

How High To Fill Cupcake Liners

Strawberry cupcakes ready to be baked

This varies by cupcake recipe. I STRONGLY recommend baking a test cupcake if you are trying a new recipe.

Fill your test cupcake liners halfway and see how high the cupcake rises. Some recipes don’t rise at all and others will double in size.

How to Tell When Cupcakes Are Done

There are two main ways to test cupcakes for doneness. One is the toothpick test. Stick a toothpick into a cupcake. If it comes out dry, the cupcake is done. If it is still wet, return the cupcake tin to the oven for another five minutes and test again.

The second way to tell is simply to touch a cupcake and see if it springs back.

Once the the cupcakes are done, remove them from the cupcake tins as soon as you can touch them and let them cool on a cooling rack or on your counter.

What Are Popular Cupcake Flavors?

The most common cupcake flavors are vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, and red velvet cupcakes. But, the sky is the limit when in comes to cupcake flavors! Try carrot cake cupcakes, strawberry cupcakes, banana cupcakes, or angel food cupcakes for some fun varieties.

Frosting for Cupcakes

Cream Cheese Frosting in a piping bag near some cupcakes

The classic way to decorate cupcakes is with a frosting swirl.

The most common frosting flavors are vanilla frosting and chocolate frosting. In the United States, most people make American buttercream frosting. American buttercream is the easiest to make and uses just butter, powdered sugar, and flavoring.

If you like a fluffy, less buttery frosting and are willing to put in a little more effort, try a Swiss, French, or Italian buttercream frosting.

It is also totally acceptable to top cupcakes with ganache (a chocolate glaze) or whipped cream.

Cupcake Topping Ideas

Cherry cobbler cupcakes

You can make cute cupcakes without piping, though! You can always spread frosting on a cupcake and then use a cute topping to make it look nice. Try decorating with:

  • sprinkles
  • berries
  • nuts
  • chocolate chips
  • big pieces of candy
  • small cookies
  • melon balls

Filled Cupcakes

To get even more flavor combinations with your cupcakes, try adding some fillings like I do in my German chocolate cupcakes. I love filling with chantilly cream and chocolate ganache. See my post on filled cupcakes for details on how to fill cupcakes on more cupcake filling ideas.

How To Store Cupcakes

For food safety reasons, cupcakes frosted with whipped cream, buttercream, cream cheese, or ganache frostings should be stored in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature before serving.

I always keep whipped cream and ganache in the fridge, but I often keep my buttercream- and cream cheese-frosted cupcakes in a sealed container on the counter – and I haven’t gotten sick yet. But, don’t say that I told you do that.

How Long Do Cupcakes Last For

Cupcakes are usually all eaten before they go bad! But, if you can’t eat all of them in one sitting, cupcakes last about 3 days on the counter, up to a week in the refrigerator, and several months in the freezer.

How to Convert a Cake Recipe to a Cupcake Recipe

You don’t need a cupcake recipe to bake cupcakes. In fact, most cake recipes can be easily converted to cupcake recipes.

Typically, cupcakes bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you are not sure, you should monitor your bake closely and/or try making a test cupcake:

  1. Make the cake batter as directed in the recipe.
  2. Fill one cupcake liner halfway with the batter.
  3. Bake at the temperature called for in the cake recipe, but check for doneness starting at 20 minutes.
  4. If the cupcake is not done, check on it at five-minute intervals until it is fully baked. Note how long baking took.
    See how high the cupcake rose. Some recipes don’t rise at all, while others will double in size.
  5. Use the cupcake’s height to determine whether you should fill the remaining cupcake liners more or less than halfway.
  6. Bake the remainder of the cupcakes for the time that you determined in steps 3 and 4. You may need to add a few minutes to account for a full cupcake tin.

Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

To get you started on your cupcake journey, try my very best cupcake recipe! This recipe makes a classic vanilla cupcake and has been made by beginner cupcake makers around the world. You’ve got this!

Cupcakes are one of the easiest desserts to you can make and personalize. I\'m sharing my tips and tricks on how making cupcakes can be fun and easy even for first time bakers!
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