No More Cupcake Fails! 6 Common Cupcake Problems and How to Avoid Them

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Cupcakes are a perfect little dessert — totally adorable, crazy-delicious, sooooo easy to make ... actually, scratch that last part.

They may be small, but cupcakes can be just as tricky and time-consuming to bake as a full-size cake. You've probably dealt with a few (or all!) of these typical cupcake fails at some point. We're here to help you troubleshoot, so you can whip up your best batch of cupcakes yet.

Why Did my Cupcakes Sink in the Middle?

What Went Wrong

You might be tempted to throw every ingredient in the bowl all at once (some recipes even advise it), but it's easy to overwork the batter that way — and overmixing can lead to deflated cupcakes.

Since ingredients like sugar, flour, butter and eggs have different consistencies, they tend to get lumpy when you mix them. To get rid of the lumps, some people crank their mixer up to full power — which also ends up filling the batter with air. All that extra air escapes when you put the cupcakes in the oven, leaving them flat or sunken. 

How to Avoid the Problem

Cream the sugar and butter together first, then add the flour and mix until incorporated. Add the eggs and mix one last time until combined. That's it. Doing it this way should keep all that unwanted air out of your cupcakes!

Why Is the Top of My Cupcake Sticky?

What Went Wrong

Every freshly baked treat needs time to cool, and the same goes for cupcakes. But it can be hard to tell when a cupcake has cooled all the way. If the top feels cold to the touch, you might be tempted to move your cupcakes to an airtight container until you can frost them. Resist the urge! Because that's when moisture turns into your worst enemy.

If there's even the slightest amount of heat left inside the cupcakes, drops of condensation will start gathering on your container. The cupcakes will then soak up all the moisture like a sponge, leaving you with sticky cupcakes.

The stickiness issue gets even worse in humid environments, so if you live somewhere hot or near water, you may be extra frustrated by this.

How to Avoid the Problem

Invest in cake umbrellas or foot nets, and allow the cupcakes to cool for at least a couple of hours before decorating or storing them. 

Why Are My Cupcakes Dry?

You know that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when they cut into the turkey, only to watch it deflate into a dry mess? Yup, that can happen with cupcakes too (but maybe not so dramatically).

What Went Wrong

Baking is a science, and the individual ingredients in a recipe are all important. Mixing in too much of a dry ingredient (like flour or cocoa) gets you dry cupcakes. Overbaking can also lead to issues, since the moisture in cupcakes vanishes when they're exposed to too much heat.

How to Avoid the Problem

Make sure to measure everything accurately. It's always better to weigh your ingredients instead of using measuring cups. Steer clear of boxed cake mixes, since baking from scratch will always give you more control over the ingredients.

To prevent overbaking, use a timer. Your smartphone or kitchen timer can remind you when to check. 

Why Did the Chocolate Chips or Berries Sink to the Bottom of My Cupcakes?

What Went Wrong

Creating evenly distributed add-ins is harder than it looks. Mixing in lightweight additions, like rainbow sprinkles for funfetti cupcakes, is easier since sprinkles are lighter than batter. But berries, dried fruits and chocolate chips all weigh more than batter, so they naturally sink to the bottom.

How to Avoid the Problem

Roll the additions in self-rising flour. The flour creates friction between the add-ins and the batter, helping them stay in place.

And remember not to overmix your batter. This can make your batter too thin, and your add-ins will sink like stones.

Why Aren't My Cupcakes Flat on Top?

What Went Wrong

There are all kinds of reasons. Here are a few: baking your cupcakes at the wrong oven temperature, using incorrect amounts of leavening agents, or overfilling your cupcake liners.

How to Avoid the Problem

If you don't have a commercial oven, invest in a domestic convection oven. And use an oven thermometer! Ovens can vary in temperature, so it's important to know how hot yours actually is.

Also, always make sure to double check your recipe, and measure out the leavening agents (and all your other ingredients) accurately.

Finally, bake a test batch of cupcakes, filling each crevice to a different level. When they're done, see which height you like best.

Why Did My Cupcakes Overflow While Baking?

What Went Wrong

Everyone's done this at least once: Slid cupcakes into the oven, only to watch them transform into overflowing muffin-type things that take over the pan. The reason? When you overfill each cup in the cupcake pan, your cupcakes tend to merge together.

How to Avoid the Problem

The secret here is to not overfill. Sounds obvious, right? But it's easier said than done.

A good benchmark is to fill each cup half or three-quarters full, max. But if your recipe involves cocoa, fruits or food coloring, those ingredients can change the way your cupcakes rise. Bake a test batch so you can make any necessary adjustments.

Here's another trick: Stick to just one cupcake pan size. That way, you'll learn how to fill it up so your cupcakes come out just right. If you're constantly switching up the size of your cupcakes, you're bound to get inconsistent results.

Finally, try piping the batter into your cupcake pan with a piping bag. It's much more efficient than spooning it in.

Help, My Cupcake Liners Keep Peeling Off!

What Went Wrong

Moisture strikes again! Storing still-warm cupcakes in airtight containers can cause your cupcake cases to peel right off. So can living in a humid climate.

How to Avoid the Problem

First, always let your cupcakes cool in an environment where they can breathe.

Also, try foil cupcake liners, which don't peel as easily as paper liners. If you prefer paper, pick high-quality, professional-grade liners of 65 gms or above.

Another tip: Wait before you bake! If you're preparing a batch for an event, bake your cupcakes as close to your deadline as possible. This can obviously be a pain if you have hundreds of cupcakes to bake, so make it easier on yourself by prepping your frosting, fillings and decorations beforehand.

This sounds counterintuitive, but putting off your baking project until the absolute last minute may actually save your cupcakes!

Try these troubleshooting tips next time you bake a batch, and get ready to gawk at the seriously gorgeous, totally mouthwatering cupcakes you just made.

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No More Cupcake Fails! 6 Common Cupcake Problems and How to Avoid Them