Cupcake Basics

We love cupcakes! They’re quick to make, they’re the perfect serving size and the possibilities for flavors and decorations are literally endless.

When you’re decorating cupcakes on a non-professional level, like us (nope, no bakers here!), don’t sweat the small stuff! Icing a little runny? Add some powdered sugar! Don’t have jellybeans? Use M&Ms! Adopt the motto of our sister site,, and “Enjoy the Process!” If you show up at an event with lopsided cupcakes, who cares? They’re cupcakes! Let someone else fight the Mommy Wars while you have fun with batter, frosting and candies.

To quote Elinor Klivans, author of Cupcakes!, “‘Keep it Simple’ is the cupcake motto.” As Klivans says, “It’s relaxed, informal baking.”

There are essentially three sizes of cupcakes; mini, regular and extra-large. If you like your cupcakes just popping over the top of the liner (that is, if you choose to use liners), follow the general recommendation and use a tablespoon to fill each cup one-half to two-thirds full. That technique will get you about 48 mini cupcakes, 18 to 24 regular-sized ones or 12 extra-large cupcakes. Of course, you can make 12 huge cupcakes in a regular pan and save your self a second trip in the oven, if you only have one cupcake pan or muffin tin. (Incidentally, if you only have one tin, refrigerate your batter between batches and let the pan cool between bakings.)

If you use paper or foil liners, it will be easier to clean up after baking your cupcakes, and it will also protect them if you’re transporting them somewhere. Also, that liner helps keep cupcakes from drying out. However, you may choose to go without a liner, especially if you’re assembling cupcakes into a larger cake form. If you don’t use a liner, be sure to spray your pan or tin with nonstick cooking spray. For even better release, experts recommend spritzing on a small amount of cooking oil.

To ensure tasty cupcakes be sure to: preheat the oven; use the center rack for baking; read the recipe through before starting and measure accurately. Test for doneness by lightly touching the top of a cupcake and seeing if it springs back. You could also stick in a toothpick; if it comes out clean, the cakes are cooked through. Most experts advise that you not put cupcakes in the refrigerator. If you’re not going to decorate your cupcakes right away, place a clean cotton or linen towel over the pan to help keep them from drying out. Most cupcakes are best within a couple of days of baking. That is, if they last that long!