Convert Your Favorite Cake Recipe into Cupcakes With These Easy Changes

Longing for red velvet cupcakes and only have a layered cake recipe on hand? Don't fret. With tips from our Test Kitchen, we discovered it only takes a couple steps to satisfy your cupcake craving.

Cakes and cupcakes are just as similar as you'd think, making it super easy to convert your favorite cake recipe into a cute batch of individual-serving cupcakes—aka you can have your (cup)cake and eat it too. In fact, the preparation is the exact same. The only two differences between cake and cupcakes: the type of pan you use to bake and the amount of time they spend in the oven. We're giving you all the details so that the next time you only have a box of cake mix, you'll know how to convert the recipe into cupcakes that are just as tasty. Plus, try out some of our best cupcake decorating tips to make your treats stand out at the dessert table.

three cupcakes on white tray
Blaine Moats

How to Convert a Cake Recipe to Cupcakes

A two-layer cake recipe usually makes 24 to 30 cupcakes, while a one-layer cake will make a smaller batch of 12 to 15 cupcakes. By the way: You can also reverse this notion and make a cake out of any cupcake recipe. You don't have to change the oven temperature (no matter which way you convert the recipe, cakes and cupcakes will bake at the same temperature called for in the recipe), but you do need to change the baking time depending on which dessert you're making and the pan you use.

Step 1: Choose a Cake Recipe

When making cupcakes from a cake recipe, choose a butter-style cake recipe (a cake that starts with beating together butter and sugar). Some of our favorite recipes for cupcakes come from these cake recipes:

pouring flour into cake mix
Kritsada Panichgul

Step 2: Make the Cake Batter

One of the fastest ways to make cake batter is to start with a boxed cake mix, but you can also make your cake batter from scratch. No matter what kind of recipe you convert, you'll follow the same basic steps for mixing the batter. Your recipe may differ, but many call for beating the butter on its own for 30 seconds before adding other ingredients. Add the sugar and mix to cream together. Be sure not to overbeat (you'll know you have if the butter starts to separate). Next, add the eggs and flavorings, like vanilla extract, and beat them into the butter-sugar mixture. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder). Then alternately add the dry and wet ingredients (like milk) in small increments, beating after each addition.

Test Kitchen Tip: Allow the butter and eggs to stand at room temperature before adding them to the batter, as they mix with more ease.

Step 3: Line Your Muffin Pan

Naturally, rather than using a layer cake pan or a round cake pan, you'll need to bake your cupcakes in a muffin pan. Once you have the batter of the cake recipe you want to convert ready to go, line the desired number of muffin cups with paper baking cups, or grease and lightly flour the cups. If you don't have enough to bake all the cupcakes at once, refrigerate the remaining batter while the first batch bakes.

spooning cupcake mix into baking tin
Kritsada Panichgul

Step 4: Fill the Cupcake Liners

Our Test Kitchen recommends using approximately ¼ cup batter in each liner (or ½ full) to make 2½-inch tall cupcakes. If desired, bake one or two cupcakes with slightly different amounts of batter to see which height you prefer before you make the whole batch.

Step 5: Bake Cupcakes and Cool

When converting a cake recipe into cupcakes, you'll need to reduce the cupcake baking time by one-third to one-half. Most cupcake recipes take about 15 to 20 minutes in the oven, so it's best to err on the side of caution and start with the shorter baking time. Your cupcakes are done baking when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean with no crumbs on it. You can also try baking just one cupcake as a test to start with, which will help you determine the right baking time for the rest of the batch. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan 5 to 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes
Blaine Moats

Step 6: It's Cupcake Decorating Time

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, get creative with frosting and decorating. If you don't have a piping bag set at home, simply fill a plastic storage bag and snip off the tip to pipe. Try using our buttercream frosting recipe (and its many flavor variations!) for a classic cupcake look.

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