How to Easily Convert a Cake Recipe into Cupcakes
Longing for red velvet cupcakes and only have a layered cake recipe on hand? Fear not, you don't need a cupcake recipe to make cupcakes. With the help of our Test Kitchen experts, we came up with simple changes for you to make to turn a cake recipe into a cupcake recipe.
Cakes and cupcakes are just as similar as you might think, making it super easy to convert a favorite cake recipe into a cute batch of individual-serving cupcakes. You will even prepare your cake batter exactly the same way. There are 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. Here you'll learn the whole process on how to bake cupcakes from a cake recipe. Then we'll share some of our tips for decorating cupcakes so your treats will be the star of the dessert table.
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. You can also reverse this idea and bake cakes from cupcake recipes. You don't have to change the oven temperature for cakes or cupcakes (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:
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 cake recipe you convert, you'll follow the same basic steps for mixing the batter. Your recipe might differ, but many call for beating the butter on its own for 30 seconds before adding other ingredients. Add the sugar and then cream the butter and sugar 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 (like 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'll be easier to mix.
Step 3: Line Your Muffin Pan
Naturally, rather than using a layer cake pan or a round cake pan, you'll need to bake them in a muffin pan ($8, Target). Once you've got the cake recipe you want to convert and have your batter ready made, line the desired number of muffin cups with paper baking cups ($2, Michaels), or grease and lightly flour the cups. If you don't have enough muffin cups to bake all the cupcakes at once, refrigerate the remaining batter while the first batch bakes.
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 cupcakes. If desired, before baking the whole batch, bake one or two cupcakes with slightly different amounts of batter in the liners to see which height you like best.
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 bake about 15 to 20 minutes, so if you're not sure if your math is right, err on the side of caution and start with the shorter baking time (15 minutes). 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 ($15, Bed Bath & Beyond).
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 of the tip to pipe frosting. Try using our buttercream frosting recipe (and its many flavor variations!) for a classic cupcake look.