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 cupcakes. You can even prepare your batter exactly the same way. The only difference between cake and cupcakes is the pan you use to bake them, and the amount of time they spend in the oven. We'll take you through the whole process in just six steps, and share some of our tips for decorating cupcakes so your treats will be party-ready in no time.
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:
A two-layer cake recipe usually makes 24–30 cupcakes, while a one-layer cake will make a smaller batch of 12–15 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. To convert a cake recipe into cupcakes, you'll need to reduce the baking time by one-third to one-half. So, for example, if your cake recipe calls for baking the cake for 35 minutes, you should bake the cupcakes for about 17 to 24 minutes. Most cupcake recipes usually bake for 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 a shorter baking time, like 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.
For a large party, get creative by baking a few different batches of different cupcake flavors.
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.
Start by letting the butter and eggs stand at room temperature before adding them to the batter (they'll be much easier to mix). The recipe you choose might differ, but some 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.
Other than bake time, this is where the second change comes in. Naturally, rather than using a layer cake pan or a round cake pan, you'll need to bake them in a muffin tin. Once you've decided on the cake recipe you want to convert and have your batter 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 muffin cups to bake all the cupcakes at once, refrigerate the remaining batter while the first batch bakes.
No matter the cupcake recipe or the size of the muffin cups, it's best to fill cups one-half to three-fourths full with batter. If desired, before baking the whole batch, bake one or two cupcakes with different amounts of batter in the liners to see which height you like best.
Bake the cupcakes at the same temperature called for in the cake recipe, but reduce the baking time by one-third to one-half (cupcakes usually bake for 15–20 minutes).
Check doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center of the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. If the toothpick comes out with moist crumbs on it, bake the cupcakes for a few more minutes.
Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5–10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, get creative with frosting and decorating. One of the advantages of making cupcakes from a cake recipe is that you can decorate each batch in a variety of ways.