Homemade cupcakes are just right for any occasion. You can dress them up or down, fill them with something sweet or leave them plain, and top them with fluffy frosting, candies, and so much more. Follow our step-by-step tips to learn how to make cupcakes, then take a peek at our best cupcake recipes to find your new favorite treat.

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Ah, delicious, frosting-topped cupcakes. They're the perfect individual-size treat for birthdays, weddings, and just an average weekday. Sure, the quickest way to make a cupcake is to start with a cake mix. (We're definitely not opposed to creative twists on a mix.) But if you're wanting to really impress your family and friends, it's always nice to know how to make vanilla cupcakes (and all other cupcakes) from scratch. Read on for our Test Kitchen's must-know instructions for making cupcakes, including how much batter for cupcakes, the proper cupcake baking temperature, and more.

How to Make Cupcakes

If you already practice your layered cake-making skills at home, it's going to be a cinch to start baking cupcakes. Before we get started, choose a cupcake recipe and preheat your oven to ensure even and accurate baking. You can also turn a cake recipe into cupcakes (like this easy yellow cake) and plan to use ¼ cup batter for each cupcake.

Adding eggs to cake batter
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Step 1: Prepare Cupcake Ingredients

Allow the butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. This allows the butter to blend easier. Room temperature eggs allow more air to be incorporated into your cupcake batter for a lighter texture. Grease and flour twelve 2½-inch muffin cups or line with paper baking cups ($2, Target); set aside.

Step 2: Combine Butter and Sugar

Many cupcake recipes then call for adding sugar and beating the butter and sugar together for 1 minute using a hand mixer ($30, Bed Bath & Beyond) or stand mixer. This is called creaming, and it creates little pockets of air in the mixture, resulting in light and fluffy cupcakes. Just be sure not to overbeat the mixture. You can tell you've overbeaten the ingredients if the butter starts to separate.

Step 3: Add Eggs and Vanilla

After creaming the butter and sugar, most cupcake recipes call for adding the eggs next. Depending on the recipe, you may add whole eggs, just egg yolks, or just egg whites. Some cupcake recipes include other ingredients to add along with the eggs, such as vanilla or other flavorings.

Test Kitchen Tip: Break eggs individually into a custard cup or small bowl first. This way if you get shell fragments, you can easily fish them out of the cup rather than try to get them out of the batter.

Alternately adding flour and liquid to cake batter
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Step 4: Alternate Adding Dry and Wet Ingredients

In a separate mixing bowl ($10, Crate & Barrel) stir together the dry ingredients, such as flour, salt, and baking powder. Most cupcake recipes call for alternately adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients (like milk or cream), beating between each addition. Don't be tempted to add everything at once. Adding all of the wet ingredients at once can cause the batter to separate, resulting in a heavy cake. Adding all of the dry ingredients at once can make the batter too thick, which can lead to overmixing.

Filling muffin cups with cupcake batter
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Step 5: Fill Cupcake Liners

Wondering how much batter to use per cupcake? For standard 2½-inch cupcakes, fill cupcake liners with ¼ cup batter or about ⅔ to ¾ of the way full. Avoid adding too much batter, or the cupcakes will overflow the cups as they bake and cause a mess. Here are some easy ways to fill cupcake liners with cupcake batter:

  • If the batter is thick, use two spoons to scoop it into the cups.
  • Use a medium ice cream or cookie scoop ($19, Kohl's) to spoon batter into the cups.
  • Fill a heavy resealable plastic bag with batter and cut a small hole in one corner. Squeeze the bag gently into the cups to fill. Place your finger over the hole in the bag as you move to the next cup.
  • If your batter is thin, pour it into a large glass measuring cup ($19, Bed Bath & Beyond). The spout on the measuring cup will make it easier to fill cupcake liners with batter.

Test Kitchen Tip: Cupcakes bake taller in paper cupcake liners and are easier to remove from the pan. They are also easier to grasp for frosting or decorating.

Fresh Rosemary and Lemon Cupcakes
Credit: Andy Lyons
Make Mini, Regular, or Jumbo Size Rosemary-Lemon Cupcakes

Step 6: Bake and Cool Cupcakes

For chocolate cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes, and most other recipes, you'll want to bake in a preheated 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Test the doneness of cupcakes by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center. If the toothpick is clean when you remove it, the cupcakes are done. If wet batter or several moist crumbs cling to the toothpick after it is removed, the cupcakes need to bake longer. Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes in the pan before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Here are some general guidelines for adjusting baking times for larger or smaller cupcakes:

  • How to make mini cupcakes: A recipe that makes 24 standard (2½-inch) cupcakes will make about 64 mini cupcakes. Generally, they're baked in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • How to make jumbo cupcakes: A recipe that makes 24 standard (2½-inch) cupcakes will make 10 to 16 jumbo cupcakes. Typically, they're baked in a 350°F oven about 25 minutes.

Step 7: Frost and Decorate Cupcakes

For the prettiest cupcakes, start with decorative cupcake liners. It's the easiest way to spruce up those delicious treats for any occasion. From there, use a piping bag ($9, Michaels) to decorate your cupcakes. If you don't have piping bags, simply use a knife to spread on the frosting or use a resealable plastic bag with the end snipped off. Use our customizable buttercream frosting recipe (with seven flavor variations!) to get started. Feel free to go wild with holiday toppings, sprinkles, nuts, or whatever your heart desires for an unforgettable dessert.

Chocolate-Filled Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Credit: Andy Lyons
Try This Chocolate-Filled Cupcake Recipe

How to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

If you've got a favorite chocolate cake recipe, use the tips and instructions above to make the best chocolate cupcakes ever. This basic chocolate cupcake recipe is an easy one to fill your prepared cupcake pan (remember to fill with ¼ cup batter per standard cupcake). For the chocolate lovers in your life, these triple chocolate cupcakes are a real treat. Need a gluten-free option? Here's a delicious chocolate cupcake recipe.

How to Fill Cupcakes

To add cream, frosting, or other fillings to cupcakes, use a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip or a Bismark filling tip ($3, Michaels). Spoon the filling into the bag and insert the tip into the top of the cupcake. Squeeze the filling into the center of the cupcake. Don't worry if you leave a hole because the frosting will cover it.

Make dessert even sweeter this week by whipping up a quick batch of cupcakes. Now that you know how to make cupcakes from scratch, there's no reason not to add them to your after-dinner menu tonight. For inspiration, try one of our favorite homemade cupcake recipes or filled cupcake recipes. Then keep working on those decorating skills for a stunning display everyone will think came from a professional bakery.


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