How to Make Cupcakes

Follow our step-by-step tips to learn how to make cupcakes and then take a peek at our best cupcake recipes to find your new favorite treat.

vanilla cupcake with sprinkles

BHG/Abbey Littlejohn

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

How to Make Cupcakes

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

Step 1: Prepare Ingredients

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

creamed butter and sugar in a bowl

BHG/Abbey Littlejohn

Step 2: Combine Butter and Sugar

Many cupcake recipes call for beating the butter and sugar together for 1 minute, using a hand mixer $34.99 (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 gone too far if the butter starts to separate.

adding eggs to creamed butter and sugar in a bowl

BHG/Abbey Littlejohn

Step 3: Add Eggs and Vanilla

After creaming the butter and sugar, most cupcake recipes next call for adding the eggs. Depending on the recipe, you may add whole eggs, just egg yolks, or just egg whites. Some 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, rather than trying to get them out of the batter.

adding milk to cupcake batter

BHG/Abbey Littlejohn

Step 4: Alternate Adding Dry and Wet Ingredients

In a separate mixing bowl (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.

filled cupcake liners

BHG/Abbey Littlejohn

Step 5: Fill the Cupcake Liners

Wondering how much batter to use per cupcake? For standard 2½-inch cupcakes, fill cupcake liners with ¼ cup batter to 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 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 to fill the cups. Plug the bag's hole with your finger as you move it to the next cup.
  • If your batter is thin, pour it into a large glass measuring cup. The spout on the measuring cup will make it easier to fill cupcake liners with batter.

Test Kitchen Tip: Cupcakes rise higher in paper liners and are easier to remove from the pan. They're also easier to grasp for frosting or decorating.

Fresh Rosemary and Lemon Cupcakes
Andy Lyons

Step 6: Bake and Cool Cupcakes

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

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

Chocolate-Filled Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Andy Lyons

How to Make Chocolate Cupcakes

If you've got a favorite chocolate cake recipe, use the tips and instructions above for the best cupcakes ever. This basic chocolate cupcake recipe is easy to use for filling your prepared cupcake pan. Remember that standard size calls for ¼ cup batter. For the chocolate lovers in your life, these triple chocolate cupcakes are a real treat. Need a gluten-free option? Here's another 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 (Michaels). Spoon the filling into the bag and insert the tip into the top of the cupcake. Squeeze the filling into the center. Don't worry if you leave a hole, since 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 them from scratch, there's no reason not to add them to your after-dinner menu. 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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