The Ultimate Guide to Baking Cupcakes

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Learn the ins and outs of this sweet treat with our comprehensive guide to cupcakes.

Don’t get us wrong; we love a slice of cake, but there’s just something special about a cupcake. After all, its handheld size makes it less stuffy than a layer cake—and the built-in portion control makes it easier to go back for seconds.

If you find yourself returning to your cupcake pan again and again, take a look at some of our homemade cupcake recipes, baking and decorating tips straight from our Test Kitchen, plus some gear you have to get your hands on.

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Classic Cupcake Recipes

From party-ready yellow cupcakes to decadent buttermilk chocolate cupcakes and even tender zucchini cupcakes, our classic cupcake recipes have your taste buds covered for any craving.

Mastered the basics? Try these advanced cupcake recipes next:

Cupcake Baking Tips

Sharpen your cupcake skills with some handy tips from our Test Kitchen and Taste of Home editors.

flour on a kitchen scaleTaste of Home

Weighing Ingredients for Cupcakes

How to Decorate Cupcakes

Time to put the finishing touch on your sweet treats. Here’s a quick and easy way to frost cupcakes: Place a soft, spreadable frosting in a bowl, then dip the top of the cupcake into the frosting, twist slightly, and lift up.

If you have more time on your hands, load up a piping bag with one of our best homemade frosting recipes and check out our favorite tips and decorating ideas below.

The Gear You Need to Start Baking Cupcakes

Before you get baking, make sure you have the right tools in your arsenal. These are the must-have gadgets our Test Kitchen uses for picture-perfect cupcakes.

  • Go all out with decorating supplies: Ensure your frosting game is on-point with our Test Kitchen’s go-to frosting and decorating tools.
  • Stock up on baking essentials: Check out our basic baking supplies guide for everything you need to stock your kitchen if you’re starting from scratch.
  • Measure it out: Our Test Kitchen prefers to use a dry measuring cup ($49) if the batter is thin and a spring-loaded ice cream scoop ($14) for thicker batters. These tools make it simple to fill cupcake liners and help you assure that the batter is divided evenly.

Cupcake FAQs

There’s still so much to know about baking (and decorating) these celebratory desserts. We’re answering your most common q’s.

Q: What is the size of a regular cupcake?

A: Standard cupcakes pans typically have wells that are 2.5-inches in diameter. Each well can hold a bit more than an ounce of batter.

Jumbo cupcake pans and liners, on the other hand, have 3.5-inch wells that hold around 4 ounces of batter.

Pick up a pack of standard cupcake liners ($15 for 8 packages) or jumbo cupcake liners ($19 for 6 packages) for future bakes.

Q: How do you know when cupcakes are finished baking?

A: Simply insert a clean toothpick or cake tester ($5) into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, or with a few crumbs, your cake is ready to come out of the oven. If the toothpick or cake tester comes out with wet batter, the cake needs more time to bake. If you notice that the outside of your cake is nice and brown but the inside isn’t fully cooked yet, cover it with a piece of foil and continue baking.

Q: How do you stuff a cupcake?

A: Adding a filling to a cupcake will treat your guests to a sweet surprise. Once your cupcakes have completely cooled, use a paring knife or melon baller to remove about a 1-inch cone-shaped piece from the center of each. Fill the hole with frosting, jam or fresh fruit and top as you normally would. You can discard the cake scraps, turn them into cake pops or just eat them on their own. Check out our most delicious stuffed cupcake recipes for inspiration.

Q: What is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

A: While a nutritionist might not see a huge difference between these baked goods, we certainly do.

A cupcake is a dessert made using cake batter that’s typically thin and sweet. After the treat is baked it’ll have a slightly domed top that’s frosted and sometimes decorated with sprinkles, candies or fruit.

A muffin, on the other hand, is a breakfast or snack item. Its batter is similar to a quick bread (like banana or zucchini bread) and tends to be thicker than cupcake batter. It often features mix-ins like berries and nuts and once baked, the batter rises up and over the sides of the tin. Hello, muffin top! Muffins seldom have a frosting, but you might see them drizzled with icing or topped with a streusel garnish.

Bake These Next

Don’t stop at cupcakes! Keep your baking kick going by trying your hand at these treats.

Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.