Tips & Troubleshooting

I'm only learning myself, but have done quite a bit of reading. So here are the tips I have picked up along the way. If you have any that you would like to be included, please feel free to comment below.

  1. Baking seems to be a complete science. Unlike cooking where you can change ingredients and quantities, it is not advisable to do so when baking. Baking is essentially a chemical reaction. Stick to the recipe!.
  2. Measure all your ingredients out before you start. Make sure to let the ingredients come to room temperature before beginning. when baking cupcakes ALWAYS use butter at room temperature. don't try to heat it in the microwave or you could end up with a baking disaster.
  3. Be careful when substituting ingredients. sometimes you may come across a recipe which lists an American ingredient not available here in Ireland. My advice is to google the name of what you are trying to substitute and look for what you can swap in. Alternatively, there are numerous books which will list what you can use instead.
  4. Get to know your oven. No oven is the same. You will most likely discover that you have hot spots and cool spots in your oven. mine for example has a hot spot in the back left, which means any cupcakes in that location will bake alot quicker and can therefore burn. If you do identify a hot of cold spot, you may need to rotate your trays during baking.  Generally, full sized cupcakes will be done in 20 minutes. you should never open the oven before 15 minutes. The cupcakes need to become structurally sound, otherwise they will sink when you take them out. Get an oven thermometer.
  5.  Start testing your cakes with a toothpick and your finger about 2 minutes before the end of the time listed. The toothpick should come out clean (no crumbs) and the cake should bounce back to your touch when done. take a note of the time they took to bake in your oven, so you will know for the next time you use that recipe.
  6. Fill the cupcake case no more than 2/3's full. some recipes will rise and may overflow if you fill the cases too high. Some cupcakes are meant to have a domed top, others are meant to have a flat top.
  7. When beating your sugar and butter, you will need to beat for a good 5 minutes until it is very light and fluffy. otherwise you can get sinking cupcakes!
  8. Be careful that you don't over beat the flour. overworking the flour will basically cause a tough cupcake that is not light and fluffy. So always only mix until the flour is just incorporated.
  9. Leave the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the trays after removing from the oven, and then put onto a wired tray to cool fully before frosting.
  10. If making cream cheese frosting(my favourite) be careful not to over beat as it will quickly become runny. If this happens, place the frosting in the fridge for 15 - 30 mins and it will start to thicken again

I got the following from http://www.joyofbaking.com/

DOMED or CRACKED SURFACE and/or TUNNELS -
- batter over mixed
- wrong type of flour or too much
- too little baking powder/soda or sugar
- oven temperature too hot

CAKE SINKS IN THE CENTER -
- batter over mixed
- too much fat and/or sugar or leavening
- not enough liquid
- oven temperature too low

CAKE DIDN'T RISE (COMPACT TEXTURE)
- improper mixing
- butter and eggs wrong temperature
- too much or too little fat
- too little baking powder or baking powder is too old
- oven temperature too hot
- wrong pan size

TOP CRUST IS TOO DARK OR HARD
- over baked
- wrong oven temperature
- too much sugar, baking powder/baking soda

COARSE GRAIN AND DRY
- oven temperature too low
- too much baking powder/baking soda
- too little liquid

CAKE FALLING APART
- too much baking powder/baking soda, sugar, or fat
- improper mixing
- oven temperature too low