Today launched Challenge #3 for the ABC Family Young and Hungry Blogger Challenge. Our mission – to use these Wilton cupcake liners to create some bright, fun, and colorful cupcakes. Wait what? You want me to make you cupcakes that are colorful and fun? Oh the arm twisting, it’s painful really. I’ve been eyeing the wrappers since we got our challenge kit, and I knew this would be my favorite. I hopped right into the kitchen and got started! Click on over and help out by voting for MBC!
I used the wrappers provided, swirled a mile high swirl of sweet yellow buttercream, tossed one too many sprinkles on to match, and completed with some bright pink candles. But even better, I was able to use these cupcakes to work on a long, long overdue post – measuring uniform cupcakes! Is it just me or is uniform a weird word to use on bright and cheery cupcakes? I’ve been getting questions about how I get my cupcakes so even or “just right” since I started blogging and I’m excited to finally answer this one for those who are wondering!
The truth is though the answer isn’t so much “TADA! Here’s how it’s done!” I wish it could be I promise but as with everything else in the world of baking there’s just no one answer or tool that works every single time. But I do have a handful or tips and tools to help you out!
Ok more like a book ready to get down to the crumbs?
Batter & Baking
Let’s talk about the batter for a minute. Cake batter can be pretty finicky. Some cupcakes rise into perfect little domes and some level off into flat little cakes. Some of this you can control and some you can not. What you can control is the mixing. The rule of thumb when mixing cake batter is to mix just until everything is nice and combined at a medium speed. The moment you think your cake batter is mixed up stop mixing! Over mixing causes too many air bubbles to pop, less air bubbles in short means less rise and more dense cake. Check out the cupcakes in the picture above, I purposely over mixed this batter to show you guys what I’m talking about. See how the too full cupcakes baked straight up instead of curving? Way over mixed batter!
Of course, there’s always a flip side. While proper mixing of the batter is one of the best things you can do it doesn’t always mean your going to have perfectly round little cupcakes (if that’s what you’re shooting for – to be honest too tall cupcakes are a pain to frost to me). Some recipes are honestly just more dense, and that’s ok too. When I am baking a new cupcake recipe I will often bake one or two cupcakes alone first to see about what’s going to happen when they bake. Sure beats pulling out an entire tray of cupcakes that bubble over or half full!
Then there’s what happens once you place them in the oven. I have found cupcakes are little divas and they like their space. I always have the best outcome when I place my cupcakes one pan at a time in the center of the oven. If you really must watch those cupcakes turn on the light but do not open the door. If you open it too soon in the baking process your going to risk having cupcakes that fall.
Tools & Measuring
The truth is, I wouldn’t get so worked up about the shape of your cupcake, instead I put more effort into making them all uniform. As long as they are all sitting in their cute little wrappers the same way, who’s to say there’s anything wrong? Cupcakes come in all shapes and sizes, but keeping them nice and even will make them look their best, this is where tools come in.
Do you get a little crazy a the sight of “fill 2/3’s full”, yea me too. How’s that going to help us particulars! What if our cupcakes bake over the edges, what if they are all funky sizes, what if gulp they’re half full! Nobody, I mean nobody wants a half full cupcake! Back when I first started baking cupcakes like a crazy person, I found a way that worked for me and 1000’s of cupcakes later, I’m still doing it that way. I simply measure 3 tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Every once in awhile I’ll find a recipe that needs a little more, but for the most part 3 Tbsp. will do the trick. However, it’s not always the most fun thing in the world. When you’re baking up say 400 cupcakes at a time it’s slightly annoying, but it works every single time.
The trick to measuring them out with a tablespoon is to use these tiny little rubber spatulas shown above. Being really honest, I’m a bit of a tiny spatula freak! Since they are one of my most used tools in my kitchen I buy them up whenever I find them. The best ones have smooth wood handles and a soft rubber tip. If the spatula tip is firm they won’t work so well for cleaning out a small tablespoon. Target generally has mini spatulas out during many different holidays, those are my favorite.
About two years ago I started seeing these fun cupcake measuring objects start coming out. I have bought just about every one I have come across in hopes something would measure out the perfect cupcakes. I’ve tried batter pens, scoopers, batter tips, dispensers, cute cupcake measuring cups but none of them could simple measure up – cheesy pun intended. Recently however, I’ve found two that are very close in my opinion.
To show you guys the difference I used a white cake mix to bake cupcakes with four difference ways of measuring, my usual 3 Tbsp, a 1/4 cup, a Bakelicious Cupcake Shaped Scoop, and Wilton’s Cupcake Cup. As I said above I actually over mixed the batter a bit to show so you could see the height each cupcake got without any dome, you can see some of them rose over, which would have been even worse with a properly mixed batter.
I purchased the Bakelicious Cupcake Scoop at Hobby Lobby but it can be found online here. The Wilton’s Cupcake Cup I purchased at Wal-Mart however can not find a link online just yet.
First we’ll start with the 1/4 cup and the cupcake scoop. Both are pretty close, it’s a little hard to see but both rose a little high (imagine if this was a very fluffy cake). And because I’ve used both before I took a little off the top when using each, knowing they were a little too much. These two options are much easier then scooping out 3 tablespoons for every cupcake, but since I have to take a little out each time there’s a chance they won’t always come out as perfectly uniform as I would like. If I had two chose between the two I would suggest picking up the cupcake scoop. The measurement is pretty close, instead of scraping across the top flat I simply move a curved spatula over the top to take a little off. And not only is it cute but the top serves as a mini cupcake measurer which worked perfect for me!
Next up is 3 Tablespoons (my normal method) and the Wilton cupcake measuring cup. Of course my normal method was my favorite here. While it takes a little longer I get perfect results every time. And by leveling the batter flat with a spatula then scraping out I get the most uniform cupcakes possible. The Wilton cupcake measuring cup had held too much batter. Every cupcake I baked with it full baked way over, imagine if this was a properly mixed fluffy cake – yikes! However, this can also be fixed by using a rounded spatula and scraping some of when leveling. The thing I really liked about this one however was it actually came with a matching spatula (the purple one above). Which means you don’t have to hunt down an additional tool – and I really liked the spatula.
And just to give you guys a visual of what it means when I take a little off the top – here’s the Wilton cupcake cup filled. You just can’t fill it all the way full. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve tried several cakes and each of them were a little too much.
The end result – I like still like my tablespoon the best and the measuring cup the least. The measuring cup is just too easy to mess up. It’s too wide to try and uniformly scrape off the same amount of cupcakes. So in the end I always end up with cupcakes of different height. I loved that the Wilton one came with a spatula and I really love that the Cupcake scoop has the perfect mini cupcake scoop on the top – plus it’s so cute! So while I’ll still be using my 3 scoop method often I definitely don’t mind using these two scoops when I’m feeling a little lazy or short on time!
Let me throw one more curve ball at you, Cupcake liners. If you really really want to have nice looking cupcakes, make sure your using nice liners! Avoid buying liners that are squished and very wide looking. Nice cupcake liners are the same size as a pan and will sit perfectly inside the pan with no crimping. Thankfully as cupcakes have gotten more and more popular liners have gotten better and better. Remember when you could only find the pastel oversized thing liners? Now there’s all sorts of types. My favorite liner is of course greaseproof liners by Sweets & Treats Boutique. My 3 tablespoon method works perfectly every time.
Well that’s it for today, baker’s class is over – and now I think you deserve this cupcake…
And then come back and check out Frosting Cupcakes 101 to read and see all about how to frost the perfect cupcakes!