I have been doing some cupcake baking research lately since I had a recent batch of cupcakes ( to be blogged soon!) that didn't puff up with the nice dome that I normally strive for. So I tried to figure out why this happened. Was it because I didn't fill with enough batter? Did I over mix? Were they under baked and shrank when cooling? So I decided to look around online and see what people had to say about how to achieve the perfect dome on scratch baked cupcakes.
One of the first items I found was ingredient order. Some sites said to not do the typical creaming of the butter and sugar at first, if you are using a butter sugar method. One of my favorite sites, Cake Journal has an excellent tutorial HERE about this method. I have recipes which do the creaming butter and sugar first method, some add melted butter later and some are with oil and no butter at all. The recipe that instigated this research was a butter and sugar creaming first recipe.
Another method is oven temperature. How long the oven is preheated. Not just get it to 350 Deg F and pop in the pans but really heat the oven for a while. Is there an oven thermometer inside the oven to ensure that the oven is indeed at that temp? Are there hot or cold spots in your oven? Some people rotate pans halfway through baking to make sure the cupcakes bake evenly but opening the oven door can cause cupcakes to fall flat. At least doing so before 15 min of baking and a lot of my cupcake recipes are done at about 15 minutes.
One the subject of oven temperature I found on Cake Central message boards that many bakers start out with a higher oven temp for preheating and then lower once the cupcakes are in either immediately or after 5 minutes of baking. Some bakers start at 400 deg F and drop to 350 deg F, other bakers start at 375 deg F and drop to 325 deg F. And it depends on the oven too. Electric tend to take longer to drop down in temp than gas do - but it depends on the oven
Another factor could be your leavening agent's age. How old is that baking powder/soda? Older powders might not be effective anymore. Try to keep as fresh as possible. And when a recipe says to have ingredients at room temp have everything out of the fridge and measured out and on the counter for a while. Maybe a couple hours ( unless in the middle of a 100 deg summer!) And when the batter is ready have it sit 15-20 min to let that baking powder start its magic. Once that time is up bake the cupcakes and see if that helps.
And another factor I found out about is pan color. I read that lighter colored pans don't produce cupcakes with the nice dome as well as darker pans do. The darker pans heat quicker and keep the heat more even. So you know what I did today?? That's right. I bought NEW cupcake pans. I have two sets of cupcake pans. One pair is a darker metal that is from Baker's Secret that I have had FOREVER, and the other is a lighter aluminum from Wilton. The Wilton pan's cups are smaller than the Baker's Secret pans so I have more issues with my cupcake paper liners buckling. The Baker's pans are larger cups and take more batter. So for a recipe yielding a dozen cupcakes I would get 9 maybe 10 out of that pan.
Baker's Secret pan on the left, Wilton on the right
I have been discussing this with my friend Stephanie over at Sweet Creations by Stephanie and she sent me a pic of her pans she had. They are Wilton pans, but darker than the ones I have. She raved about them so I ran to Bed Bath and Beyond today and picked some up. 4 of them to be exact. With coupons of course. And I cannot WAIT to bake with them.
I like how there is more of an edge on each side to grab the pan without sticking a hot mitt right into a freshly baked cupcake ( or batter if heading in to the oven) and these are heavy too. Heavy is good. Plus they just look nicer than my old ones. My old pans are being retired and I will use them as flower formers for my gumpaste and fondant flowers.
The pans can be found HERE . I just so happened to have time to run to Bed Bath and Beyond today to get them and was stoked they had them. But obviously they can be ordered online as well. I will be experimenting with the other techniques I mentioned above and will report back soon with my results. I have lots of fun things I have been making lately and will be blogging a lot more soon.