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The Art of the Cupcake
Making cupcakes isn't always just as simple as throwing a few ingredients together and putting it in the oven. There are so many different elements to be considered as there are so many ways in which your cupcake creation can fail. It must be known that baking is an exact science in which it has many variables. You need to ensure your methods and recipes are tested so that all considerations can be found.
It must be noted that baking is something that everybody can get wrong. Even the experts will find themselves throwing away batches of cupcakes due to errors. So don't feel disheartened as the only way to get better is practice!
Why does your sponge fail?
Firstly, baking is an exact science with many different variations.
One variation that heavily impacts your success is the oven you're using. Ovens are different so it is important to ensure you test your recipes with the specific oven in which you are using. This can be done by trail and error, or by using tools such as thermometers.
Another variation may be the measurements of the ingredients you are using. You need to ensure you measure and weigh ingredients to the exact point in which is required, unless stated otherwise. The best way to do this is to use digital scales as they give extremely accurate readings. Some recipes may have ingredients that aren't all that important when is comes down to the exact measurement, however it is best to follow the exact recipe to ensure a higher chance of success. If you find the recipe is failing, you can make adjustments that are appropriate to your conditions (eg, ovens & cake tins).
How can I be certain my baking times are correct?
As stated before, your oven is the key factor that implements into the success of your baking. Assuming that the recipe is correct you can use the guidelines and if they fail you can then alter the baking times to better match your oven.
It is important to note down the ratio or time difference that your oven has so for future use you can eliminate the trail and error process as you now have an understanding of how your oven operates.
My cakes have a crack on the top: Is this an issue and how can I prevent it?
First of all the cause to this is due to the heat of the oven. There is no real problem with having cracks on the top of your cake as long as they taste good and are not burnt!
One way to prevent having cracks on the top of your cupcake is to run a knife around the inside edge of the tin as soon as the cake comes out of the oven. This should help prevent cracking during the shrinking and cooling phase.
Why are my cakes sinking after I take them out of the oven?
This is a normal process as cakes naturally will rise in the oven but flatten out as they cool. If however, you notice an abnormal amount of sinking then there could be a number of reasons for the problem.
Firstly, your ingredients may be incorrect. It is important to exactly measure your ingredients and to not make substitutes.
Lastly, raising ingredients like bicarbonate of soda and baking powder all have expiry dates. If the raising ingredient is past its expiry date it may alter the raising and setting process.
What's wrong with my batter/mixture?
There are many different questions asked around this area:
One being that people are very worried about the mixture being too runny. The answer to this is that mixtures are meant to be runny to ensure that the moisture is kept which will result in a light and fluffy outcome.
Another question being "what happens if I over beat my mixture". This does cause issues in the process as over beating a mixture will overwork the gluten which will alter the structure of the sponge.
My cupcakes always look different, is there a problem with them?
The most important thing to know in relation to this question is that the 'perfect' cupcake does not exist! You should not worry about whether your cupcakes all look the same as the most important factor is the taste. Many people will worry about the shape of their cupcakes, some say theirs are too flat while others say the peak is too large. None of this matters as with cupcakes, there is so much room for decorating. Frosting cupcakes and adding decorations is what can make your cupcake look amazing!
So worry not if your cupcakes aren't all the same and if some of them look a bit different as they aren't meant to be the same and even the professionals will acknowledge this.
Hope for the future
Making a bad batch of cupcakes is not the end of the world! Review your process and try it again. After each error you now will know what to do and what not to do, which means you are one step closer to making the perfect cupcake!
Article written with review by:
-The Classic Cupcake Co.