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What is the difference between cupcakes and muffins?
Is there a difference? Are they different names for the same item in different countries?
Although muffins and cakes have a similar shape, that is where the similarity ends. A muffin is technically a quick bread. Cupcakes are made like a cake, with the butter and sugar creamed together, although they're individual sized rather than baked in a cake pan. Muffins often have dried fruit or nuts mixed in whereas cupcakes often sport a thick layer of frosting.
These days, I'd say not much! Vespawoolf is correct that muffins are intended to be a quick bread, whereas cupcakes are mini cake desserts, usually with frosting or glaze.
However, bakeries are making muffins so decadent these days with tons of added sugar and other items (like chocolate chips, etc.), one cannot necessarily say that a muffin is any "healthier" than a cupcake!
We like making our own muffins from scratch, rather than purchasing them from a bakery or baking them from a mix. Any bread recipe (pumpkin, banana, etc.) can be made into muffins. Generally, the baking time is about 1/3 less than for an entire loaf.
Your Mom will let you eat a muffin for breakfast but cupcakes? No. She will say no. I love Costco chocolate muffins because I can sneak that in as breakfast. I think the difference is the sugar content. A muffin is a quick bread and a cupcake is... cake!
Muffins usually have more texture and supposed to be less sweet, but the differences have become more blurred. I think it often comes down to marketing. A store that wants to attract healthy-eating customers will use the label "muffin" while a store that caters to more decadent appetites will call it a "cupcake" even if the food in question is basically identical in terms of taste and nutritional content. I've even seen "muffins" with frosting (!)
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