Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Tip Tuesday' - Preventing Cupcake Disasters

I have had my fair share of cupcake disasters.... these - that I mentioned in a post last week.  I made these hat shaped cupcakes for a Big Hat Brunch and they were gorgeous....until I put them in the car and they melted and shifted in the carrier.  Fortunately what they lacked in presentation, they made up for in flavor.  Luckily they were also for an understanding friend and really they could have looked a LOT worse!

There have been plenty other mishaps to date but, I've successfully recovered and learned how to do better next time.  I've done a lot of research online, watching instructional videos and reading recipe books.  Mostly though, I let my instinct guide me.  Once you get a sense of what you're doing, you have to go with your gut when it comes to baking. 

As I was thinking about what to post for today's tip, I thought ya might like to know how to recover from or prevent a cupcake baking mishap.

Spring back!
Cupcakes tend to cook to doneness within 18-20 minutes (at 350 degrees).  Because I'm paranoid and I've learned my oven has a mind of it's own,  I check the cupcakes around 15 minutes and gently poke them in the center to see if they bounce back slightly. If they bounce back they're done.  If not, they stay in for another 2-3 minutes.

Cool Out
When the cupcakes come out of the oven allow them to sit in the baking tins for about 5 minutes and then remove them and let them properly cool down for about 30-40. The cooling down process will help the frosting adhere to the cupcakes an prevent them from seeping into or sliding off the cakes.  This tends to work for me because I take them out 1-2 minutes early and then they don't dry out.

In a Rush
Try not to rush making cupcakes - or whenever you bake.  However, if you are pressed for time and say you have a motherload of cupcakes to make.  You can freeze the cupcakes or put them in the fridge to cool down if you want to move on to another batch.  Also make sure your tins are not hot/warm when you put the batter in the pans - the cakes could come out a bit flat or overcooked.

Wrap it Up
Another trick you can try to ensure a moist & fluffy cupcake is to wrap the cakes in plastic wrap once they're out of the oven.  Now, I know what I said before about cooling them down.  However, this method should be used when they have cooked a few minutes longer than required.  In which case your cupcake will probably be dry and wrapping them in plastic will trap the heat.  Put them in the fridge to slow the carry over cooking process.

Speaking of Dry...
Brush overbaked cupcakes with a simple syrup or flavored liqueur if they are a bit dry.  This might not save the cupcake entirely, but it should give them enough moisture to make them bearable.

Jack Frost
Frosting can be forgiving - but make sure that you apply it to cooled down cupcakes. If you had them in the fridge - let them sit out for about 20 minutes or to room tempature.  Cold frosted cupcakes are not that good - at least to me. 

Stuck in the middle
NEVER bake your cupcakes in the lower or upper half of your oven.  I did that once and the bottoms of my cupcakes came off with the wrappers and they were a bit dry.  Always bake them in the middle rack.

What to do with leftover, dry, too cakey cupcakes.....Make some trifle!  Cut the cupcakes into bite sized cubes and layer them in between whipped cream and berries for an easy dessert!

These are just some of the basic tips I have on the topic of cupcakes.  If you have any questions or suggestions of your own - please post a comment or email me.

......if you are in the mood for cupcakes don't forget to enter to win the Friday Freebie!  A Carrot Cupcake Kit complete with cupcake mix, paper liners, frosting, sprinkles, cupcake wrappers and candy toppers! 

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