Your child has asked you to make a batch or two of cupcakes for the school bake sale. No problem! You’ll head to the store and grab some box mix and follow the instructions.

How hard can it be? Apparently harder than you thought because your cupcakes have come out dry and crumbly. None of the kids at your child’s school cared to buy them.

Don’t worry, there’s always next time. We can teach you how to make moist cupcakes that everyone will love. Check out this handy baking guide to learn what makes cupcakes dry and how you can improve any recipe that you use.

What Causes Cupcakes to Dry Out?

There are a variety of factors that will dry out a good cupcake. Baking can be finicky. If you leave your cupcakes in the oven for even a second too long, the texture will be ruined.

You also have to be careful about substituting ingredients in the recipe and storing your finished product. It can be a lot of work.

Use Precise Measurements

Cupcake recipes include measurements for a reason. You have to use the correct measurements or you risk crumbly cakes. This is true for any baked good that you try to make.

The main culprit for dry cupcakes is the overuse of flour. Scoop out the exact amount you need and level off the top of the measuring cup with a butter knife. Using too much sugar will also dry things out.

Don’t skimp on the liquids. If the recipe asks you to use three eggs, use three eggs. If it tells you to use a cup of buttermilk, you better throw in the entire cup.

Be Careful with Substitutions

Using substitutions can get tricky. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, you can’t throw in 1/2 cup of a substitute like oil. There are actual conversions that you have to look up.

If you mess up the conversions on your liquids and fats, you’ll end up having a dry cupcake. Try to stick as close to the recipe as possible.

Overmixing

If a recipe lists beating times be sure to stick to them. Nothing will dry out cupcakes quite like overbeaten egg whites. There’s also a little matter of gluten.

The longer you mix your batter, the more gluten is allowed to develop. You’ll also destroy the sensitive air pockets in the batter.

When you put the cupcakes in the oven, the few amounts of air pockets left have to work double-time to expand. Most of the time, this results in the air pockets bursting open and cracking the cake.

On the flip side of this, if you undermix your batter, you won’t have enough gluten development. The cupcakes won’t cook right and you’ll be left with a dry, crumbly structure.

Overbaking

Even if you get the batter right, if you overbake the cupcakes, they’ll dry out. Sure, baking cupcakes at a high temperature will get them done faster but you’ll scorch them.

Always preheat the oven and wait for the little light to go off before you put the pan in. Set a timer for a little under what the recipe says the baking time is. When your timer goes off, stick a toothpick in the cupcakes.

If the toothpick comes out with a few crumbs on it, take the pan out of the oven. You don’t want to bake them until the toothpick comes out clean because then they’ll be overdone.

Don’t Leave the Cupcakes in the Pan

Your cupcakes are done and looking beautiful! Time to take them out and allow them to cool. They may look good but if you leave them in the pan for too long, they’ll dry out.

The pan will still be hot for a while after it’s taken out of the oven. When we say that it will be hot, we mean that it will continue to bake the cupcakes.

Frost the Entire Cupcake

Once your cupcakes are cool, it’s time to apply the frosting. The frosting isn’t only there to make the cupcakes look pretty and taste sweeter. It also locks in moisture.

Try to frost as much of the top of the cupcake as you can. This will stop your cupcakes from getting dry when they’re sitting out all day at an event.

Storing the Cupcakes

While you’re actively serving the cupcakes, you’re fine to keep them on a cupcake tier from The Smart Baker. Once your event is over, however, you’ll need to transfer them to an airtight container.

As long as the cakes stay in a container, they’ll last for two days on your kitchen counter and seven days when sitting in your fridge.

How to Make Moist Cupcakes?

Now that you know what not to do, let’s talk about what you should be doing. The secret of how to make cupcakes from scratch is in the ingredients that you use.

Use Oil

We know that we said to be careful with substitutions but trading out your butter for canola or olive oil can do wonders. The fats found in oil will stop gluten from bonding. Of course, there will still be some gluten in there but not as much.

As long as you follow conversion rules, you shouldn’t have to worry about dry cupcakes either. For example, if the recipe tells you to use a cup of butter, trade it out for 3/4 cups of olive oil.

Pudding Mix

Using a single box of pudding mix is the perfect thing to keep your cupcakes moist because it does great things for the consistency of the batter. It can also add an interesting flavor punch.

Mix things up by doing mint pudding and chocolate cupcakes or vanilla cupcakes with butterscotch pudding. There are all kinds of combos that you can do. Feel free to experiment.

Yogurt and Sour Cream

The fastest way to dress up any box cupcake mix is with yogurt or sour cream. If the recipe on the box calls for a cup of water, substitute it for a cup of yogurt or sour cream. Well, maybe not completely substitute the water.

Since yogurt and sour cream have such a strong flavor, you might want to go through the recipe as it’s written and only add in 1/2 cup of one of them. Either way, your cupcakes should come out nice and moist.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is great for chocolate cupcakes. It’s not so great for vanilla ones because it discolors them. Brown sugar is also a lot sweeter than regular sugar so you have to be careful with it.

If you add in too much, your cupcakes will be moist but they’ll also be tooth-rottenly overpowering. The best thing to do is half it. If the recipe calls for a single cup of white sugar, do half a cup of it and half a cup of brown sugar.

Applesauce

If you want to have delicious cupcakes with none of the guilt, substitute the fats in your recipe with applesauce. The cupcakes may not rise as much as you want them to but they’ll be healthier.

If you’re worried about the cupcakes not rising enough, you can do what you do with the sugar and half things up. If the recipe calls for an entire cup of butter, do half a cup of that and half a cup of applesauce.

Mayo

Putting mayo in a sweet recipe sounds gross but if you sit down and think about it, Mayo contains pretty much all the ingredients that you’re already putting into the cupcakes.

Adding a 1/4 cup of mayo will be enough to make your end product moist without affecting the flavor. Mayo can also prolong the life of your cupcakes because it contains vinegar.

Cake Flour

Cake flour doesn’t contain quite as much gluten as all-purpose flour does so, using it will keep your cupcakes nice and fluffy. Cake flour is also bleached.

This means that it has a higher acid content. This sounds bad until you realize that the higher acid amount allows for more moisture to set in.

Make Moist Cupcakes that the Entire Family Will Love

Making cupcakes from scratch sounds easy enough until you pull dry, cracked cakes out of the oven. The good news is learning how to make moist cupcakes isn’t so hard.

Sometimes it’s all a matter of adding something different to the recipe or taking the pan out of the oven a little earlier. Experiment and play around with some of the tips on this list and make a perfect cupcake every time.

Are you looking for more delicious ways to prepare desserts? Check out the recipes section of our blog daily to learn all the best dishes.

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