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The answers to all your cupcake questions

Who can say no to a cupcake? Certainly not us! Today, I’m lucky enough to have chef Tony O’Reilly with me to unravel the ins and outs of making the perfect cupcake.

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Ultimate Cupcake Q&A with Chef Tony O'Reilly

 

When does a cupcake become a muffin?

A cupcake will never be a muffin! Cupcakes and muffins are usually around the same size and look similar but there are subtle differences:

Unlike cupcakes, a muffin mix usually has something solid added to the base mix such as blueberries, raspberries or chocolate nibs.
Cupcakes are usually topped with a piped frosting and decorated with a representation of their flavour (such as chocolate) whereas muffins are usually dusted with icing sugar or a thin coating of fondant.
The basic mixture might be different too - some recipes suggest making muffins with oil.
My top tip: always use unsalted butter and a good cooking margarine.

Branded or own-label flour – does it make a difference?

Yes, the flour does matter but because of the blend of flour rather than the brand - a good name usually means a superior blend (it could be a shop-branded quality product). Basically, you get what you pay for and, although I’m all for saving money, I want a balance between quality and price. A good-quality blend will be a finer-milled flour from selected wheat grains and is more likely give you a lighter finished product.

Does the age and quality of eggs make a difference?

The older the egg, the weaker the protein (helps to set the cake) so use the freshest eggs possible and as local to your area as you can. I use free-range eggs for everything because, for me, it’s about conscience and care for the environment. As for organic - some people believe it makes a difference to the flavour but I’m not so sure.

Stork v butter – which is best?

Ah, this old chestnut!! Stork is especially formulated for baking and it can make for a lighter finished product but I prefer the taste of butter, even though you have to beat the air into it to make it lighter.

Do you use baking powder as well as self-raising flour?

I’m with Mary Berry on this one - I always add extra baking powder to give more lift to the finished product.

My top tip: sprinkle the baking powder evenly over the flour and sieve the additional baking powder and flour together twice to make sure it is dispersed as evenly as possible.

Mixing - all in one or one ingredient at a time?

I always cream my butter and sugar together before I add my eggs. Lastly, I add my self-raising flour and baking powder mix.

How long should I mix for? Can I over mix?

I always say get the mixture into the oven as quickly as possible! (I’ve never tried to over mix but it’s not a precise science so, if you leave the blender on too long, it won’t make much of a difference.)

Should you leave the mixture to stand before baking?

For cupcake mixture (or any product with self-raising flour), speed is of the essence - my advice is always to get it into the oven as quickly as possible! (I think you’ve probably got that message by now!)

My top tip: make sure you have pre-set the oven and have your tins ready because once you add the flour to the wet mixture, the chemical reaction begins. The longer you take to get it into the oven, the less of a chemical reaction you have left to give you a good ris

What’s the best temperature to bake cupcakes?

Everyone’s oven is different but I say 180°C for most ovens and 170°C for a more modern, (If you want to check your oven temperature, Judge has a Oven Thermometer. efficient, fan-assisted oven. Older ovens might need an extra few degrees and a bit of extra time.

How do you know when they’re ready?

I check using a combination of recipe-suggested timing and eye. If you’re unsure, push a cocktail stick or a skewer into the middle of the mixture and if it comes out clean of raw mixture, it’s done. Remember, you still have ‘carry over cooking’ temperature when you take your cupcakes out of the oven which will cook them a little more on the cooling rack.

My top tip: once out of the oven, let the initial heat dissipate and then lightly cover your cupcakes so that they don’t dry out too much.

How much mixture do I need for 12 cup cakes?

My recipe allows for about 60-65g of raw mixture per cupcake which will give you a good-sized cupcake – don’t forget, you’re going to add 60g of frosting on top! If you’re not sure about the size you want, have a look at the results - here we used 50g and 65g. Really, it’s up to you – they both look tempting to me!

Good luck and good baking!

Before baking

Hot from the oven

Cooling

Ready!

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