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Converting Cake Batter to Cupcakes or Muffins

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2013

Can you make cupcakes/muffins with your favorite cake batter?

To answer this question, we chose a handful of quick bread and cake recipes ­with different mixing techniques and varying ratios of ingredients: angel food cake, chiffon cake, banana bread, cornbread, carrot cake, devil’s food cake, and a yellow layer cake. After preparing the batters as directed in each recipe, we simply portioned them into greased, standard 12-cup muffin tins and baked them on the middle rack at the oven temperature specified and at about half the time called for.

The results were a mixed bag. The cupcakes made from angel food and chiffon cakes, batters that receive lift from whipped egg whites, failed miserably. They came out of the oven looking perfect but quickly collapsed as they cooled. The devil’s food and yellow cakes fared better. They baked up with flat tops (ideal for a layer cake but not so much for a cupcake) and several stuck to the pan because of their high sugar content, but overall they were acceptable. All the quick breads turned out very nicely.

So with the exception of angel food and chiffon cakes, the next time you want to transform your favorite batter into muffins or cupcakes, go ahead. Divide your batter into a greased 12-cup muffin tin (use paper liners for tender layer cake batters) and bake the batter until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about (or a little less than) half the time called for in the original recipe. Rotate the muffin tin halfway through baking.

GO FOR IT: Quick bread and (most) cake batters work well as cupcakes.

THINK AGAIN: Delicate cakes like angel food or chiffon don’t translate well as cupcakes.