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Mar 31, 2008 11:30 PM

The Better Cupcake?

I am a young baker and have been in a cupcake phase lately.

I've noticed that all of my cupcakes are turning out with a really dense cake. I went to a bakery here in KC called "Babycakes" and their cupcakes were very light and had tight little holes in them rather than the bigger holes that my heavy cupcakes have. Much different from the cupcakes that are made at the bakery where I work.

It's sort of like the difference between a cake mix and a cake from scratch. Cake mixes are always very soft and tend to melt away in your mouth, while most of the cakes I have made tend to sit heavy and too rich.

I know that in a cake mix, there is no butter, just oil...and I wonder if that is the secret to a light cupcake.

Maybe someone could help? Veg Oil vs Butter?????????


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  1. those "bigger holes" in your cupcakes are technically known as tunnels...and they're a result of over-handling or over-beating the batter.

    1. I have to wonder how you are assembling your batter? Are you making the batter via the creaming method (beating the butter and sugar together and then alternating adding liquids and flour), or are you combing all the wet and dry separately and then coming them at the last minute?

      The first method is more common and technically correct for cake based cupcakes, as the second method is called the muffin or quick bread method.

      I definitely agree with Goodheathgourmet that you are over-mixing if you have large holes instead of a fine crumb and unconnected bubbles, as you are overdeveloping the gluten, but this could also be traced to the type of flour. You should be using a low protein pastry or cake flour for cupcakes, but use a AP or pastry flour for the denser muffins.

      Most American cupcakes are technically a small butter cake, but you need to use oil for muffins.

      1. Butter=flavor, but veg oil in cupcakes=lightness and moistness. it's always such a tossup. paula deen's red velvet cupcakes are made with veg oil and people go crazy for those. when i make chocolate ones with butter, i don't get the same reaction.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sfkusinera

          oil definitely makes for a moister cake and a lighter crumb...i say use a combination of butter & oil to get the benefits of both.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Butter makes a firmer cake, oil is moister and lighter, but I like the taste of the butter. I've been thinking of doing half and half to get the benefits of both but didn't know if it would go the other way, getting the worst of both instead. With melted butter, I get smaller holes.

            1. re: chowser

              Subbing unswtnd applesauce for the oil also results in a very moist cupcake.

              1. re: ArikaDawn

                applesauce can be a great substitute for oil...depending on the proportions. too much leads to gummy cake.

        2. If I use a combination (which sounds ideal to me) how would I take a recipe with butter measurements and make it butter and oil?

          Would I just half the call for butter and use the other half for oil? Like, 8TBS butter = 4TBS butter and 4TBS oil???

          1. whenever I make cakes and or cupcakes for weddings, I always use a cake mix with pudding in it and always use oil. No contrary to what goodhealthgourmet said about over beating the batter, I use my KA and turn it up to #10 and beat for 10-15 minutes. It makes a light but compact cupcake that still melts in your mouth. When you get the mix in its pan, tap pan on counter to remove any bubbles that you may have. My home-ec teacher taught me about the over beating back in the olden days and I still use it and have great results & compliments from my clients.

            8 Replies
            1. re: thecountryrose

              10-15 minutes beating? really? I've never timed how long I beat cake batter but I'm sure it's not 10-15 minutes.

              1. re: maplesugar

                10-15 minutes definitely sounds excessive to me. but hey, if it works...

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I don't mix bread dough in my Kitchen-Aid for 10 minutes but if it works for you. I have to wonder what kind of cake mix that you are using, as there might not be enough gluten possible to toughen the product.

                  My cakes tend to get mixed for 30-45 seconds or just until the flour is absorbed. I would rather add a few strokes with a large spatula to insure full incorporation, rather then over mix them with a machine.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    I was wondering about toughening the gluten by beating it that long but have no idea how it works with commercial cake mixes and all the artificial stuff they put in it to affect the texture. I saw a show where they interviewed people (not chefs but scientists) who formulated it and they said they make sure the cake will turn out as expected, no matter what you do to it.

                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Right I guess, if it works it works...maybe it has something to do with whatever's in cake mixes?

                    1. re: maplesugar

                      I use Pillsbury cake mixes with pudding in them. The cakes are so moist just like professional bakerys. The only time I have had trouble with mix it was real humid out and air conditioner in kitchen broke the day of baking, so was real hot. Any other time, no problem. I also only use white cake mix, not any other flavor. They dont turn out like white. and farm fresh eggs only for the cakes. If bride wants choc or any other flavor put my choc or other flavor in white cake mix.

                      1. re: thecountryrose

                        ok, so clearly it's safe to beat the heck out of mixes...but i would never recommend using the same treatment for a scratch batter.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Yea, your right, I did try it with a scratch batter and it didnt work real well. It was tough and just wouldnt rise. But that is why I don't like scratch batters anyway. Boxed cake mixes just work best for me and when I make wedding cakes, I can keep the cost down with the box mix. Lots of bakeries that make wedding cakes or cupcakes use boxed mixes. Boxed mixes are what we used in college(after I proved to prof that it worked for beating so long). I just cant make a scratch cake that tastes like my Grandma's used to so that is why I probably gave up trying.