If you are looking for ways to make cupcakes moist or even more moist and keep them fresh, this article will help. So grab the secrets to moist cupcakes, and never make dry ones again.
Cupcakes are those small cakes that flourish American gastronomy. Made commercially and at home, they are pretty, delicious, and better on the moist side. They invade our tables with the reasons.
You might wonder why bakery-style cupcakes are so delicious and beautiful when made with simple ingredients.
But there are a few secrets to moist cupcakes that professional and home bakers follow.
They know what ingredients make cupcakes moist, how to measure them precisely, and how to mix them properly and bake them at the correct temperature.
After revealing the moist cake secrets, let's uncover tips and tricks for moist cupcakes, also how to fix the dry cupcakes if this is the case.
You will learn how to make your cupcakes fluffy and soft and improve their texture, making them even more moist.
And then, you will be ready to create your moist cupcake recipes and upgrade the original recipe to the next level. Nothing beats ultra-moist cupcakes made from scratch.
What makes cupcakes moist
You may think there are magic recipes, secret ingredients, and proper techniques that make your cupcakes moist. But everything is simpler than you think.
The ingredients for moist cakes and cupcakes are the same and available in your nearest grocery store. Buy the right ingredients and make some substitutions or choose the recipe for moist cupcakes at the beginning.
Make sure to measure your ingredients correctly and follow the recipe to T if you are a beginner baker. Experience bakers have more freedom to play with ingredients and baking techniques. No worries, it will come once you grow as a baker.
Baking tips, from preheating the oven, and setting it at the right temperature to avoiding overbaking, are essential to prevent your cupcakes from drying out.
Finally, proper storage and serving cupcakes are other keys to moist cupcakes. Now, look at each baking secret to moist cupcakes to ensure your bakes turn out perfect every time.
What ingredient makes cupcakes moist
Better to ask what ingredients bring moisture to cupcakes because there are a few.
Oil and other fats
Butter and oil are the two main ingredients used to make cupcakes. So if you wonder what cupcakes will taste better, with butter or oil, the answer depends on what you want to achieve.
Choose high-quality butter (82% fat) for the best flavor, but use oil instead of butter if you strive to get really moist cupcakes.
Another factor to take into consideration is the storage of unfilled cupcakes. Those made with butter are better stored at room temperature since butter hardens in the refrigerator.
In general, cupcakes made with butter tend to keep a couple of days less than oil-based ones.
Most cupcakes made with oil stay soft at room temperature and from the fridge, but it depends on the oil used to make the recipe.
You can replace butter with grapeseed or vegetable oil as flavorless types or sunflower or canola oil in your cupcake recipe. Opt for one of nine types of cooking oil that will not solidify in the refrigerator.
To make your cupcakes more moist, try to use more fatty ingredients; for example,
- low-fat milk instead of water,
- whole milk instead of low-fat,
- heavy or whipping cream instead of milk, or
- real butter instead of margarine.
Use equal parts of mentioned ingredients when replacing.
You read it right. It seems like a weird ingredient to add to the cupcake batter, but it is one of the best moisteners in baking.
Due to its oil and eggs, it brings enough fat to the batter to moisten cupcakes. As a mayonnaise ingredient, vinegar is known for improving the shelf life of baked goods. Add a tablespoon to ¼ cup of mayonnaise to your dozen cupcakes recipe.
Yogurt and sour cream
For soft and moist cupcakes, use high-quality dairy products such as plain yogurt or sour cream, replacing buttermilk, sour cream, or milk.
Substitute ingredients in a 1:1 ratio, but you should thin your yogurt and sour cream with water closer to the replaceable ingredient.
But what is the science behind yogurt? According to Cheryl Sternmal Rule, the author of the book "Yogurt Culture,"
Thanks to its acidic property, yogurt, when in the presence of baking soda, helps baked goods swell and rise... It adds moisture and tenderness.
Sour cream due to lactic, acetic, and citric acids also adds moisture to your cupcakes. You can replace yogurt and sour cream with cottage cheese, quark, Greek yogurt, or ricotta, or fresh cream.
Buttermilk, a mix of milk and cultures, adds to your cupcakes a silky soft, and moist texture. In addition, due to its acidic part, it tenderizes the gluten in the cupcake batter, providing moisture to your baked goods.
With the presence of baking soda, buttermilk helps rise the batter in the oven. Low-fat content and tangy taste are other reasons to use buttermilk in baking.
Brown sugar and other sweeteners
To make moist cupcakes, use brown sugar instead of white sugar. Due to added molasses, brown sugar helps retain moisture inside cupcakes, so they stay fresh longer.
You can replace white sugar with brown sugar as 1:1 or use another ratio you prefer, but be aware that the batter will be darker with adding brown sugar.
Sugar is a hygroscopic or water-attracting substance. So by reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe, you cut the cupcakes' ability to retain moisture during and after baking.
What is it about other sweeteners? Honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, and molasses also benefit the cupcake's moisture, adding a beautiful sweet flavor.
With so many benefits around the kitchen, baking soda is another secret ingredient for ultra-soft cupcakes, exceptionally well working with the presence of buttermilk.
This combo is known for creating soft and fluffy cupcakes. For the even distribution of the leavening agent, mix it with flour and sift a few times.
Using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour is another trick. You can make it yourself by swapping 2 tablespoons of flour out of one cup of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
You can experiment further by replacing ⅓ of the flour called for in the recipe with potato starch or ground almonds.
However, don't replace more than 40% of the regular flour with the starches; otherwise, the cupcakes will tend to crumble.
Also, opt for bleached flour since its lower pH makes it acidic and helps attract moisture in baked goods.
Some bakers prefer matured or aged flour with a pH of 5.29, while fresh raw flour is between 6.0 and 6.8. With aging, flour becomes acidic and improves the texture and taste of cupcake bakes.
Among four known modified wheat and corn starches such as pregelatinized, thinned with acid, cross-linked, dextrinized, and intact form, the only one makes cupcakes moist.
Clearjel is an unflavored pregelatinized starch that helps retain moisture in cupcakes before and after baking.
Pregelatinized starch for instant pudding was invented in the late 1970s, so at no surprise instant pudding also increases the moisture of cupcakes.
Just replace 10% of the flour with the instant pudding mix or clearjel, mixing it with dry ingredients.
To bring more flavor to your cupcakes, you can try to experiment with flavors of powdered pudding mix (vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, etc.) and its amount. Add the more, a 3.4-ounce box of instant pudding to a 12-cupcake batch recipe.
Pureed flax seeds, known as an egg replacement, are another ingredient that helps to make moist cupcakes.
Place 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds in a blender with 5 to 6 tablespoons of water and blend until obtaining a brown sticky cream. Pour it into the cupcake batter, mix with a whisk, and bake. And then enjoy the moistest cupcakes ever.
You will be surprised at how your cupcake batch will taste so moist with added mashed potato to the batter. Duff Goldman explains,
Root vegetables, especially potatoes and carrots, hold moisture really, really well.
Store-bought or homemade applesauce or grated apples also benefit the batter by bringing it more moisture. As a result, your cupcakes will be light, soft, and moist.
Whole eggs, especially egg yolks, work as binding agents in cakes and cupcake batters, creating an emulsion.
Beaten with sugar, eggs trap the air making the baked goods soft and fluffy and moisten cupcakes due to adding fat and liquid component.
Opt for large eggs while making a cupcake batter, or even add two more egg yolks to the number of eggs called in the recipe.
You will make your cupcakes richer, moister, and tastier by replacing two whole eggs with three egg yolks or using 3 to 4 whole eggs instead of two.
How to make cupcakes moist
Besides ingredients that make cupcakes moist, there are a few more extra tips to consider.
Choose the right recipe
Choosing the right recipe for moist cupcakes is a crucial part of baking, especially for the beginner baker. First, pay attention if the cupcake recipe already contains enough liquid and the right ingredients mentioned above.
Seasoned bakers can change the recipe by swapping ingredients and creating new recipes.
Decide on the correct ingredients
To ensure moist cupcakes, the recipe requires exact measurements of quality ingredients.
Bleached or unbleached flour, type of flour, butter vs. margarine, and even butterfat percentage affect the quality of your cupcakes.
Make sure not to confuse baking soda with baking powder: they are not interchangeable.
Pay attention to the oil used in the recipe, or consider replacing butter with oil. Different oils bring additional flavors and have different solidification temperatures.
If needed, refer to baking substitution charts to swap ingredients correctly.
And never underestimate the accurate measurement of recipe ingredients. Finally, choose the weighing method you are used to: a kitchen scale or a measuring cup.
Are eggs weighed in grams? You may find recipes where the amount of eggs is measured in grams. Many pastry chefs prefer this method since eggs don't have the same weight.
Get ingredients to room temperature
When it comes to baking cupcakes, the room temperature of the recipe ingredients is critical. Watch the video with Mandy Tanner, who explains why this step is essential.
Make sure to take eggs, butter, milk, buttermilk, etc., out of the fridge at least an hour before making the batter.
Warm up your eggs in warm water for a few minutes. To warm up milk or cream, you can use the microwave to warm up ingredients in 15-minute increments.
What's with butter? Heat a microwave-safe bowl on high and quickly cover the butter. It will soften in a few minutes. Or cut butter into large pieces and put it in the microwave at high for 10 seconds.
The goal is that all the cupcake ingredients must be about the same temperature, which prevents the batter from graining.
Rose Beranbaum, the author of The Cake Bible, recommends that butter and liquids be at 70°F (21°C), while room temperature eggs mean to be at 60°F (16°C).
Keep the ratio of ingredients
The right ratio between wet and dry ingredients is another key factor in making moist cupcakes.
Wet ingredients are moisteners that thin out batters and doughs. They include milk, eggs, cream, oil, melted fat, etc., that contain water. Dry ingredients absorb moisteners: flour, starches, powdered milk, and cocoa powder.
If the batter or dough is out of balance between wet and dry ingredients, it will result in either dry cupcakes or excessive wet cupcakes.
Respect the order of ingredients
The order of ingredients is different while making cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. For example, all three call for eggs and sugar.
To mix up the muffin butter, you must combine sugar with other dry ingredients. Cake and cupcake batter is made by creaming sugar with butter.
The key is the different interactions of ingredients with each other to provide the right texture to the baked goods.
Choose the proper mixing method
Creaming is the dominant mixing method used to make cupcakes. You should start by beating fat (butter, for example) and sugar, then add eggs one at a time.
Master confectioner Martin Rößler says,
It is important that you first beat the butter well with the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then the eggs are broken open one by one - each egg for half a minute.
Please, don't skip breaking eggs one at a time: it is one of the key factors that moisten your cupcakes.
If you strive for moist cupcakes, avoid overmixing. Period.
For the best results, use a hand whisk instead of an electric mixer or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. If you use electric appliances, be careful not to overwork the batter.
With overmixing and stirring too hard, you risk developing the gluten strands network. You want this dough strength for bread but not cakes and cupcakes with a light texture.
So try to mix ingredients in less than 6 to 8 seconds: ensure no lumps and the batter is smooth and homogeneous.
Choose the right pan
The color of your muffin pan (the same as a cupcake pan) makes a difference in the quality of your baked goods.
While dark and light-colored pans affect the baking of muffins, it doesn't really matter for cupcakes. This is because muffins are baked without liners, while cupcakes always use paper liners.
Pay attention to the cup size of the muffin pan. Even being "standard" doesn't always mean standard ranging from 82 milliliters to 112 milliliters. For example, the USA's standard cup capacity is 100 milliliters.
So, depending on the muffin pan you choose (standard, mini, or jumbo), you may need to adjust the baking time to avoid overbaking. As per the Serious Eats testing, the best medium-sized muffin pan is the USA Pan Bakeware Muffin Pan, made of aluminized steel.
Use a scoop to fill cupcakes
Using a scoop to fill the cupcake liners may seem optional, but it ensures that cupcakes rise and bake evenly.
To reach the exact batter distribution, use a medium cookie scoop for standard cupcakes and a small cookie scoop for minis. Fill the liners up to ⅔ for the best result.
Get to know your oven
Your oven is a baker's best friend, and getting it to know is essential. With purchasing a new one, or repeated fails in baking, check the oven temperature with an oven thermometer.
You will ensure that you set the oven at the right temperature and avoid fluctuations. In case of uneven baking, bake one batch of cupcake batter at a time.
Overbaking cupcakes is the worst: they will guarantee to come out dry. So it is essential to know when your cupcakes will be done or fully baked.
The cupcakes are done when:
- their lines are slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan;
- a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs;
- pressing down on the cupcake, it springs back.
Always respect the baking time, checking cupcakes for doneness 5 minutes before the end of time called in the recipe. One more tip is to bake cupcakes, placing the pan on the middle rack of the oven (not the baking sheet).
Don't open the oven door
Checking on cupcakes is important, but never open the oven door while baking.
Let the cupcake batter rise. With the heat introduction, the baking process goes through at least 11 different events. To name a few, they are fat melting, gas formation, and expansion, sugar dissolving, protein coagulation, starch gelatinization, gas evaporation, caramelization, Maillard browning creation, etc.
You don't want to disturb your baking, risking collapsing it due to temperature fluctuations.
How to keep cupcakes moist
Now that your cupcakes come out of the oven, how to keep them moist? Here are some tips for keeping those fresh.
Let cupcakes cool
Let the cupcakes stay in the pan for a few minutes, and remove them. Allow them to rest on a wire rack, uncovered, for at least one hour, until completely cooled. During cooling, moisture redistributes within the crumb and moves to the dry crust.
A cooling rack is preferred over a plate or cutting board, allowing air circulation around cupcakes. It helps to cool them quickly and avoid soggy bottoms. You should cool cupcakes to below 100°F (38°C).
Store in an airtight container
When storing unfrosted cupcakes, keep them well-covered to save moisture. Use an airtight container (they are BPA-free) that will keep them soft and fresh. Try to avoid using plastic bags: the tops of the cupcakes may stick.
For the best results, keep your butter-based cupcakes at room temperature for 3-4 days at maximum. You can store cupcakes made with oil in the fridge since most oils stay liquid in the cold.
Depending on the frosting, you can keep frosted cupcakes on the counter at room temperature or in the fridge.
Freezing is the best option for storing unfrosted cupcakes for an extended period. Wrap them individually with plastic wrap, place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container, and freeze them for up to three months.
Frost cupcakes to retain moisture
Frosting cupcakes in time is key to preventing their tops from drying out. You should frost them within 2 days of baking, sooner if possible.
For the best results, frost your cupcakes right after cooling down. The topping helps trap the moisture inside cupcakes.
Make sure to respect the storage time of cupcakes depending on the frosting. For example, meringue and whipped cream should be eaten on the same day. On the other hand, you can keep buttercream-frosted cupcakes for two days.
How to make dry cupcakes moist
So now you know how to make cupcakes moist and how to keep them moist. But is there any way to fix dry cupcakes? Here are a few tips on how to moisten cupcakes.
Brush with simple syrup
You can fix dry cupcakes by brushing them with simple syrup. Just boil equal parts of water and sugar, let it cool and soak your cupcakes with the sugar syrup using a pastry brush. To make cupcakes even juicier, apply a few layers of simple syrup.
You can even poke holes in the cupcakes with a wooden skewer or a toothpick, drizzle the syrup or juice and let them moisten for an hour.
Soak with milk
While you can brush on simple syrup, you can try to replace the syrup with warm milk. For example, you can use whole or low-fat, evaporated, or plant-based alternatives.
Besides regular frosting, you can add some moisture to dry cupcakes by adding the filling.
Use a cupcake corer, a small knife, or the bottom of the large pastry tip to remove the center of the cupcake.
Using a piping bag, fill the cupcake's center with your favorite frosting you plan to use on tops, such as vanilla buttercream frosting, cream cheese frosting, jam, lemon curd, chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, or another homemade cake filling.
Finish your cupcake with a swirl on top. Both the filling and topping help your cupcakes obtain more moisture.
Soft and moist cupcakes that rise perfectly and keep fresh after baking is a real treat and an amazing achievement for any baker.
With these secrets, tips, and tricks, you are now ready to get started. Never wonder again how to make cupcakes moist.
Love baking tips? Try these next!
Never open the oven door while baking cupcakes to avoid temperature fluctuations and ensure proper baking. While cupcakes go through specific baking steps, it is essential for rising and texture development.
You can always upgrade a simple cupcake recipe to a super moist one. Use the right ingredients that bring moisture to the cupcake batter, respect the order of ingredients, don't overmix, avoid overbaking, and store cupcakes properly.