Everyone loves a good cupcake. But, nobody wants a cupcake that is dry. Cupcakes are suppose to be moist and tender, not dry or crumbly! So how can you bake that perfect moist cupcake that everyone craves? Let me show you!
I have plenty of tips and tricks to help you enjoy a soft, moist, delicious cupcake anytime you’d like!
What Makes Cupcakes Moist
Before I tell you how to make nice, juicy cupcakes, let’s take a look at why cupcakes are moist. It all has to do with the ingredients in the cupcake and how it is baked.
To begin, you want to be sure that your cake recipe has the right amount of wet ingredients. These include things like milk, cream, eggs, water and sometimes even coffee (using coffee as an ingredient in chocolate cupcakes helps bring out the chocolate flavor!).
Your recipe has to have the correct amount of wet ingredients in order for your cupcakes to be moist. Be sure to measure all the wet ingredients accurately to ensure you get all that moisture into the bowl.
Fat also adds moisture to the cupcakes and helps keep the cake tender as it bakes. Your cupcake recipe should have some kind of butter, oil or alternative fat to help keep the cake soft.
If you are making low fat cupcakes, you will likely have applesauce, yogurt or another kind of fat replacer. This will work as well to keep those cupcakes moist and juicy!
Once again, be sure to measure the ingredients correctly and don’t skip the fat- you need it to prevent your cupcakes from drying out!
Speaking of drying out, cupcakes lose a lot of moisture as they bake. The hot oven temperature evaporates a lot of the liquid inside the cake. This is a good thing though as it is how your cupcake goes from being a wet batter to a baked, set cake.
Baking time and temperature are very big components in the moist-cupcake puzzle! Using the right baking time and temperature will produce perfectly cooked, moist cupcakes.
Now that you know what helps to keep cupcakes moist, let’s take a look at specific things you can do to ensure that your cupcakes are soft and juice every time.
1 – Use Cake Flour
Many cake recipes out there already call for using cake flour as one of the main ingredients. Cake flour has less gluten than all purpose or bread flour and is there for much more tender.
Cake flour is also typically bleached which makes the acid content of the flour higher. The acidic nature of the flour allows for the flour to trap more moisture as it bakes- exactly what you need when you want a moist cupcake!
If your cake recipe uses all purpose flour, you may want to consider swapping that ingredients for equal parts cake flour. This is a simple way to help make your cupcakes much softer and also more moist.
2 – Use Brown Sugar
White sugar is the most common type of sweetener in cake recipes. However, using brown sugar is going to definitely increase the moisture levels in your cupcakes.
Brown sugar is made by adding molasses to white sugar. Adding that wet, thick sweetener makes brown sugar much more dense and damp than white sugar. This extra moisture will shine through in your cupcakes and make them very tender.
Of course, brown sugar will make your cupcake batter dark so it may not be the best option in a white cake recipe. If you do not feel comfortable replacing all of your white sugar with brown sugar, simply replace half. This will still give you some extra moisture without altering the appearance drastically.
3 – Use Oil Instead of Butter
If your cake recipe calls for butter, consider replacing it with canola oil, olive oil or coconut oil. While butter is a delicious kind of fat, it is also comprised partially of water.
So, butter actually has slightly less fat than oil which is 100% pure fat. Adding this extra fat will prevent gluten from building in your cupcakes by making it hard for the gluten chains to bond. Less gluten bonds means softer cupcakes!
Replacing your butter with the same quantity of oil will guarantee that your cupcakes are moist.
4 – Try Sour Cream or Yogurt
If your cake recipe uses milk, cream or water, try replacing it with a more dense dairy product.
Sour cream and yogurt both have less water than regular milk and will evaporate less as your cupcake bakes. They are also both more acidic than milk and cream which will also add moisture to your cupcakes.
Be sure to use plain sour cream and plain yogurt rather than flavored varieties- you want to add moisture, not change the taste! You can use equal parts of sour cream or yogurt when replacing the milk.
So, if your recipe asks for 1 cup of milk, use 1 cup of plain yogurt. Such a simple switch!
5 – Add Some Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise? In a cupcake? Absolutely! Mayonnaise may seem like a strange ingredient to add to a cake recipe but it is actually a perfect thing to help increase the moisture in your cake.
Mayonnaise is made with eggs and oil which are already found in cupcakes anyway! The juicy, fatty ingredient will give your cupcakes density and moisture with just one scoop.
In addition, mayonnaise contains vinegar which is a natural preservative meaning your cupcakes will last longer- it’s a total win! Mix in ¼ cup of mayonnaise along with your fats in any 12-piece cupcake recipe.
6 – Watch the Clock
One of the most common ways that cupcakes dry out is by over baking them. Leaving the cupcakes in the oven too long will almost guarantee that they get dry. Check your baking time and then set your oven timer for a few minutes before.
You can check your cupcakes by sticking a toothpick in the center of the cake and removing the tray from the oven when the toothpick comes out cleanly. You can also simply touch the top of the cupcake and, when it springs back to the touch, they are done.
When your cupcakes are fully bakes, they will also start to pull away from the sides of the cupcake pan and there will be a small space between the paper liner and the cupcake tray. It is always better to take your cupcakes out a minute early than a minute too late!
So watch that oven carefully to ensure the cupcakes do not dry out due to over baking.
7 – Add Some Pudding
While pudding mix is a dessert in itself, it is also a perfect way to alter your cupcake recipe, adding moisture.
You do not need to use the pudding mix to replace any ingredients in your recipe, simply add a small, 3.5 ounce box of pudding mix to your cupcake batter sized for 12 cupcakes.
Add the dry mix in along with the other dry ingredients in the recipe. The pudding mix contains gelatin which is going to make your batter smooth, dense and, of course, moist! You can also use the powdered pudding mix to add some great flavor to your cupcakes.
Choose a chocolate pudding to make your chocolate cake even more rich. Vanilla will enhance the vanilla cake. Mint pudding added to chocolate cake may be great as well!
Pudding mix is a fun way to add moisture and taste in a very simple way.
8 – Add a Filling
If you have already baked your cupcakes and find that they are a little drier than you may like, you can always add a filling to help out. Filling the cupcakes will not only give them a delicious secret center surprise, but it also helps make a dry cupcake much more moist.
Remove the center of the cupcakes using a small cutter or the bottom of a pastry tip. Discard the cupcake center (or eat it!). Then, scoop your favorite, thick filling into the center of the cupcake.
You can use jams, chocolate ganache, buttercream or puddings to stuff your cupcakes. The moisture from the fillings will soak into the cake and make your cupcakes nice and tender.
9 – Brush with Simple Syrup
Cupcakes that are dry after baking can still be saved. Soaking the cupcakes with simple syrup is a sure fire way to give them some extra moisture.
In fact, soaking the cupcakes with simple syrup will literally have the cake dripping with juicy goodness.
Make simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water. Use a pastry brush to coat the cupcake in the syrup, adding a little at a time so that the cake has time to absorb the syrup rather than just flooding it all at once.
You can also use a small squeeze bottle full of syrup to poke and squeeze the juice into the cupcake directly. Either method will ensure your dry cupcakes become moist almost instantly!
A moist, tender cupcake is always a winner and with these tricks, you can guarantee that the next cupcakes you bake are perfect. Let me know which methods you try and which techniques are your favorite! Happy baking!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.