Cupcakes are a great addition to a special occasion, whether formal or informal, as they can be decorated in a fancy way and dressed up for a fun, exciting occasion. Cupcakes are not challenging to master, but many mistakes can happen if you don’t know what you are doing.
Cupcakes with crunchy tops are caused by your oven being too hot, baking with the thermofan, or the convection oven setting. It may be because you bake them for too long, added too much sugar, added too little leavening agent, or over-mixing the batter.
Most of us are more nervous about making a cake than cupcakes as it seems harder to make and easier to mess up; this is true but not always the case. Most of the problems that can go wrong with a cake can also go wrong when making cupcakes.
Why Are My Cupcakes Hard on Top and How to Fix It?
Knowing the common mistakes is beneficial and helps to prevent them from happening. This can improve your baking technique and help you ensure you make the perfect dish.
Most mistakes with cupcakes can thankfully be hidden with some icing and decorations. Although you can do this, not all mistakes can be hidden with icing, unfortunately. To get the perfect looking and tasting cupcake, there are a few basic techniques to master.
A common problem some people seem to have is that the top of their cupcakes becomes crunchy and hard. So we will go through a few reasons why this happens and the different steps to prevent it.
1 – Your Oven Is Too Hot
It is important to bake your cupcakes at the correct temperature; if the oven is too hot, the outer layer of the cupcakes can become stiff and burnt before the inner cupcake has time to cook thoroughly.
When this happens, sometimes a crack can form on the top of the cupcake. This happens because the top becomes hard and stops rising, but the inner continues to rise, causing the top to pop open, forming a crack.
Make sure the oven is set on the correct temperature setting; to double-check, you can always use a thermometer. This is highly recommended if you have an old oven. Always pre-heat your oven before baking your cupcakes to make sure they start cooking at the right temperature.
2 – Correct Placement in the Oven
Cupcakes should be laced in the center of the oven when baked. This ensures good airflow and even heat distribution for the cupcakes to bake. Cupcakes bake the best when they receive most of the heat from the bottom of the oven.
If your oven generates a lot of heat in the top half of the oven, place the baking tray a little lower in the oven. This will reduce the intensity of the heat from above. If there is too much heat generated from the top of the oven or if the heat is uneven, reduce the oven’s temperature. They will bake for a little longer, but the batter will be more evenly cooked.
3 – Bake on the Correct Oven Setting
It is important not to bake with the thermofan or convection oven setting on your oven because this increases the intensity of the heat as the fan pushes the hot air around the oven.
4 – Baking for Too Long
It is important to bake the cupcakes for the correct amount of time. If they are baked for too long, the top of the cupcake will become hard and burnt with a very dry inner layer that can also become hard and dense.
5 – Using the Correct Size Baking Tin
Yes, the correct size baking tray does matter, and yes, you get smaller cupcake baking trays – mini cupcakes. Putting the correct amount of batter into each cupcake holder is essential rather than the size itself.
The amount to the size is essential because if you put too much batter into each cupcake holder, the outer will cook too quickly for the inner part of the cupcakes. This will lead to a hard cupcake surface so that the inner has enough time to cook thoroughly through.
6 – Too Much Sugar
Adding too much sugar to the recipe, whether indicated or miscalculated, can cause the top of the cupcakes to harden and brown too much. It is important to measure out the sugar correctly or if the recipe has too much, reduce it until you get the correct textured cupcake.
7 – Parchment Paper to Protect the Cupcakes
Some recipes will include this as one of the steps, but if you see the tops of your cupcakes becoming hard and browning too quickly, then you can place parchment paper or foil over the top of them.
This will help divert the heat from the tops of the cupcakes. This should usually be done near the end; make sure not to open the oven too early; otherwise, your cupcakes may sink in the middle.
8 – Over Mixing
Over mixing the cupcake batter can also cause the cupcake and the tops to get hard. This is mainly because of the flour, which is the foundation of every cupcake recipe and helps form its structure.
When wet ingredients are mixed into the flour, a protein called gluten in the flour develops. It is crucial to not over mix because otherwise, too much gluten will be formed, which can cause the cupcakes to become too dense and hard once cooked.
9 – Following Recipe Steps Properly
Cupcake recipes may use slightly different techniques depending on what method they want to use. If your recipe calls for the creaming method, it is essential to prepare before doing it and not rush. It is vital to make sure the ingredients you are using are at room temperature when using this method.
If you don’t allow the ingredients such as butter and eggs to warm up to room temperature, then the cupcake’s texture will harden. The cold reduces the formation of air pockets needed to make the cake light and fluffy.
10 – Too Little Leavening Agent
Leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder are essential ingredients used to help make the cupcakes light and fluffy. If the recipe indicates too little, if you add less than recommended or forget to add the leavening agent, then your cakes will not rise and have a hard crust.
Cupcakes are simple, but many mistakes can be made. It is crucial to find the best recipe and follow the recipe to the tee when baking; otherwise, your delicious goods won’t turn out the way you hoped.
There are many different possible reasons for crunchy tops; reading the different options can help you reduce mistakes when making them as you avoid all these mistakes.
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.