6 Common Cupcake Problems (+ How to Avoid Them!)

Baking perfect cupcakes can be easier said than done. Cupcakes may be small, but they can take just as much time and cause you as much trouble as a full-size cake. That’s why we’re here to help you troubleshoot common cupcake problems so you can bake your best cupcakes yet.

Keep reading for answers to some of the most common cupcake questions.

How to bake perfect cupcakes - cupcake troubleshooting FAQs

Why did my cupcakes sink in the middle?

Why it happens:

There’s nothing worse than taking cupcakes out the oven, letting them cool and watching them deflate. The main culprit for this is over mixing. While it’s tempting to throw every ingredient in the bowl all at once (some recipes even advise it) this often leads to overworking the batter.

Because ingredients like sugar, flour, butter, and eggs have different consistencies, there can be lumps of ingredients sticking together. This is when most people put their mixer on full power. While the lumps may vanish, all that mixing will fill your batter with air. That air that escapes when in the oven, leaving behind a flat or sunken cupcake. 

How to avoid it:

Over mixing is very easy to do — and on the plus side, it’s just as easy to avoid by following a specific order of events when making the batter. Cream the sugar and butter together, then add the flour and mix until incorporated. Then add the eggs, mixing one last time until combined. 

Why is the top of my cupcake sticky?

Why it happens:

Every freshly baked treat needs time to cool, and cupcakes are no different. But it’s not always easy to tell when a cupcake has cooled all the way through. If the top is cold to the touch, it’s tempting to place them in an airtight container until you can frost them. Unfortunately, this is where moisture becomes your worst enemy.

Any cupcake that has the slightest amount of heat left in the center will cause the container to condensate. Your cupcakes will then soak up all the moisture like a sponge, leaving you with tacky cupcakes.

Sticky cupcakes also happens in humid environments: If you live somewhere particularly hot or near water, watch out.

How to avoid it:

Allow your cupcakes to breathe! Invest in cake umbrellas or foot nets, and allow cupcakes to cool for at least a couple of hours before decorating or storing. 

My cupcakes are dry. How did this happen?

You know the scene in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when they cut into the turkey only for it to deflate into a dry mess? That can happen with cupcakes too (maybe not so dramatically).

Why it happens:

Baking is a science, and the individual ingredients used in a recipe are all important. Too much of a dry ingredient (like flour or cocoa) leads to dry cupcakes. Over baking can also create dry cakes because the moisture in the cupcakes bakes out.

How to avoid it:

First, measure everything accurately. We always recommend weighing ingredients rather than using cups. Steer clear of pre-made box mixes, as baking from scratch will always give you more control over ingredients.

Second, time your bakes. Use a kitchen timer or your smartphone to monitor how long your cupcakes are in the oven. 

Why did the chocolate chips/berries sink to the bottom of my cupcakes?

How to bake perfect cupcakes

Why it happens:

Evenly distributed chocolate chips or berries in a cupcake is a thing of beauty! It’s easy to do with lightweight additions, like rainbow sprinkles for funfetti cupcakes. That’s because sprinkles are lighter than cupcake batter. Berries, dried fruits and chocolate chips all weigh more than the mix surrounding them, so they naturally sink to the bottom.

How to avoid it:

Roll the additions in self-rising flour. The flour creates friction between the fillings and the cake mix, allowing them to stay in place and defy gravity.

Also, using our tips above, make sure you don’t over mix your batter. A batter that’s too thin and over mixed will make those tasty additions sink like stones.

Why aren’t my cupcakes flat on top?

Troubleshooting tips for perfect cupcakes

Why it happens:

This can leave everyone a little deflated, right? Flat cupcakes exist due to lots of contributing factors. Oven temperature, wrong amounts of leavening agents, and overfilling cupcake cases are the main culprits. This can all feel overwhelming but there’s no need to sweat it!

How to avoid it:

If you don’t use a commercial oven, invest in a domestic convection oven for your home kitchen. And always use an oven thermometer! Ovens can vary in temperature, so it’s important to know how hot your oven actually is.

When it comes to leavening agents, double-check your recipe and measure everything accurately.

Finally, bake a test batch each cupcakes crevice filled to a different level. Bake them and see which height you like best.

Why did my cupcakes overflow while baking?

Why it happens:

Everyone’s done it: put cupcakes in the oven only to take them out and they’ve transformed into overflowing muffin-type things that have taken over the pan. This almost always happens because each cup in the pan has been overfilled.

How to avoid it:

The secret here is to not overfill. Easier said than done, right?

A good benchmark is to fill each cup halfway or three-quarters full. This usually produces the best results  — but remember, cocoa, fruits or food coloring can change the way your cupcakes rise. Make sure to bake a test batch.

Here’s another trick: Cupcake pans come in many sizes. Whichever you prefer, stick to it! If you swap the size of your cupcakes every time you bake, you’re bound to get inconsistent results. If you use one size, you’ll learn how much to fill each cup. Once you master this, you’ll never have this problem again. 

Finally, try filling your cases by piping the batter in with a piping bag. This will help you evenly distribute your mix most more efficiently than spooning it in.

My cupcake liners keep peeling off! How do I stop this?

Your problems solved with these cupcake troubleshooting FAQs

Why it happens:

This is where moisture rears its ugly head again! Storing still-warm cupcakes in air-tight containers or living in humid conditions can cause your cupcake cases to peel.

How to avoid it:

Luckily there are multiple ways you can stop this. Always allow your cupcakes to cool in a breathable environment.

If you’re preparing an order for a client and you’re on a deadline, bake your cupcakes as close to that deadline as possible. This can be a pain when you have hundreds of cupcakes to bake so make this easier on yourself by prepping your frosting, fillings and decorations beforehand.

Try foil cupcake liners — these don’t peel as easily as paper liners. If you prefer paper, be sure to pick high-quality, professional-grade liners of 65gsm or above.

Have a different cupcake problem that needs solving? Just ask below!


Comments
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52 Responses to “6 Common Cupcake Problems (+ How to Avoid Them!)”

  1. Jo Mortimer

    This past weekend I baked 2 batches of cupcakes, one chocolate, one vanilla, using Pillsbury cake mix for both. Both batches were beautiful coming out of the oven. No problem with the chocolate batch, but, the vanilla batch, big problem. The vanilla cupcakes fell apart when you touched them, and, icing them was practically impossible. Both batches were delicious, but, I had to forewarn people that the vanilla were tasty, but, messy. Please, can someone tell me why? Thank You.
    Respectfully, Jo Mortimer

    Reply
  2. Olga

    I’m trying to make cupcakes gluten, egg and dairy free. They come out cracked and dry on the outside but oily (NOT gummy) on the inside. What should I do? Is it because I’m mixing incorrectly? (I add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.) Please help! I had already had at least 3 batches like this.😖

    Reply
  3. Hannah

    my cupcakes have turned out spongy! so many air pockets yet i dont know why

    Reply
  4. Chisha Kayumba

    Hi! I have a small issue with my cupcakes and that’s everytime I take them out of the oven they are often cracked at the top. I have already tried baking them three times hoping they would come out evenly but no such luck, however they still taste great. So I want to know why they keep cracking? What could be the problem and how do I solve it?

    Reply
  5. Ann Maisano

    Although my cupcakes rose beautifully, each one has a nickel size deep dimple in the center bottom. Why?

    Reply
  6. Lisa

    Hello,

    When I took my cupcakes out of the oven, they were bumpy and not smooth at the top at all. A few of them even had air bubbles lingering on the top. But when I checked with a toothpick, it came out clean for all of them. Any idea what might cause this appearance and liquid to burst out? It’s a first for me. Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Rofiat

    I still have questions I’ll like to ask, I’ll be glad if I get a mail from u

    Reply
  8. Kathy

    Why do my mini cupcakes and or muffins not turn brown on top. They stay very pale.

    Reply
  9. Kathy Neudorf

    Hi I am having issues with the foil cupcake liners shrinking and like sucking on the bottom so they don’t sit nice after they are baked, what am I doing wrong? Thanks

    Reply
  10. Will

    I’m having problem with my cupcake consistency of the texture the inside it feels like it’s grainy. Do you have any suggestions on how to get the correct consistency of the cupcake on the inside thank you.

    Reply
  11. Ivonne R M

    Thank you so much for these tips! I’ve learned what not to do and, from now on, will follow your guidelines for better cupcakes!

    Reply
  12. Afi

    I followed the recipe precisely but the my cupcakes are more on the dry side and have a very smooth surface on top. Why? I tried it twice. I want to become a professional baker and I am starting off with the vanilla cupcakes.

    Reply
  13. Afeisha Bellille

    I followed the recipe precisely but the my cupcakes are more on the dry side and have a very smooth surface on top. Why? I tried it twice. I want to become a professional baker and I am starting off with the vanilla cupcakes.

    Reply
  14. Binzy

    Hi, I’m having an issue with my vanilla cupcakes coming out a pale white instead of a golden color. it’s not the time or temp and the crumb was good and tasted fine….. Can you think of anything else in your experience that might make a vanilla batter come out pale white?

    Reply
  15. Mbalen

    My cupcakes came out pale white and cracked on top, what may be the cause?

    🙏Please help urgently

    Reply
    • Betty

      No matter if paper or foil my cupcakes always turn loose of the wrapper. Pan not over filled. Why is this happening

      Reply
  16. Pamela Motyka

    why does my cupcake (from scratch) 90 percent of the time have a hard top? I am an excellent baker with cakes, cookies and pastries, even professionally. But I just cant seem to get the cupcake thing unless it’s chocolate or lemon. the vanilla isn’t sticky just crusty on top. Please help and e-mail reply. Thank you.

    Reply
  17. Kimya

    Whenever I make box mix cakes, they come out perfect, however when I turn them into cupcakes, they come out insanely airy. I make sure to not over-mix, only mix to combine but it still happens. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
  18. Lorraine Kapsa

    Why do my mini cupcakes brown on the edges? 325 deg for 15 mins light metal pan

    Reply
  19. Jean

    My cupcakes taste wonderful and the texture is perfect the day they were baked, but when I eat them the next day after storing them overnight (after it completely cools) in an airtight Tupperware, they turn grainy. Why does this happen?

    Reply
  20. Siena

    Why is the middle of my cupcake sinking? I baked it for the right amount of time and when it first came out, the top sprung back when lightly touched.

    Reply
    • Marta

      Why isnt my cupcake batter liquidy it’s very hard to mix and it’s like doe? Pls answer quickly 😩

      Reply
      • Natalie Hosp

        Sounds like u have too much flour in your batter. Ensure u spoon the flour into your measuring cup & overfill it slightly. Then, use the back edge of a butter knife, to level the cup. The most ideal way to measure dry ingredients is to weigh them using a kitchen scale, which ensures u never use too much flour. If u are scooping the flour from your container using your measuring cup, that’s why your cake batter feels like dough.

        Reply
  21. Kathleen Roufs

    My grandkids love baking cupcakes. Are you able to recommend a brand of professional grade liners? What are your thoughts on silicone liners? Should I assume the liners need to stay on the cupcakes for them to keep their shapes? Thanks! I love Craftsy!

    Reply
  22. Pam

    My cupcakes are splitting in half ( top and bottoms ) and sticking to the papers basically you can eat the top half but have to throw out the bottom part which is stuck to the paper the recipe has never failed before but this is a different oven help?

    Reply
  23. Jennifer

    My cupcakes are gummy in the middle. I’m using honey instead of sugar and apple juice instead of water plus two eggs…I’m using warm spices and baking powder & baking soda. For 3.5 cups of flour is 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda correct?

    Reply
  24. Jill

    We have two ovens, side by side – same models. One batch from one oven came out perfect. The other batch looks like they were trying to crawl out of the cupcake tins. What causes this? They were all filled about 3/4 full.

    Reply
  25. Miranda Chipping

    Hi can I add a little vegetable oil to moisten the recipe if the recipe already has butter ?
    Thanks

    Reply