Monday, January 4, 2010

Why do some cupcakes 'peak' and not others?

Today I spent a pleasant day baking some cupcakes, using the Chunky Peanut Chocolate and 大吉 Cupcake recipes.

Cross section of a
大吉 Cupcake

Along the way, I made some old discoveries about cupcake making in my home oven. They're old discoveries and not new ones because I half-forgot them. Haha!

To skip all this longwinded rambling, just scroll right down to the bottom and see the conclusion about the factors inducing cupcakes to peak. =) I must quickly state that this is what happens in my you may have a different experience in your own oven.

Factor 1: Temperature

At 180 deg Celsius, my home oven usually gives me cupcakes with peaked tops. This is sometimes desirable if you like the 'huat kueh' appearance, but this time, I was going for nice rounded tops. When I lowered the temperature to 17o deg Celsius, I got cupcakes that had more settled domes and evenly rounded tops. Also, I must remember to rotate the trays so as to get all a more even colour on all the cupcakes.

Factor 2: The height of the batter

Filling the cupcakes up to three quarters or 4/5 full usually (but not always) gives me peaked tops, while filling the cupcakes up to two thirds full (including any added fillings) gives me evenly rounded/flat tops.

Combination of the two factors

Filling the cups up to half full, and using 180 deg Celsius, still gave me peaked tops. So the temperature seemed to be the culprit, rather than the height of the batter. Filling the cups up to 2/3 full, and using a slightly lower temperature of 170 deg Celsius, gave me flatter, more even tops.

I recalled writing that exact same notes in my early cupcake recipes, and can't imagine how I could forget something so simple! Tsk tsk. Blame it on my 'mommy brain'. hahha!

Oven differences

It's worthwhile to note that oven differences can mean that 170 deg C may work perfectly for cupcake making in one oven, but not in another. That is to say, 160 deg C/ 180 deg C / 200 deg C may be the perfect temperatures for cupcakes in other ovens. If the cupcake looks nice and domed/flat, lightly golden or golden brown, and tastes moist and soft and is evenly baked - you're on to a winner.


Lower the temperature (the next time) if the cupcakes peaked too much. Or raise the temperature if the cupcakes sank in the middle, indicating that the oven is too cold or the cakes underbaked. Check for colour, and use the skewer (toothpick) test to see if the cake is done.

Having said that, peaked cupcakes don't taste any different from flat cupcakes, so no worries if you have one or the other. There's always that last solution: cut off the peaked top, slather on some icing and no one will be the wiser. And then feel good about it because at least you made your cupcakes from scratch =)


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