There’s nothing like opening the oven and seeing that your beautiful cupcakes have cooked and fluffed to perfection. Next comes the fun part: frosting and decorating. You’ve probably heard that you should let cupcakes cool before frosting them. But why is this, and how long do cupcakes take to cool?
Why Is It Important to Wait for Cupcakes to Cool?
Before we answer the question of how long cupcakes take to cool, it’s critical to understand why you should wait.
Lots of people are impatient and want to frost their cupcakes directly after taking them out of the oven. And with the delicious smell of fresh-baked cupcakes wafting in the air, it’s normal to want to try them right away! You may wonder if it’s really necessary to wait for your creation to cool.
However, as anyone who has ever tried to frost a warm cupcake can attest to, patience is a virtue for bakers. When you frost a still-warm cupcake, the heat melts the frosting. The result? A slippery mess you won’t soon forget. Whatever you’re frosting, whether a regular cake or cupcakes, should be completely cool to the touch before you begin.
Besides creating a slimy situation, warm cupcakes are also more fragile than their room temperature counterparts. Putting frosting on a hot cupcake can rip up the top layer, leaving you with a mixture of frosting and cupcake crumbs. While it may still taste good, this effect is undesirable for anyone who appreciates a well-decorated cupcake.
How Long Do Cupcakes Take to Cool?
A good rule of thumb is to wait at least an hour from when you pull your baked goods out of the oven. In most cases, this should be enough time, but you should always check just in case. Factors like how you cool the cupcakes, how big they are, and the temperature of the room can all influence overall cooling time.
It’s better to err on the side of caution and let your cupcakes sit for longer than you think is necessary than risk a goopy mess. Be aware that even though the top of the cupcake may feel cool, the inside could still be retaining some heat.
How to Properly Cool Cupcakes
Cooling cupcakes may seem straightforward–just take them out of the oven and wait, right? However, there are a couple of tricks to be aware of.
Remove the Cupcakes from the Tin
To achieve the cupcakes of your dreams, it’s essential to (carefully!) take each one out of the tin as soon as you remove them from the oven.
Why? Because leaving them in the tin allows steam to build up around the cupcake, which may cause the cupcake liner to peel back. Although a peeled back liner isn’t a taste issue, it won’t leave you with the beautiful look you desire.
More importantly, removing them from tin helps you avoid overcooking your delicious cupcakes. Even though you’ve taken them out of the oven, the heat from the tin continues the cooking process. An otherwise perfectly cooked cupcake can become dry from sitting in the tin.
Place Cupcakes on a Wire Cooling Rack
Once you remove them from the tin, you need the perfect spot for your cupcakes to cool. Investing in a wire cooling rack is a smart idea, as opposed to letting your baked goods cool on a cutting board or plate. It’s a simple and cheap baking tool that will up your baking game.
Unlike a plate or cutting board, a wire rack allows air to circulate around the whole cupcake. Increased airflow allows it to cool more quickly, and this tool also helps bakers avoid another baking pitfall: soggy or steamy cupcake bottoms, which can happen if you leave hot cupcakes in the tin.
How to Quickly Cool Cupcakes
Sometimes, despite our best planning efforts, we find ourselves with dozens of cupcakes to frost and not enough time to let them cool. If you’re crunched for time, there are a couple of methods you can use to get your cupcake to the right temperature.
Put Them in the Fridge
This popular method can help bring the temperature down quickly. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place them on a plate. Avoid crowding the plate, instead of making sure that each cupcake has ample room around it.
Once you’ve positioned them properly, put the cupcakes in the fridge for about ten minutes. Keep them away from other food items, and try to avoid placing them anywhere they will get crushed or otherwise damaged.
You can also try putting the cupcakes in the freezer, but just for a few minutes. A word of caution: If you’re not careful, the freezer can dry out and change the texture of your cupcakes, so set a timer to remember to take them out.
Put Cupcakes Near a Window
Let the elements work in your favor by placing your cupcakes near an open window (remember to remove them from the tin first!). This trick works especially well in the winter or on a windy day.
What to Do if You Don’t Have a Wire Baking Rack
Every serious baker has a wire baking rack in their repertoire. As mentioned, they’re fairly inexpensive, and they fold up easily for storage. But if you find yourself without one, there’s no need to panic. Your kitchen is likely full of handy substitutes.
Utilize a Spare Baking Rack
Most ovens have at least a couple of baking racks, which is the best makeshift tool to use. Check yours to see if one’s available, or pull a baking rack out of a toaster oven or roasting pan. Place the rack on the counter, transfer your cupcakes to it, and voila!
The only issue with this substitution may be that the height of the rack isn’t tall enough. If yours is sitting too close to the counter to allow for adequate airflow, try positioning it on something to elevate it. You might want to try placing it on glasses, for example.
Place Cupcakes on a Removable Grate from a Gas Stovetop
If you have a gas stovetop with removable grates, you can use one to create a makeshift cooling rack. Remove the grate from your stovetop, and set the tin on top of it. While it’s typically better to remove the cupcakes from the tin, this method allows the air to circulate around the bottom, thereby cooling the tin faster.
Use a Cutting Board
If you don’t have any of the above items, you may have to resort to using a cutting board. A cutting board is not the most ideal option, but it can work in a pinch. What’s even better is if you have a marble or granite one handy. These materials stay quite cool, which helps cool cupcakes.
What to Do if You Need to Wait to Frost Cupcakes
Now you know all about how to cool cupcakes and how long to wait. But what if you’re making cupcakes that don’t need to be frosted right away? For example, you might be making cupcakes at night that you will serve the next day. In that case, what should you do?
Store the Cupcakes Properly
Properly storing the cupcakes will ensure that they taste delicious the next day. Until you can frost them, you should put the cupcakes in an airtight container. Several options work: you can use a cupcake box, ziplock bag, or Tupperware.
Just as you shouldn’t frost a warm cupcake, you shouldn’t store them hot either. Your baked goods should be completely cool before you store them. Otherwise, the steam that releases from the cupcake will cause unwanted problems.
One is that the steam creates a sticky top that makes frosting a nightmare. Another is that it may cause your treats to peel away from the liners, which is a look no one likes for their cupcakes.
Where to Store Cupcakes
You may be tempted to take your airtight container and place it in the fridge, but resist the temptation. You should never store cupcakes in the fridge, either frosted or unfrosted, as the fridge takes away moisture.
If you’ll be frosting the cupcakes the next day, feel free to leave them on the counter. Otherwise, you can pop them in the freezer if you’ll need them in several days. Frozen cupcakes can stay in the freezer for up to two months–just make sure you apply some plastic wrap before they go in to avoid freezer burn.
Here’s a detailed article on How to Store Cupcakes.
Prepare the Cupcakes for Frosting
When the time does come to frost your cupcakes, you’ll need to do some prep work beforehand. Leaving cupcakes out at room temperature might result in sticky tops, which makes frosting challenging. In this case, you should take them out of their container before frosting them so that the tops can dry a bit.
In the case of frozen cupcakes, they’ll need about an hour to thaw. You can then proceed to frost as normal.
You may also like: How to Frost Cupcakes.
Other Tips for Baking the Perfect Cupcake
Of course, letting your cupcakes cool enough is just one essential part of the equation. Here are some other tips that can help you bake a perfect, mouthwatering cupcake and learn how long do cupcakes take to cool.
Bring Your Ingredients to Room Temperature
Does the recipe call for any ingredients to be at room temperature? If so, be sure to follow the recipe’s instructions. Without delving into all the reasons why, know that recipes don’t make this distinction to annoy you. Often, room-temperature ingredients are necessary for the science of baking.
Add the Right Amount of Batter to the Cupcake Pan
When it comes time to fill the cupcake liners, you may not give much thought to how much you fill them. However, adding the right amount of batter is crucial. If you add too much or too little, you can have a few different issues. Your cupcakes might:
- Have a “mushroom” top
Additionally, if you add a different amount of batter to each liner, some may be under or overdone.
If the recipe indicates how much to fill the liners, always follow that indication. You’ll probably find that most recipes don’t tell you how much batter to use, so a good rule of thumb is to fill the liners about two-thirds of the way.
Here’s a detailed article on how much batter you need for each cupcake.
Pay Close Attention to Baking Time
There’s nothing worse than an overcooked cupcake, yet the line between perfectly baked and dry is very fine indeed. Ensuring your cupcakes don’t get overcooked means paying close attention to the baking time the recipe indicates. And remember, undercooking is always better than overcooking, as you can correct an undercooked cupcake.
Check out our article: The Best Temperature to Bake Cupcakes.
How to Tell When a Cupcake Is Done
Just as crucial as following the time guidelines is checking for doneness. Lots of people use the toothpick trick, which is a fine method of checking that your baked goods are done. But what if you can’t locate a toothpick when the time comes? (Hasn’t this happened to every baker?)
Try this trick instead.
Either remove the cupcakes from the oven or leave them inside–it’s up to you–and lightly press down on one. If it returns to its original shape, the batch is ready to come out of the oven. If your finger leaves an impression, the cupcakes need more time.
Easy, right? You may never return to the toothpick test now that you know this simple hack.
Use the Proper Tools to Frost
Finally, if you want to elevate your cupcake game, stop frosting with a knife. Instead, invest in some equipment to help you achieve various looks–namely a piping bag and piping tips. There’s no other way to achieve professional-looking cupcakes fit for any occasion!
Hopefully, you’ve seen that a few tweaks here and there can make a significant difference in the quality of your cupcakes.
If you’ve been making any of the cooling mistakes mentioned above, never fear–we’ve all been there before. A little practice is all it takes to make cupcakes your friends and family will beg you for! Learning how long do cupcakes take to cool will improve your cooking and baking skill is easy, quick to pick up, and valuable as a life skill. Enjoy!