You’ve probably seen flawless bakery creations all over social media. Perfect pastries with artwork-like decorations that almost look too good to eat.
It’s not as tricky as some of those posts would have you believe. Creating the best cupcakes in your home kitchen is easy to do if you can follow directions. Cupcakes are cute, fun to make, and, of course, delicious. Let’s give you the rundown on how to make cupcakes at home.
Cake and Frosting
Cupcakes have a base made of cake (as you would expect) with a frosting topper. We’re going to give you directions on how to make the actual cupcake. We’ll also provide tips on how to make the frosting.
Baking something “from scratch” can sound complicated if you haven’t done it before. But cupcakes are simple, and honestly, it’s a lot more fun.
Buying the ingredients and mixing them yourself also allows you to adjust to your tastes and preferences. Prefer a sweeter cupcake? Lay on the sugar. Like a more tart flavor? Don’t go too heavy on the sugar or add a citrus flavoring like lemon to increase the tartness. We’ll give some tips for that later.
If you’d instead use a pre-made cupcake mix or frosting, then skip one or both of these parts and follow the direction on the box.
The Cupcake Ingredients
- 8 tablespoons (½ cup) unsalted butter (which you should leave out so it softens)
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup of milk
- ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
- 5tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt (optional)
Prep and Cook Tools
- Two medium mixing bowls
- Cupcake baking tray (a muffin tray is the same thing)
- Wooden spoon or electric whisk
- Measuring cup or spoon
Additional Recipe Information
These ingredients will make 12 cupcakes and should take about 35 minutes from prep time to bake time.
An optional tool you can use is an ice cream scoop. You can use this to divide your batter into the muffin tin evenly.
Alternatively, you can make 24 mini cupcakes with this recipe. Simply use a mini-cupcake bake pan.
If you are planning on making your frosting, make sure you have extra butter, milk, and sugar as they are needed in the frosting too.
If you’re egg-allergic, here’s an article on how to make cupcakes without eggs.
A Note on Flavoring
This recipe makes a plain, sweet cupcake base. If you want a specific flavor, you can follow the same steps, but add your desired flavor to the ingredients list.
For example, if you want vanilla cupcakes, add one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the ingredients above. You can add it when you begin mixing the wet ingredients.
If you would like chocolate, add 1/4cup of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. You can swap the milk for orange or lemon juice for a sweet citrus base. Peanut butter cupcakes, coffee cupcakes, whatever you want, the possibilities to make this your own are endless. Check out all the different types of cupcake flavors here.
How to Make Cupcakes at Home: Step-By-Step Cupcake Baking
Now that you’ve shopped for and assembled all of your ingredients for how to make cupcakes at home, the rest is simple.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven is heating, prepare your pan: line the cupcake pan with paper liners and set it aside.
In your mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
*If you’re adding a dry flavor like cocoa powder, do so now. See A Note on Flavoring above for more information.
In another bowl, mix the butter and sugar until they combine into a light, silky texture. The butter should now be soft enough to blend, you shouldn’t try to add it while stiff. If it isn’t, microwave until it’s smooth but not completely melted, only a few seconds.
The combining should take roughly 5 minutes. When that texture is achieved, add in the eggs one at a time, mixing each time until they are seamlessly integrated.
Add half of your dry ingredients to the wet, mixing them in as you go. Add the milk to this combo. Once the milk is mixed in well, add the remaining dry ingredients.
*It’s here you would add a wet flavoring, like vanilla extract or juice instead of milk. If you aren’t adding a flavor, simply do the step as written above.
Do a final check of your cupcake batter, make sure it is smooth and well-mixed. You should no longer be able to identify individual ingredients. Once you’re happy with the batter, spoon it evenly into your lined cupcake tin.
Place in the oven, and let it bake for 25 minutes.*
*All ovens are different. After 25 minutes, insert a toothpick into one of your cupcakes. If it comes out clean, you’re done! If it’s still gooey, give it another 2-5minutes, depending on how gooey.
Check on them every few minutes until they pass the toothpick test. Even if they didn’t pass the toothpick check, they’ll be very close to done at this point so don’t leave them alone because you’ll risk burning them.
Let your cupcakes cool before decorating or eating. Congratulations, you’ve made perfect cupcakes in five easy steps.
If you would like to decorate your cupcakes with frosting you made yourself, we’re going to go over that now.
If you’ve bought pre-made frosting, we’ve reached the part where you can spread it over your cupcakes and enjoy them right now.
If you want to make your own frosting, it’s even easier than the cupcakes themselves.
Of course, making your frosting has all the same fun and benefits as making your cupcakes. You can make it as sweet or creamy as you like.
You can control the consistency and flavor of your frosting by swapping in different extracts and ingredients.
You can even control how healthy the recipe is if you choose to cut back on either the butter or sugar or use substitutes as you see fit.
Ingredients for Vanilla Frosting
We’re giving you the ingredients for a vanilla-flavored frosting because we think it goes well with the plain cupcakes you made above but also pairs well with just about any other flavor.
You could also remove the vanilla extract if you want a pure sweet cream taste. Again, it’s anything you want it to be!
Here are the essential ingredients to any frosting:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, it should already be at room temperature, make sure you’ve removed it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before using.
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup whole milk, this should also be room temperature.
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Step-By-Step Vanilla Frosting
You should have all these ingredients already as they were all used in the cupcakes. So you should have everything out and ready to go.
Using an electric hand mixer (though you can use a regular whisk if you don’t have one, it will just take longer) beat the room-temperature butter until smooth and creamy.
Once the butter is smoothed, not liquidy or melted, beat in the other ingredients. Do so until it’s a light, creamy, frosting consistency.
No step three, you’re done! The frosting is easy!
For the Plain Whipped Cream
If you want a pure cream topping, whipped cream is even easier, though slightly different. Take 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream.
Chill your whisk and mixing bowl in your freezer for about 15 minutes. This will keep your mixture from getting too liquified.
Use a whisk to beat the sugar and cream together in your mixing bowl until fluffy peaks form. That’s all!
You may also like our other article: How Long to Cool Cupcakes Before Frosting.
Since mixing the frosting should have only taken a few minutes, make sure your cupcakes are thoroughly cooled before decorating. This is so your frosting won’t melt all over your cupcakes rather than staying light and fluffy.
Decorating can be as complex or simple as you make it. You can make lovely-looking cupcakes with just a spoon and a knife.
Scoop your frosting onto your cupcakes with the spoon into light, playful balls, and then “style” them with the knife. Depending on how thick you made your frosting, you can give them as much or as little shape as you want.
If you don’t already have them, you could also buy piping bags for the ultimate professional look. They’re straightforward to use. You simply load in the frosting you just made and slowly squeeze it onto your cupcakes.
For extra flair, you can look at some easy frosting techniques.
More Simple Decorating Ideas
You could add sprinkles, edible glitter, or candy to make a pretty and unique look. Pick whatever looks best to you when learning how to make cupcakes at home.
Sometimes the best-looking topper is one colorful piece of candy on top of your white vanilla frosting.
You can easily personalize your cupcakes by adding food coloring to the frosting batter. If these are for a birthday, add the recipient’s favorite color, it won’t change the flavor, just the look.
Some other straightforward ideas could be red and green food coloring for a Christmas party, gold sprinkles for New Year’s Eve, or you could top with candy corn for Halloween.
Making themed cupcakes doesn’t need to be a big production. It will be clear what they’re for with minimal effort.
More Complex Decorating Ideas
If you would like a few more professional-looking ideas, we have some easy ones. You can make cupcakes look like they just came from the bakery with very few extra steps.
If you did purchase a piping bag, put a star tip on it, and apply your frosting in a circle. It will look like a flower. Experiment with different shapes all you want, but this is all you need to do to get a picture-ready product.
Frosting pom-poms are another easy technique. Instead of one big scoop of frosting use a melon-baller or your piping bag to place 4-6 balls of frosting on your cupcakes. The little pom-poms will look like a professional made them, especially when sprinkled with small colorful sprinkles.
Watercolor cupcakes look cool but are also pretty simple. They require that you have more food coloring on hand for your frosting, and the extra step of mixing the colors separately into separate bowls.
All you need is multiple frosting colors and a spatula. Apply your different colored frostings with small spoonfuls to each cupcake then smooth it over with a spatula until they mix, but don’t blend. You’ll have fabulously custom multicolored cupcakes.
Two-toned frosting can be achieved similar to watercolor frosting. Make two colors of frosting- it can be white and another color for a classic look, or any two colors, and load them side by side into your piping bag. Apply however you want, it will come out in a swirl of color.
You can sprinkle-dip your cupcake instead of lightly sprinkling with a spoon. Once you’ve applied your frosting to the cupcake, dip the top into a bowl of sprinkles instead of “sprinkling”. This will give the top solid, colorful coverage, instead of a dusting of sprinkles. You can do this with any small candy, like mini m&ms or chocolate kisses, even cereal if you like.
Sprinkle-trim your cupcakes by using the same bowl of sprinkles above, just a little differently. Pour the sprinkles onto a plate. Take your frosted cupcake and only roll the sides in the sprinkles. This will make a circle of sprinkles around your frosting. It looks more structured, and like it took more time, while still being very simple.
Before You Go
We’ve given you a very solid base to make any kind of cupcakes you may want at home. Pretty much every recipe will be this easy with additional (or fewer) steps depending on flavor or specific techniques you may want to try.
Other articles you might enjoy:
So go out and experiment. You have the basic knowledge of how to make cupcakes at home whenever you want. Best of luck!