How To Bake Muffins

By Jennette Ross / September 22, 2015
how to bake muffins

Desiring the expertise to learn how to bake muffins is a worthy quest. Muffins are so versatile and delectable. Who can pass up a warm and moist muffin straight out of the oven? The whole house takes up the lovely aroma of whatever treasured treat has been folded into the batter. Even adults will gladly embark upon this treasure hunt. 

The great thing about muffins is they can mimic the sweetness of a coffee cake or even chocolate cake. But we don't always want to cave into the demands of our sweet tooth. Muffins can be healthy too by adding vegetables like carrots or zucchini. Even nuts and berries find their way into many a muffin making mixing bowl.

Mastering the perfect texture and gaining the quintessential muffin top is not a given. Knowing how to deal with muffin paper sticking to the muffins is a trick even novice bakers can easily master, but the technique isn't necessarily familiar to even seasoned bakers. 

Knowing how to bake ​muffins takes having some skill and being equipped with the right tools and the right information. Good thing we have that all right here for you. Read on to gain just what you need to make flawless muffins every time. 

What Are Muffins Anyway?

muffin ingredients

Officially, muffins are a bread made with a number of different flours or grain types. American made muffins tend to be considered quick bread rather than the spongy flat English muffin the 19th century "muffin man" would sell along the streets of London during tea time. American muffins fall closer to a sweet bread or even a cake category, depending on the ingredients.     

You don't have to know the muffin man to enjoy the kind of muffin you want. Spongy, flat,  sweet, or ​sporting a beautiful peaked and rounded top; whatever you want to achieve, you can make. All you need to know is the right ratio of ingredients to get the results you are looking for from your muffin. 

Making Muffins Vs Cupcakes​

Cupcake vs Muffin

The difference between making cupcakes from scratch to muffins in the same vain, comes down to balance. It's a ratios game. Cupcakes have more...more fat, more sugar, and more eggs. 

For instance, a basic muffin recipe might call for 2 tablespoons sugar, where as a basic cupcake recipe would ask you to add two thirds of a cup, for the same quantity of cupcakes as the muffin recipe delivers. ​So despite many people's explanation involving a simple pat answer of, "Cupcakes have frosting" to the inquiry of what is the difference really between cupcakes and muffins, the answer really is ratio. 

Take a closer look...

Basic Muffin Recipe Ingredients

Basic Cupcake Recipe Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup melted butter​

1/2 cup butter​

Muffin Size Varieties

mini-muffins

Muffins come in various sizes, from cute little mini-muffins that pop right in your mouth with one swoop, to giant mega-muffins large enough to share with a friend over a cup of coffee. Making the size muffin you desire depends on the muffin pan used to bake the muffin batter. 

Here is a quick chart to reference when selecting the muffin pan you need for the muffin size desired. The chart also helps you decide which size muffin liner to use. ​

    Mini-muffin

mini-muffin


Base diameter: 3/4 "

Cup depth: 1 1/4​ "

Batter capacity: 1/8 cup (2 T)​

Standard

muffin

Base diameter: 1 1/4 "

Cup depth: 2​ "

Batter capacity: 1/4 -1/3 cup​

Giant

muffin

Base diameter: 1 3/4 "

Cup depth: 2 1/4 "​

Batter capacity: ​5/8 cup

Muffin Pans

muffin pans

Just as there are various sizes of muffins to make, there are also various types of pans and muffin cup liners to choose from. For pans , there are disposable options in heavy duty paper or aluminum foil. If you are looking for something you can use over and over, there are options in various grades of aluminum and steel. 

Aluminum pans designed for repeated use range from light weight to heavy duty. All aluminum pans contain good thermal conductivity. ​The stronger and heavier the albumin grade, the more resistant to corrosion it will be. Some brands have a steel inner lining with an aluminum exterior coating.

Other metal based options include carbonized alloy steel and stainless steel. Stainless steel pans have a high resistance to corrosion, but do not conduct as much heat as aluminum pans.  All ​metal pans types have manufactures that offer non-stick versions. 

If you are looking for reusable non-metal pans there are two choices, silicone and stoneware. Silicone pans are colorful, convenient, and versatile.  They can be found in just about any color imaginable which makes baking fun. The pans are extremely flexible, so popping the muffins out should be easy. They not only work in the oven, but they work in the freezer and the microwave as well.  ​

Some silicone pan owners complain that the muffins stick to the pan, even with the convenience of pushing against the mold to help the muffins out.  ​If you use silicon muffin molds, you may want to use a cooking spray to help keep the muffins from sticking. Some users also complain that baked goods take on a plastic or rubber taste, so health conscious cooks may want to stick to another type of pan. 

Stoneware muffin pans are a healthy option if you are wary of exposure to metals and chemicals. They do require a bit more maintenance than the other muffin pan options, and will be much heavier than their competition. But despite these downsides, they are a wonderful cookware choice. To find out more on stoneware cooking, take a look at our article outlining the basics . 

Muffin Cup Liners

muffin liner

Muffin cup liners can add some festivity or even classiness to your muffin presentation, but they are optional. Cooking spray will keep muffins from sticking in any of the pans. Some people don't want the exposure chemicals in most cooking sprays, or for healthier eating they want to skip the traditional cooking oil. 

If you are a baker that wants to use muffin liners, then you have a variety of designs and materials to choose from. Everybody has probably seen the basic white fluted paper muffin liner cup, but for whimsical occasions there are options in every color. Some paper fluted cups come in multiple colors, and there are all sorts of designs: pretty, bold, floral, polka dots, stripes...the options are almost endless. 

But don't feel boxed into even this traditional paper liner because there are even more materials​ available with equally as many designs and colors. Muffin liners come in a glassine material. These look similar in construction to paper but with an air, grease, and water resistant coating. 

Just as the muffin pans come in foil and silicone offerings, so do the muffin liners. Disposable foil cups are shiny and fancy. Silicone are the only reusable choice, but pose the same problems as the pans do. Lastly, for an elegant look, there are beautiful thin papered muffin cups ​cut to look like tulip or lotus flowers.

To make your own paper muffin liners, take a look at this video tutorial... 


Now that you have the tools needed to make some yummy muffins (minus a measuring cup, measuring spoon, mixing bowl, and a spoon or rubber spatula) you are ready to get baking. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind to avoid some common pitfalls when learning how to bake muffins. 

Tips For Perfect Muffins

perfect muffins

If you want to avoid flat, crumbly, and dry muffins, then pay special attention to this ordered, step by step check list. ​

  • Gather all the ingredients with enough time for them to regulate to room temperature before mixing. 
  • Avoid over mixing the ingredients. Over-mixing is a large contributor to flat muffin tops. 
  • Mix all the dry ingredients first.
  • Once the dry ingredients are mixed, form a well in the bowl by pushing the mix up the sides of the bowl leaving a concave hole for the wet ingredients to pour into. 
  • Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl until light and fluffy, before adding the liquid into the dry ingredient bowl. 
  • With a rubber spatula or large mixing spoon, gently fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Stir until all the ingredients are moist; usually 12-15 strokes. There will be small lumps. Lumps are ok, over stirring is not, so take it easy. 
  • Trying to stir until all the lumps are gone will yield muffins with peaks, tunnels, and a tough texture. Don't do it. 
  • Now fruit and nuts can be added with one or two more strokes.
  • Prep the muffin pan with either cooking spray or muffin liners. If using muffin spray, be careful to only spray on the bottom of the tray and half way up the side. Over spraying can make it difficult for the muffins to rise into the dome shape and climb the sides of the pan. 
  • Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to dish batter in the muffin cups. To avoid drips on the pan or counter, and to insure more equal amounts of batter in the cup, consider purchasing the Cooking Upgrades Batter Dispenser.
  • Fill each muffin cup to a maximum of 3/4 full. Over filling will result in muffins tops sticking together. Under filling will cause flat tops, at best and caved in tops at worst. 
  • Make sure the batter in each cup is universal in amount from cup to cup. Otherwise, cups with smaller amounts of batter will burn, and cups containing an over abundance of batter will not cook thoroughly. 
  • If you run out of batter and don't have enough to fill all the cups in the pan, add 2-3 tablespoons to the empty cups. This tip only works for metal pans, as the water prevents the pan from warping while cooking.
  •  If the recipe calls for baking soda or powder, make every effort to put the muffins in the oven immediately. The soda and powder loose their leavening power the longer they sit without heat. 
  • Put your oven rack in the middle slot, and place the pan in the center of the rack.  
  • The perfect muffin has a golden brown crust, a peaked top with a pebbled texture, and an evenly moist inside.
  • Allow the muffins to cool only a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. If you wait longer than a few minutes, the bottoms of the muffins may get soggy. 
  • If the muffins are sticking to the bottom of the pan, simply place the pan on a wet towel for 2 minutes. 
  • To store muffins for a later time, allow them to cool completely. Then place in an air tight container or bag. Muffins can be stored at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerated for up to a week. 
  • To freeze muffins, wrap them in tin foil and seal them in a freezer bag. Muffins can be stored in the freezer for 3 months. 

Many, many muffin recipes fill the pages of recipe books and blogs. Still you may, for varied reasons want to tweak a recipe you've found. Here are a few more tips to help you make alterations to any muffin recipe. 

Substitution & Tweaks To Recipes

chia seeds
  • Wanting to lessen the fat in a recipe that calls for egg? Substitute 2 egg whites for one whole egg. Stiffly beat the whites and add them to the mix at the end for lighter muffins with less fat. 
  • Non-fat milk can be substituted for whole. 
  • Oil can replace butter. Replace 1/4 of whatever the recipe called for in butter with oil. Then the remaining 3/4 of whatever amount was called for can be substituted with your choice of fruit puree.
  • Baby food is a quick and easy way to add fruit or a veggie into muffin mix.
  • Non-gluten grains can be substituted in part to make softer textured muffins. Substitute 1/2 cup of the wheat for alternative grains like ground rice, millet, or oats.  
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped nuts or fruit can be added to any 12 cup muffin recipe. 
  • Consider adding chai seeds or flax to your next batch of muffins. They each have fantastic health benefits. 
  • Sprinkle the tops before baking with sugar, cinnamon, or both for a nice added touch. If you are wanting to lessen the sugar, you can always pick a favorite seed or even whole oats to top your muffin with a little something extra. 

I hope our guide on how to bake muffins  helps you whether you are braving muffins for the first time or you've made muffins for what feels like an eternity. Either way, following our tips is sure to help you achieve glorious, moist, peaked perfection. Happy muffin making.  

Have some tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below. ​

About the author

Jennette Ross

Mother of five and creator of Cooking Upgrades, Jennette enjoys helping people get the most out of their experience in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

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