Monday, March 16, 2009

The Cupcake Vomit Dilemma

Dear Tricia, When I bake cupcakes, why do some of them rise unevenly? It's like there's a big bubble that always explodes out of one side and it doesn't look pretty. Please help me.

It almost looks like the cupcakes threw up on themselves, doesn't it? Ugh... I hate cupcake throw up. Luckily, there are some tips to trouble shoot so that your next batch vomits much less.
First and foremost, are the cupcakes vomiting only on one side? If so, it's probably your oven heating unevenly. A lot of ovens have "hot spots" and just heat up more on one side than the other. Make sure you're turning the cupcake pan a couple of times while it's baking.
Another possible cause for the cupcake up-chuck is not mixing in your baking soda (or baking powder, or both, depending on what recipe you're using) completely. While I'm not a huge fan of sifting (or doing laundry, or rum, or Jennifer Love Hewitt), its very important to sift the baking soda and the flour together so that it gets evenly dispersed into the batter. Otherwise, its very possible that you're getting a big chunk of baking soda in one part of the batter and of course its going to explode out the top of that cupcake.
Make sure you are not filling the cupcake liners too full. If the batter is all the way to the top, it has nothing to hold on to as it rises, so its more likely to lean to one side. Leave about 1/2" of space at the top of the liner for the cupcake to rise. Like me, it needs a lot of personal space and room to grow. Be nice to your cupcake and respect its wishes.
Lastly, when you fill your cupcake liners with batter, try to keep the batter as even as possible. Don't just dump a bunch of batter in there with some of it going all the way up to the top of the cup and one half barely covering the bottom. While this is probably the least likely reason for your dilemma, its still a possibility. I'm a fan of using an ice cream scoop because its easy to measure out each cup evenly, and you get a perfectly round dome to work with.
Happy Cupcake-ing. For some awesome decorating ideas, check out Amy Sedaris' book "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence," where she completely bypasses the cupcakes and decorates herself in frosting and sprinkles. Genius at its best. (Besides this blog.)

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