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Why Do Cupcakes Shrink After Baking? (And How to Avoid it)

Why Do Cupcakes Shrink After Baking? (And How to Avoid it)

Imagine you just finished baking a beautiful batch of cupcakes. Then, you leave them out to rest at room temperature. After a few minutes, you come back and see your cupcakes have shrunk! 

This frustrating and very common baking problem can happen for several reasons.

Cupcakes often shrink if the batter contains too much air or liquid, creating a so-called balloon effect. Undercooked cupcakes and old baking powder can also lead to deflation and shrinking. 

Keep reading this article and learn more about the causes of shrunk cupcakes and how to avoid them.

What Makes Cupcakes Shrink?

Shrunk and deflated cupcakes are a sight for soar eyes. Trust, me, I’ve seen them way too many times!

When I first got into baking, this happened way too often, and at first, I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. It was extremely frustrating and annoying.

Then I started to read up and test things, and a few tweaks and trials later, I finally managed to get my cupcakes to rise nicely and evenly!

In baking, the trick is to find out why a particular problem keeps happening. It’s only then that you can change things and hence get a different outcome.

So here are the four most common reasons for cupcakes to shrink after baking:

Undercooked cupcakes

a baker testing her cupcakes with a toothpick

Sometimes, cupcakes look beautifully baked on the outside but are still raw on the inside! 

If you take out your cupcakes too early and they are hence not baked thoroughly, this often causes the cupcakes to deflate and shrink when they cool down.

The best way to prevent undercooked cupcakes is to do the toothpick test!

Stick a toothpick or skewer into a baked cupcake and then pull it out again. If it comes out dry and clean, your cupcakes are fully baked. 

If, on the other hand, the toothpick is still wet when you pull it back out, you should put your tin back into the oven and let your cupcakes bake for a few more minutes.

Repeat the toothpick test until the pick comes out dry!

PRO TIP: One thing to note with the toothpick test is to ensure that the toothpick goes to the bottom of the cupcake. Don’t just place it in the middle; you have to be positive that the whole cupcake, from top to bottom, has been baked thoroughly.

Over-beating the batter

A huge mistake that many beginner bakers make is over-beating the cupcake batter.

Working your cupcake batter causes two major issues:

Overworking the gluten and adding too much air into the cake. Gluten is an essential component in most baked goods.

It helps the cupcakes rise and get their spongy texture. When you beat the batter for too long, it is harder for the gluten to create these pockets of air in the batter, leading to flat or even sunken cupcakes.

On the other hand, beating too much air into the batter will, funnily enough, also lead to deflated cupcakes.

When they cool down, a lot of the air in them is released, which is why even the most perfectly baked cupcakes tend to shrink a little bit.

When there is too much air in the cupcakes, a lot more of it will be released, causing your cupcakes to shrink and sink too much.

Old baking soda and baking powder

Yes, you read that right! Baking soda and baking powder can get old! And this can negatively affect the outcome of your cupcakes (and other baked goods).

These two ingredients are leavening agents that help your cupcakes rise.

They don’t react well with the other ingredients in your batter when they get old!

This makes it harder for the cupcakes to rise as well as they should, and you can actually end up with shrunk cupcakes while they’re still baking in the oven!

To test if your baking soda is still good, mix it with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar. If it gets fizzy, then you’re all good to go.

For baking powder, combine it with hot water and look for bubbles and foam. That is a sign that your baking powder is still usable.

If there’s a slow or no reaction at all, you better go to the store and get yourself some new baking powder!

There’s too much liquid in the cupcake batter

When your cupcakes are cooling, they release both air and steam.

If you put too much liquid in the batter, then, naturally, too much steam will come out of the cupcakes. This rapid and excessive steam release will cause the cupcakes to shrink and sink.

The best way to avoid this issue is to carefully follow the instructions when making the cupcake batter.

Baking is truly a science regarding recipes and ingredients, so make sure to use the exact amount of liquids used in the recipe.

If the recipe asks for cups, use a measuring cup and not a regular cup to measure the amount of liquid needed.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Do Your Cupcakes Crack on Top?

How to Make the Best Out of Shrunk Cupcakes?

Sometimes you do everything by the book, and the cupcakes still don’t come out right. It happens! 

Here are a few things you can do to make the best out of any shrunken cupcake:

Cover up your mistakes

The power of icing is no laughing matter. It adds flavor and sweetness and, more importantly – covers up mistakes! 

Top the shrunken cupcakes with an extra thick layer of frosting and decorations to hide the fact that any shrinking took place. 

You would have added that icing anyways, so why not put on a little extra, right? No one will notice, I promise! 

Trim your cupcakes

Shrunk cupcakes have an ugly hole in the middle and some pretty hard-to-cover edges.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to fix this! 

Trim the edges of the cupcakes, and voila! It looks like you made flat cupcakes. No one will have to know the cupcakes shrunk with this neat little trick. 

Additionally, flat and even cupcake tops are so much easier to decorate!

Turn them into cake pops

There may be a time when a thick layer of frosting can’t save the shrunken cupcakes. Or maybe you just didn’t prepare enough frosting. That’s okay too!

You can still turn them into something super beautiful and delicious.

Cupcakes are just small cakes. So if you can’t use them in their original shape, just crumble them down and mix them with your favorite frosting.

Shape them into balls, put them on a stick, and you’ll have yourself some amazing cake pops!

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Bake Cupcakes Without Burning the Bottom?

Should Cupcakes Be Flat or Domed?

a batch of domed vanilla chocolate chip cupcakes

When it comes to cupcakes, they can be both flat or domed! It depends on how you want to present them and what kind of cupcake texture you prefer. 

There are pros and cons for both flat and domed cupcakes, so it all comes down to personal preference.

Domed cupcakes

Traditional cupcakes are usually somewhat domed as they have a better appearance. Not only are they easier to frost, but they can also hold decorations much easier than flat cupcakes. 

This makes them a popular choice for parties and gatherings. 

Domed cupcakes may look better, but they are often somewhat dryer than flat cupcakes. The center can get too hot during baking, leading to a dryer cupcake. 

Moist-domed cupcakes are, of course, possible, but they’re not always guaranteed.

Flat cupcakes

Their even shape makes flat cupcakes moister than their domed counterparts. 

The shape of flat cupcakes allows the oven heat to penetrate them more evenly, so no one part gets hotter than another. 

This leads to a nice, moist, and fluffy cupcake.

You can frost flat cupcakes, but they do not look as lovely as domed ones. 

They can’t bear the weight of too much frosting, so they usually have simple designs. 

This may be fine for some, but if you want a more elegant presentation, then domed cupcakes are probably the better choice for you!

What is the Best Flour for Baking Cupcakes?

With so many different types of flour out there, it can be challenging to know which flour works best for cupcakes. 

Though you can use all-purpose flour, high-quality cake flour is, by far, your best pick for this type of baked good!

Cake flour is a light flour with a low amount of protein, making it great for spongy pastries like cupcakes. 

It’s best to go with bleached cake flour as it will create the best results.

This may sound surprising, but bleached cake flour changes how the starch works in the batter. 

Using bleached cake flour will make your cupcake batter less sticky and far easier to handle.

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