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How to make & bake the perfect flat topped cupcake

How to Make Flat Topped Cupcakes

If your cupcakes emerge from the oven looking more like mini volcanoes than flat topped cupcakes I can help - assuming of course you want to bring an end the need to the need for cupcake decapitation. Be warned though, if you proceed down this path gone will be the days of secretly scoffing those gorgeous crunchy summits, so as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for and make sure this is what you really want.

The first thing to understand is your cake mixture. Think about it, you half fill a cupcake case with mixture, stick it in the oven for around fifteen minutes and the thing magically doubles in size - only it's not magic - it's the raising agent - or to be more precise it's the chemical reaction the raising agent causes. Now I'm not intending to go into the science of how that reaction happens - though if you are interested there's a good explanation here - the important thing is to understand that the reaction happens once heat is applied - and it is the correct application of heat that is key to a flat topped cupcake.

Flat Topped Cupcake

Flat Topped Cupcake

How Cakes Rise

Cakes cook from the outside in - with the centre always being the last part to cook through. So now I'd like you to imagine you're a cupcake and you've been stuck in a 180C oven. Your raising agent is begining to work and the only way is up - all good so far. However as you try to rise you discover that you're already cooking at the edges in fact a crust has started to form and it's moving towards the centre. This only leaves you with one option - if you want to rise you can only do so through the middle, so you do, and now you're a mini volcano rather than a flat topped cupcake.

How to Get Flat Topped Cupcakes

So how do you persuade your cakes to remain level as they rise - the answer is get to know you oven. Recipes should be followed (more or less) to the letter as far as ingredients go but when it comes to temperature ovens are individuals - with characters of their own. If the result of cooking your cupcakes at a recipe stated 180C is volcano like cupcakes then don't be afraid to turn the oven down - try it at 170C or maybe even 160C - and remember it might be different for different recipes. My own flat topped cupcake temperature turned out to be 150C - up to 40C less than some recipes stated.

So is that the end of volcanic cupcakes in my kitchen? The answer is 'yes', when I follow my own advice - but every so often - accidentally of course - I set the heat a little bit high and wait with anticipation for my mini volcanoes to errupt from the oven. After all perfection all the time can get a little bit dull.

Decorating Cupcakes

Of course baking the cupcakes is only half the story, there's a lot more fun to be had decorating cupcakes.

Buttericing, fondant, ganache, cream cheese and glace icing all make great cupcake toppings, and should be viewed as the blank canvas on which to create your masterpiece.

Ideas for cupcake decorations can come from anywhere, take inspiration from hobbies ~ if someone likes sport colour the icing green and make little fondant balls, colours ~ use the colours of a favourite football team when decorating cupcakes. Why not use cupcake wrappers to add a little extra touch for a special occasion. You can use edible glitter, piping gel, cupcake stencils or sugarpaste cutters such as dog cutters to create brilliant effects.

Like all cake decorating ideas sometimes the simplest ones can be the best and most effective such as the sunflower cupcakes further down, made using a petal piping nozzle and brown sugar for the flower centre.

However always remember that the most important thing you can do while decorating your cupcakes is to have fun and enjoy yourself. So if this has sparked your interest in cupcake decorating why not have a go at a few ideas such as Frog Cupcakes, Elelphant Cupcakes, Pig Cupcakes, Ladybird Cupcakes, Sugarpaste Lilies or Sugarpaste Carnations.

Or get some more ideas from the great selection of books below.

Cupcake Decorating Books

Sunflower Cupcakes


Cupcake Decorating Ideas


Chris Mutch on April 05, 2012:

Fantastic, just the info I was looking for :)

malhota from Portugal on December 29, 2011:

Thank you so much for this tips. :)

SARA on October 23, 2011:


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Lisa on October 03, 2011:

Thank you, fantastic advise, I'm making the cup cakes for my daughter first birthday so I want them to be perfect, can wait to give it a few more try's to prefect them :)

Helen on March 15, 2011:

Fab description of what happens, just what i was looking for, cheers/

hessa and noura on January 08, 2011:

nice cool i will try it

Hilary on September 16, 2010:

Thanks for that, what recipe did you use ?

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on September 03, 2010:

Well, I'm sure with a little practice this will be the end of all my little "volcanoes" I never thought of lowering the temperature as I thought the cupcakes will come out dry.

Brooke on June 22, 2010:

thanks sooo much im entering a cupcake competition and i coundn't figure out how to make flat cupcakes!!!

maria on June 20, 2010:

thankyou so much i need flat cupcakes as they are a lot easlier to cover with fondant

Beth on May 17, 2010:

Thank you! That was exactly the information I was looking for! Can't wait to try it out!

FLo on May 06, 2010:

Brilliant, thank you, i've been searching for days on how to make a flat fairy cake. Batch number 3 on it's way.............

Jill on February 08, 2010:

Thank you for that great explanation. Off i go to test my oven!

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