Driving me nuts

Why does this happen?

berry-topped cupcakes

Why do the baking cups peel away from some cupcakes? I have done a fair amount of googling over this and there just doesn't seem to be one answer. My working theory is the amount of cooling time, or something that has to do with cooling and condensation, but it's just a best guess. It's happened with paper cups and metal/foil cups, some recipes sometimes but not others. Even when all else is equal (recipe, amount per baking cup, temperature, baking time, conditions, etc.). SO frustrating. We've even had a discussion about this in the Flickr Cupcakes Take the Cake pool.

berry-topped cupcakes

Okay, bakers, I beg of you, enlighten me! Does anyone have a definitive answer??


Maybe it's more scientific , like when the batter expands and bakes it make the paper peel, LOL..don't know either but i am guessing, i could be wrong and i won't be surprised if i am, LOL
Pen Pen said…
That up sets me too!! I noticed that it happens more to me when I have thick or foil cups. I've been thinking that maybe with the thinner paper ones, the moisture from the cake seeps into the cups and holds on that way...I don't know tho- even that conclusion seems weird to me.
BUT--It was amazing how easily the foil cups came away from the cakes-I had to handle them sooo much more gently than the paper ones or they'd just let go...
this only happens to me when I use decorative wrappers. They've always had patterns on them, and they tend to be waxy in texture inside the cupcake. The cake has nothing to CLING to.
Paris Pastry said…
From what I've experienced with making cupcakes, some cupcake liners peel away easy, and depending on the recipe if the cupcakes are sticky or not.

I hate it when it happens!
Welcome Friends said…
I think it has to do with how moist the cupcakes are.....but that's just a guess.....
Stephany Benbow said…
Certain recipes at work always did this, no matter what liner we used. I noticed these were the cupcakes that tended to shrink a little, so the two may be connected.
Drove me up a wall! When you are trying to make a few hundred perfect cupcakes for a wedding and half of them have started to fall away it just seems so hopeless (but little well placed bits of frosting can save the day)
Steph said…
That's so weird, I've never had that happen to me, but maybe its because I don't have the fancy wrappers, just the regular white cups from the dollar store.

I see some people spray their liners, which makes me wonder why sometimes...why do liners have to be sprayed? Do cakes actually stick to the paper? Maybe that's causing the liners to come off

Or, is it only certain recipes or certain wrappers? Maybe the next time you make a batch of cupcakes, you could use all different wrappers to eliminate if it's the recipe or the wrappers.
Susie's Shortbreads said…
From my experience, this does seem to happen more with the decorative/waxier type, especially the foil ones. Not sure there is a way to prevent it in those kind. But with the paper ones, I find it only happens if the liners are not neatly placed in the cups (like if you were struggling to get them apart and you indent your thumb in the side, etc) because when they bake and you release them from the pan, having an imperfect liner can cause it to pull away from the cake. Make sure you lightly use the tip of your finger when separating the cups to avoid causing any "bumps" in the liners. Not sure if this could be something you're doing, but I've seen it many times with the newbie bakers I've hired. Hope this helps! Happy baking!
Oh my gosh...that has NEVER happened to me but I always use paper cups so maybe that is the answer!
The Dixon Gang said…
I like susie Shortbread's post. I have noticed that this happens more with the foil cups and the fancier cups, but you have to work harder to separate them. the cheap white paper ones don't hardly do it at all.
xan said…
i attended a baking demo & the trainer said it was due to leaving the cuppies in the muffin pan after baking. as soon as the cuppies are baked, they should be removed from the pan. i've not tried it though.. u can give it a go. gd luck!
Holly said…
Does this happen right when they come out of the oven or after they have cooled? I have not had this problem but I usually use cheap wrappers from the grocery. It sounds like most people have this problem with waxy or foil wrappers. My assumption is that the wrappers are expanding when they get hot, and expanding more than the cake expands, and then shrinks when they cool, but not as much as the cake. Also, with the waxy ones, they are already non-stick and so peeling away from the cupcake when they cool. I think it is probably a chemistry thing. Not really sure what you could do to prevent this when using these wrappers.
Uncle Beefy said…
You're not the only one! I've had that trouble on a number of occasions too. After much research I came up with two situations.

Like "Xan" one was attributed to leaving the cupcakes in the pan too long to cool. (But removing piping hot minis is a pretty fragile endeavor!)

The other was baking time, i.e. overbaking (apparently even slightly). So I began to monitor my baking times tightly, and beginning to check the "doneness" at the shorter end of the time interval. THAT did the trick for me! It did involve a few opening oven, checking cupcakes, closing, waiting 30 sec, repeat, but it gave me an tighter time range for future batches and ended my frustration.

Hope it helps! :)
Natalie said…
I know it will happen if you spray your cupcake wrappers with PAM or butter them. I normally just spray the bottom of the wrapper and never the sides.
I have never ever had this happen and I've made thousands of cupcakes. Two things I've also never done:

(1) used a box mix

(2) made cupcakes with oil (always use butter)

(3) baked cupcakes at any temperature other than 350

Thought you could at least rule out a few things.

Also thinking you are overbeating your batter.
Sugar Daze said…
i had this happen to me last week and it's not the first time. it happened with one batch of cupcakes out of 5 different batches/recipes used. i don't think it's the liner cause i always use the same ones - plain white paper. i don't think it's leaving them in the tin after cooking cause i do this all the time (lv. in for 5 minutes at least to finish cooking).
what i do think causes it and it requires further investigation is either storing them too quickly, that is before they have a chance to cool fully. or it happens with recipes that have more liquid/are more moist. the ones that peeled last week were banana that are very moist. and the time before that was a cupcake i made with grenadine and pink champagne in it.
i do hate when it happens. it would be nice to know definitively what causes it (and therefore how to avoid). any food scientists out there?
Unknown said…
I think it has to do with a few things: the amount of butter/oil in the recipe, making sure you're not underbaking them, and also making sure that you are filling them up enough.
I never seem to have this problem, luckily. I always fill the cups 3/4 full, almost to the top so that once baked, there is a nice top that is higher than the paper liner, which also makes it easier to frost.
SugarPunk said…
I would guess that it has something to do with the humidity - which would make the previous suggestion of making sure to remove them from the pans right away make sense.

(I live in NC, where the humidity is awful, and if I leave cupcakes or muffins out at all, the liners end up pulling away, even if they were fine when they first cooled.)
sonny said…
Absolutely maddening! I figured it had something to do with recipes that had more oil/butter, etc. My peanut butter cupcakes ALWAYS do that! I've discovered my that my theory is incorrect though as a batch of red velvet (with TONS of oil) came out just fine. I have started cooling them in the pan for a short while then transferring them to racks and haven't had problems. *fingers crossed*
This just happened to me and it drives me up the wall! I have gone through several theories; recipes that use butter vs oil, moistness levels, decorative liners, etc. but I can't come up with an answer! All i know is that I hate it, especially when doing custom orders
Just Cupcakes said…
There actually is an explanation as to why this happens!

First up, cupcakes most prone to the phenomena generally contain a high ratio of fats to dry ingredients, whether it be butter, oil, chocolate or buttermilk (or worse, a combination of all these!).

Cake batter evaporates out the water molecules as it bakes, as the steam formed during this evaporation is what creates the tiny air pockets that the proteins in the gluten harden around during baking when combined with the leavening ingredients (baking powder or soda) to form the cake's structure.

On cooling, that structure shrinks slightly. When you are baking a full-size cake, you will know it's done when the sides shrink away from the pan - the exact same thing happens with cupcakes, just on a smaller scale.

When this shrinkage occurs, with high fat-ratio recipes, the fat will be absorbed by the liner (also called bleed-through), which is what causes some liners to become see-through or lose their patterns when baked.

When paper absorbs too much moisture, whether from water or fat, the fibres soften and begin to fail.

Add these two factors together, and you have a separation of cake and liner.

Given the photos that you have posted highlighting this issue, from the shine on top of the cakes, you can tell that the recipe used is extra-moist. (perhaps a packet mix with pudding?)

You have also used a Cupcake Courier to store your cupcakes for an extended period (and by extended, I mean anything longer than an hour or so). While the CC is great as a transportation device (I own several) , it is NOT condusive to cupcake storage when liner failure is going to be a problem.

The CC is made from plastic. Plastic does not breathe. Once that cover gets put on, there is no way for air to circulate around the cupcakes and help stabilise the liners from becoming too moist.

The ideal storage recommendation is for them to be placed into an airtight container to achieve some sort of longevity in eatability, but this is really setting yourself up for disaster.

Cupcakes should be stored either in a breathable container (such a covered cakebox) or frozen immediately after cooling (if not needed for a few days). The more air that can circulate around your cupcakes, the less likely it is that your liners can become over-moistened and prone to failure.

Hope that the above info is helpful!


Just Cupcakes!
Melbourne, Australia
Katis Kupcakes said…
I have heard putting a rubber band or tying a ribbon around the wrapper until it really sets helps alot. May be worth a try?? Hope this helps!
SweetThingsTO said…
This only happens with one of my recipes - its a chocolate velvet (or devil's food cake). It doesn't have that much butter, but it does use milk powder, cocoa and lots of eggs.

I've tried watching them every 30 secs so it doesn't overbake and tried removing it from the pan soon after - but that didn't help. I just don't make those anymore as cupcakes, just cake.....
Cupcakelady said…
I like what Xan said. It's true, afetr you bake it remove them from the pan. Don't let them cool in the pan. Also make sure the dought is well sett in the cases. I do tap the pan a few times on my board to make sure the dought has set in well.
That would avoid air in the cases.
Good Luck
peachfish said…
I have some recipes that do this often and it does seem to be a bigger problem with waxier or stiffer liners. The solution is: frost so liberally that you can' see where the liner is peeling away :)
deede said…
I also have had this happen but discovered a way to stop it. First, I ALWAYS remove cupcakes from the pan when they come out of the oven--as a side note.
The trouble, I found, was placing the cupcakes to close together to cool. By leaving enough room between each cupcake, say about the size of a salad plate, the papers stay in place.
Of course, then there are cupcakes all OVER the kitchen, ha! But it has worked for me. Hope this helps.
unprfctlilangel said…
This only happens to me when I make my key lime cupcakes with coconut frosting. They don't just come off a little though they come off all the way. I was so embarrassed to bring them to the birthday party that way, but they were a hit anyways. :)
alyshalynn said…
i think it is definitely the moisture in the cupcake vs. the moisture in the air while cooking & cooling. i live near the coast in texas where it is very humid, but i do keep the AC running pretty constant, so it really shouldn't be a problem inside my house, which is where the shrinkage usually occurs.

i found this happening with a key lime recipe i use in conjunction with the convection setting in my oven. although when cooking the red velvet, (which is very moist and made with oil in stead of butter), the liners perform just fine. in order to combat the problem with my key lime ones, i over fill the liners (all the way to the top) and for the last 5-10 min, turn off the convection setting, and turn up the heat 5 degrees. seems to do the trick.
Unknown said…
The times this has happened to me the batter has been too thick. Once I thinned out the batter the rest of them came out just fine.
Jacinta said…
simple... Too much shortening/fat! It's a hard one to prevent because it is actually why we always take into account room temp and moisture and oven temp too. It affects the way shortening/fats are absorbed by carbohydrates in the batters!!