How to convert cake to cupcakes: A few simple steps is all it takes

Cupcakes are blissfully convenient. No forks, knives, or hassle are needed to enjoy one. But sometimes, you have your heart set on the perfect (full-sized) cake recipe you love. This is when it pays to be nimble in the kitchen — with our easy tips you can convert cake to cupcakes so you always bake the right dessert for the occasion.

From cake to cupcakes, you’ll be able to take almost any cake recipe and make it into easy-to-enjoy cupcakes. Here’s how. Click To Tweet

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

First, choose a standard cake recipe

When choosing a recipe to convert from cake to cupcakes, set yourself up for success by starting with a “standard” cake. These are recipes that use classic mixing techniques. Think creamed cakes, blended (paste-method) cakes, hot milk cakes, and oil-based cakes.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Some recipes to carefully consider before turning into cupcakes:

  • Pound cakes make delicious but heavy cupcakes, so factor their density into your decision.
  • Sponge cakes will be dry and short. So unless you’re planning on soaking your cupcakes with simple syrup, save sponge cake for a time when you want to bake regular-sized dessert.
  • Cakes with meringue-based or yeasted components (like Blitz Berry Torte or Bienenstich) are also better off in their full-sized form. Their technical layers make them difficult to translate to cupcakes.
  • Filled cake recipes can be also tricky. Consider skipping the filling and prepare just the batter. Otherwise, you can try stuffing your cupcakes if you’re feeling adventurous. Note that you’ll likely end up with quite a bit of leftover filling.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Our choice: Classic Birthday Cake

We find ourselves craving our Recipe of the Year, Classic Birthday Cake, day after day. (Trust us: It’s delicious every day, not just on birthdays.)

This golden vanilla cake with satiny chocolate frosting is impressive as a tall, two-layer cake. But it also works delightfully well in a smaller format. We’re going to show you how to transform this cake into cupcakes in five easy steps.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Once you learn the method, you can transform your other favorite cake recipes into cupcakes, too!

1. Preheat the oven

The first thing to consider when converting cake to cupcakes is the baking temperature. Choose your temperature first so you can preheat the oven while you prepare the batter.

Most cupcakes bake well between 325°F and 375°F. Conveniently, these are the same temperatures that cakes are usually baked at too. You can probably use the temperature the cake recipe calls for, or you can adjust it if you’re looking for specific results.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Our Recipe of the Year calls for baking cupcakes at 325°F so you can pipe lots of the rich chocolate frosting on their perfectly flat tops.

Low and slow for flat tops

Bake your cupcakes at a low temperature (325°F) if you’re looking for cupcakes with relatively flat tops. These cupcakes are perfect for garnishing with lots of elegantly piped frosting.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

See those golden edges? That’s because sugar liquefies during baking and starts to caramelize during a long, slow bake. This is especially noticeable where the batter touches the pan.

So if you bake your cupcakes at 325°F, they’ll likely end up with slightly crisp edges. It’s not unpleasant to have a little bit of texture to your cupcake; just know it’s coming!

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Even though these cupcakes still have relatively flat tops, they rise higher baked at 375°F than their super-flat counterparts baked at 325°F.

Bump it up for higher-rising domes

If you’d like to make cupcakes that have a little dome, try increasing the temperature by 25°F or 50°F.

The higher heat activates the leavener (baking powder and/or baking soda) more readily. As a result, the cupcakes rise higher. You’ll also end up with a softer, more homogenous crumb as a result of less time in the oven.

If for some reason the cake recipe you’re using calls for a temperature outside of the standard range (325°F to 375°F), change it accordingly.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

You can fill the wells of cupcakes baked at lower temperatures quite full — the cupcake baked at 325°F was filled higher than the other two to compensate for the flat top and short rise.

Decide on your baking temperature and preheat the oven.

2. Make the batter as directed

This next step of converting cake to cupcakes really doesn’t require any conversion at all — simply make the batter as directed in the recipe.

We mix up the batter for our Classic Birthday Cake using the hot milk technique — a mixing method outlined in the step-by-step directions in our blog post: Introducing our Recipe of the Year.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

The batter looks thin; that’s exactly how hot milk cake is supposed to look at this stage.

Once the batter is mixed, it’s time to deviate from the cake recipe. We’re going to make cupcakes!

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

3. Prepare your pans

Next, ready your pans for baking. Choose standard, jumbo, or mini muffin pans based on how large you want the final cupcakes to be.

Then, figure out roughly how many cupcakes your recipe is going to make. Here are some guidelines:

  • One 9” x 13” cake, two 9” round cake layers, or three 8” round layers all make about 24 standard cupcakes.
  • One 8″ square pan or 9″ round layer makes about 12 standard cupcakes.

If you’re using a jumbo pan, expect about half as many cupcakes. A mini pan yields slightly more than two times as many cupcakes.

The Classic Birthday Cake makes about 6 cups of batter, and that yields between 24 and 30 cupcakes, depending on how full you fill the wells.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Once you know about how many cupcakes to expect, line your pan with papers or grease it lightly. (If you need help deciding about whether you should use papers, start here: How to use muffin and cupcake papers.)

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

4. Fill the wells

Regardless of the pan size, fill each well about 4/5 of the way full. (You can also use a muffin scoop to help you portion out the batter.)

Using this much batter should result in cupcakes that fill the papers nicely without overflowing during baking.

The exception? If you know the batter you’re preparing is a low riser or you’re using a lower baking temperature (325°F), feel free to fill them a little fuller: almost all the way to the top of the wells.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

If you make our Classic Birthday Cake into cupcakes and bake them at 325°F, you can fill the wells quite full. If you opt for a higher temperature, leave a little more room for the cupcakes to rise as they bake.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

5. Adjust the bake time

Cupcakes will always require less time in the oven than their cake counterparts. Each well is like a pan of its own containing a small amount of batter, so they’ll cook through faster than full-size cakes.

How much faster? There are some general rules you can use to help estimate the bake time for cupcakes. For example, when converting from 9″ pans to cupcakes, you’ll likely only need to reduce the time by about 5% to 10% if you use the same baking temperature.

If you’re going from a 9″ x 13″ cake to cupcakes (using the same temperature), the baking time will be reduced quite a bit. Sometimes it’ll be as much as 40% to 50% shorter for cupcakes.

While these rules of thumb can be helpful, exact bake times will vary based on the recipe, your oven, and how full you’ve filled each well. You’re better off if you don’t try to calculate the precise bake time and instead hone your ability to tell when cupcakes are perfectly baked.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

How to tell when cupcakes are done: 5 quick tips

It can be difficult to tell when cupcakes are done just by looking at them — yes, they should have a golden edge but what if you’re baking chocolate cupcakes? Look for these signs:

  • They’ve risen nicely: Even if you’re baking at a low temperature, the cupcakes should puff up visibly in the oven by the time they’re done.
  • A toothpick comes out clean: When you insert a cake tester or toothpick into the center of one of the cupcakes in the middle of the pan, it should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
  • Top springs back: Gently press down on the top of a cupcake with your fingertip. It should spring back when done.
  • High internal temperature: Use a digital thermometer to test the internal temperature of your cupcakes. Look for 205°F to 210°F before removing from the oven.
  • The kitchen smells amazing: As the cupcakes reach the end of the baking time, they’ll become fragrant. When you smell butter and toasting sugar, they’re done!

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

The icing on the (cup)cake

The last (and perhaps the most fun) step in converting cake to cupcakes is getting to decide how to top your cupcakes. I’m a fan of classic buttercream-frosted cupcakes, but you’re the baker so you get to decide!

If your cake recipe includes frosting, feel free to use it. Alternately, you can mix and match cake and frosting flavors using our collection of frosting recipes.

Once you’ve chosen your frosting, decide if you need to adjust the yield.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

The frosting for our Classic Birthday Cake (which we think is the perfect chocolate frosting) makes a generous 4 cups (857g). This is a relatively large amount of frosting; there’s enough to fill the cake layers and then style the cake in different ways.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Four cups of frosting is enough to spread about 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons (30g to 35g) of frosting on each cupcake. Your cupcakes will have a simple, rustic look, and the chocolate and vanilla flavors will be nicely balanced.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

If you want to be able to pipe a professional-looking swirl atop each cupcake, increase the frosting by half. Six cups of frosting is enough to generously top 24 cupcakes, using a heaping 3 to 4 tablespoons (45g to 55g) of frosting on each cupcake.

How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

Give it a try: cake to cupcakes

The next time you need a perfect treat for a bake sale, birthday party, or summer celebration, turn your favorite cake recipe into cupcakes. They’ll turn out beautifully if you follow these easy steps.

  1. Choose a baking temperature and preheat the oven.
  2. Make the batter as directed.
  3. Prepare your pans based on the amount of batter.
  4. Fill the wells about 4/5 of the way full.
  5. Adjust the bake time accordingly.How to convert cake to cupcakes via @kingarthurflour

And if you haven’t already tried it, bake our Recipe of the Year! Make it for your birthday, a family member’s birthday, or for a friend down the street. Make it as a cake or make it as cupcakes — whatever works best for you.

Thanks to Jenn Bakos for taking the photographs for this post.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Marketing Team.

comments

  1. Marilynn Price-Richard

    My mother taught me to fill empty muffin cups with about 1/3 c. Hot water if i has less than a full pan of batter. She said the cupcakes would bake more evenly. (She was a master baker!) is this true?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s an interesting theory, Marilynn! To us, it makes sense that it would distribute the weight evenly throughout the pan. We don’t know how much it affects the cupcakes baking but it certainly doesn’t seem like a step that would hurt! Annabelle@KAF

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Cupcakes freeze beautifully, Debra. You don’t need to do anything differently when making them. Simply allow the cupcakes to cool completely and then store in an airtight container. Try not to have anything touching the top of the cupcakes directly, as it might ruin the top crumb during thawing. (Store your cupcakes in a single layer.) As for making small batches of frosting, you’re welcome to try halving most of our frosting recipes, and they’ll still turn out well as long as there is enough volume of ingredients for your mixer to whip. However, I recommend making a full batch and freezing any excess to use another time. Most frosting recipes freeze quite well. They just need to come to room temperature, get a quick mix in a mixer, and then you’re ready to apply it to your cake or cupcake. Just be sure to store your frosting and cupcakes separately during freezing, and you shouldn’t have any trouble at all. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      It was meant to be, Rose! We hope you come to this blog post every time you’re eager to make cupcakes from a favorite cake recipe. Now you have an answer to every question you could have wondered (we hope!). Thanks for reading! Kye@KAF

  2. linda thompson

    I have made the birthday cake into cupcakes and they were perfect! I used the icing, also perfect! thank you for explaining the cupcake dome. Sometimes you want a dome, sometimes you don’t. I use silicone cupcake holders and love them. I leave them on because they are so colorful and everyone stacks them after eating the cupcakes.

    Reply
  3. Judy Solomon

    Can I convert a tea bread recipe (banana or zucchini bread) to cupcakes/muffins using these guidelines? What would be the yield for a standard 9×5 loaf pan recipe? Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Susan

    Thank you for this great post and beautiful pictures. I always wondered how to get that dome on the cupcake. Overfilling the liners never worked. Can’t wait to try it!

    Reply
  5. Kim Werner

    I have a pan that makes 6 cupcakes/muffins. It would be really nice to find a recipe scaled down to that size so I wouldn’t have so many extra. Any chances that could be another blog post?

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      My fellow blogger, PJ, recently wrote an article called “The essential alternative baking pan sizes,” which might help with your conversions. While we don’t have a recipe that’s perfectly scaled for your pan, you could easily use our Cake Pan Cake and make a half batch to yield six cupcakes. If you halve any cake recipe that calls for an 8″ square pan, you’ll end up with roughly the right amount of batter if you will your cupcakes generously. (If you’re looking for vanilla cupcakes, try a half batch of our Vanilla Cake Pan Cake.) Happy baking! Kye@KAF

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