So this is what I've got for ya this week: Why do my cupcake liners fall off of my cupcakes?
We bakers here at Muddy's Bake Shop are not aware of the exact science behind whether cupcakes get naked or not, but we have seen enough to know there is not one single cause! There are a million! To simplify things a bit, however, I think the reasons behind naked cupcakes seem to fall into three categories: the liner itself, moisture (whether introduced by our delightful Memphis weather or the baking process), and baker errors (which may overlap with moisture being the cause, because sometimes we just don't know the science. We just know that certain actions almost certainly equal unclothed cupcakes!)
First I would consider what kind of liners you are using. Occasionally customers will bring us their own liners so that their preordered cupcakes will match their wedding colors or fit their son's dinosaur birthday party theme. It seems that we have more issues with these than with our normal white papers, but we are not sure why. I can say, avoid waxed liners at all costs! Another issue you may run into is misshapen liners resulting from faulty storage or rough handling. Or it may be that your particular recipe and that particular liner simply don't mesh. If you are using parchment liners, try paper. Using paper? Try foil! We do love our plain thin paper ones here at Muddy's, though, especially as they are porous enough to allow for the escaping of some steam. Which brings us to potential naked cupcake cause number two....
The second (and possibly more frequent) cause of soooo many cupcake liner issues is excess moisture. That could be from an extra humid day, using a damp cupcake pan that was recently washed and not dried, an excessively wet batter, underbaking the cupcake, or, as seems to be the case most of the time we have issues with stripping cupcakes at Muddy's, steam or moisture seeping out of the sides of the cupcake and being trapped by the pan. The longer a cupcake is left in a pan, the more chances there are for steam to build inside of it. So I would advise everyone to remove their cupcakes from their pans as soon as possible; we usually remove them at Muddy's as soon as they are cool enough to touch. These poor (but still delicious!) mini cupcakes were left behind, and now look how sad they are.
Allow them to cool in a place where they can air out; don't you dare wrap your cupcakes or put them in any kind of enclosed storage before they are COMPLETELY cool. Otherwise you will trap the steam that is still releasing from the cupcakes, and your cupcakes will get naked!
And finally, your cupcakes may be disinclined to remain clothed due to baker error that may or may not have something to do with moisture. We don't know exactly why they do what they do, but we sure know cupcakes undress when you do certain things. When cupcakes are too short for their wrappers, they rarely keep them on well.
And I have to be honest, I do not know why that is. It seems that when a cupcake is large enough, it grasps onto the top of the liner, holding it in place. Cupcake liners NEVER fall off of oversized cupcakes, and 99% of the time, they stay on properly sized ones.
Overbaking is another baker error that can cause liners to not stay in place, and may or may not be a moisture issue. Most of us (except your perfect people, of course) have pulled an overbaked cake or cupcakes out of the oven. And so you may have noticed that too long of a trip in the oven causes cake to shrink, especially away from the edges of a pan. So it makes sense that cupcakes would shrink away from certain liners (especially thicker, stiffer ones with less pleating) when overbaked.
One final baker error that I hear happens in some home kitchens is the spraying of cupcake liners! I have heard that some people get into this habit after being taught for so many years to spray their cake pans prior to filling them. If you are one of those people, you need not be any longer! Cupcake liners will stay on better and remove perfectly when the time is right without any lubrication.
So to summarize, this how you get your cupcake liners to stay on your delicious cupcakes:
1. Use a trusty cupcake liner brand and material that has not been misshapen in storage.
2. Bake on a dry day, if possible (of course, good luck with that in Memphis!)
3. Remove cupcakes from their pans while still warm to prevent steam build up.
4. Bake your cupcakes the correct amount of time: don't underbake or overbake!
5. Let your cupcakes cool completely before icing them or enclosing them in any type of remotely airtight storage.
6. Fill your cupcake liners with the correct amount of batter. Don't put too little, or your papers are very likely to fall off!
7. And finally, don't spray your cupcake liners. Ever.
Hopefully these pointers will get you on the path to a perfect cupcake... no guarantees that it will be EVERY time, as you can see we even have a few fails here and there in the Muddy's Kitchen. But following these steps will no doubt put you a little closer to your goal of getting your cupcakes dressed.