The Genius Water Hack That Totally Prevents Dry Cupcakes

It doesn't matter how expertly decorated your cupcakes look, how unique the flavors are, or how ethereal your Swiss meringue buttercream turned out — if your cupcakes are dry, it can ruin the whole experience. Cupcakes are basically miniature cakes and should, therefore, taste and feel the same. But, just the tiniest bit of over-baking can result in cupcakes that are crumbly and parched. Sure, there are certain ingredients that help to add moisture, but an easy way to ensure perfect results with any recipe is to include a bit of steam in the oven. And it's pretty easy to do.

In a standard, 12-piece muffin baking tin, place cupcake liners in just 10 of the partitions; in the remaining two sections, pour in enough water to fill them halfway. Place your batter in the lined cups and bake as normal. The water will turn into steam when it hits the heat of the oven and the evaporation will surround the baking cupcakes, making them moist, tender, and fluffy. Another tip: This little trick will have the same effect on baking better muffins too.

Baking with steam has other benefits

Filling a couple of the muffin cups with water before you bake won't just give you a tender crumb. It could also help even out your baking process in general, helping each cupcake bake all the way through instead of having a crumbly top and bottom and well-baked interior. The moist air is what keeps the heat even, resulting in an ideal cake. In addition, steam may keep your cupcakes from sticking to the pan. If you're already using paper or silicone liners, this shouldn't be an issue, but if you prefer baking without liners, you should at least prepare each muffin cup with oil or butter and maybe a dusting of flour to ensure the cupcakes will release from the tin when you take them out of the oven.

The one element you should consider if you use this baking hack is that introducing steam can potentially increase the baking time because water does absorb some of the oven's heat. You'll want to check for doneness by putting a toothpick or skewer in the middle of the cupcake; when removed, there should be no raw cake batter sticking to it. If there is, continue baking for a few minutes at a time until the skewer releases with no crumbs, or at most, a few moist crumbs.

More ways to keep cupcakes from drying out

If dry cupcakes are something you've experienced and vowed never to let happen again, then you probably know that there are several things you can do to get moist, fluffy results. Recipes that call for vegetable oil as the fat or buttermilk instead of milk tend to be very tender. If you want fat with flavor, consider using melted butter instead of oil. Obviously, you don't want to over-bake cupcakes either, which is a top reason they end up dried out. A digital baking thermometer can help in preventing this, and it's a bit more precise than the toothpick/skewer method.

When you take cupcakes out of the oven, you could also brush them with a syrup or another liquid to put extra moisture into the cakes. It could be something as basic as a simple syrup made with just sugar and water, or it could include flavorings like coffee, citrus, or booze. Finally, to keep cupcakes feeling fresh in the days after you bake them, store them at room temperature and not in the refrigerator, which can make cupcakes feel cold, dry, and unpleasant.