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A Cupcake Question

No picture or new recipe in this one - just a question. A cupcake inquiry, if you will. Of course by now everyone has and loves Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I have it too. And I love me some cupcakes, so this book is like a little softcover slice of heaven.

In theory.

The problem I'm having is that every cupcake I've made from it so far has turned out... less than awesome. I know it's not the recipes, since I've seen everyone's cupcake posts and pictures, and they all look perfect. My problem is that they all sink. Every single one. And not just a little bit, either. We're talking crater cakes here. Actually, Jess and I made the gingerbread cupcakes, and they only sunk a little bit - but they didn't rise very much, either, so I think it's just that they're a different kind of cake. On my own I've tried the chai cupcakes and the sexy low-fat vanilla cupcakes, and both sunk like falsley-accused witches. Granted, that's only three kinds total, but at this point I'm wary of trying anymore. I actually threw both the chai and the vanilla ones away, and I do not generally condone throwing away cupcakes. It's akin to blasphemy. But they were both so sunken, and also oddly-textured. A bit spongey and gummy.

So what gives? I want these vegan cupcakes to take over my world, but so far? Not so much. And on the off chance that anyone responds to this (it seems I've been abandoned in my absence - not that I can blame you guys, seriously), my baking powder is newish (less than 6 months old), I always pre-heat my oven, I try not to over-mix, and other cupcake recipes still come out fine, so my oven is the same as it ever was. I will admit that I usually don't sift, but it's never caused trouble with other cakes. I'm stumped. Help!

All of mine have been coming out great, EXCEPT for the gingerbread ones which just came out of the oven 15 minutes ago with large craters in the center. Maybe there are just certain ones that sink, and you happen to have picked those. Or, everyone else just covers it up with mounds of frosting, like I plan to do.

I don't know. All the chai and sexy low-fat vanilla ones that I've seen have looked mighty un-sunken. I know that baking is a science and that a million things can go wrong, but damn. It seems like I can bake any cupcakes except for Isa's.

Mounds of frosting work, but it still annoys me. Plus with both the chai and vanilla ones, there are no mounds of frosting. They are largely naked and their craters would be exposed! It's unthinkable.

The gingerbread ones are really good, even if they did sink for you.

I vote for a brand new baking powder, just in case, and I have a feeling I won't be the only one saying this.

Do you ever have other problems with your oven? Of course I'm too lazy to get one, but I hear oven thermometers are very cheap - perhaps it will give some clues? The 'sunkenest' ones I've made were the chocolate stout, but fortunately they had crumb topping.

I'll pick up some new baking powder, but honestly, I just cracked this stuff open not too long ago. The thing that strikes me as odd is that I have no trouble at all with other recipes.

I actually did have an oven thermometer for a little while, but then I managed to crack it in a spectacular manner by getting it wet while the oven was at 450 degrees. Glass everywhere. Very scary. While it was in there, I never managed to get a clear indication that anything was very off, temperature-wise.

I'm absolutely no help when it comes to the science of baking AND I don't have the cookbook yet...but I'm happy to see you back and I hope the problem is resolved soon!

PS I never abandoned you, I checked for updates everyday since your on my blog list ;)

Aw, thanks! I wouldn't blame you for abandoning me, though. I've been a very neglectful blogger.

There will be some sort of cupcake baking mid-week, so we'll see how that goes.

I made the boston vs. brooklyn cupcakes and the basic chocolate cupcake. I did not have any problems with either of them rising. For some vegan baking tips, you can go here: http://www.vegfamily.com/vegan-cooking/ten-tips-perfect-baking.htm but honestly, if you're doing all the things listed in the above link correctly, I'd send a quick note to Isa. I think the PPK website has a contact section.

Good luck to you!

amandacore, i was going to say "oven thermometer" and jess beat me to it. that is my best guess.

my second guess is that you're overmixing. when you combine wet and dry ingredients for vegan recipes, you should mix only until the batter is uniform. you probably already know this and i'm preaching to the choir, but when i first starting baking vegan, i was still beating the batter really hard like i did before and so most of my baked goods turned out wrong.

vivacious vegan - Thanks for the link. There are a few things on the list to consider, including the fact that while my baking powder is fairly new, my baking soda has been in the fridge for at least 2 years. That can't be good. I actually made the boston cream pie ones too, but I forgot to mention it. I don't remember if I used the white cake recipe from the book, though.

joanna - I may in fact be overmixing. I try not to, but what I think of as not overmixing may, in reality, be mixing to death. Hmm. I'll try to use an exceptionally light touch next time.

My first guess was baking powder, too. I know you said you just opened it, but perhaps it had been sitting for a while before you even bought it?

I know you have the book too and have most likely looked at their "troubleshooting" section, but here are their possible reasons for sinking:

1. oven too cold/hot
2. peaking on the cupcakes while baking
3. too much liquid/sugar/fat in batter
4. overmixing

It seems like you've ruled out #1 and possibly #4. Do you check on the cupcakes when they've only been in a few minues?

#3 could be an issue, have you tried making you batter dryer by adding more flour?

I hope you figure this out, keep us posted!

Yeah, I've checked the troubleshooting section. I don't think my oven is off, although I wouldn't bet my life on it. I don't check the cupcakes until they've been in for the minimum amount of time, so it's not that. It could be a consistency thing, or an overmixing thing. Or a baking powder/soda thing. Ack! So many things can go wrong.

Tonight I'm going to pick up new baking powder/soda, and possibly an oven thermometer. We'll see how tomorrow's cupcake venture works out. :)

i wish you the best!

You might be over-mixing the batter. If you're using an electric mixer (especially a Kitchen Aide) make sure you're using the lowest setting that you can and that you're only mixing it until just mixed.

It also could be old flour, old baking soda, old baking powder, or most likely, old ENRG egg replacer.

I mix everything by hand unless it calls for creaming margarine and sugar, but over-mixing may still be a problem. The flour is fairly new and there's no Ener-G, but the baking powder and soda may be the problem. I didn't even think about old flour or Ener-G, though. Good call.

I agree with all the tips listed previously but here is one more. Proper measuring.

The measuring of your ingredients can sometimes drastically effect your baking. Are you "dipping" into your flour container with your measuring cup or "spooning" the flour into the cup? The difference between the two styles can be mean an extra few tablespoons to a 1/4 cup of flour with the former method.

For large cakes or brownies or muffins the extra flour may not make a difference except make the baked goods a bit drier and holey. However, cupcakes are more delicate. Too much flour causes people to overmix. Too much flour also throws off the formula of the recipe because now the balance between the leaveners and flour is incorrect.

Correct measuring can make a dessert from just okay to "Oh, my God I must have more"

One more tip, stir your flour with a whisk before measuring even if the bag says "Presifted". This extra step also makes measuring more precise.

Wow, thanks! I am very guilty of dipping my measuring cup into the flour instead of spooning it out. I didn't know it could make such a big difference. I'll definitely start paying more attention to that. :)

I've had mixed success (because of my own errors) in cupcake making. I'm almost positive that at least some of the caved in cupcakes were because I put too much batter in - it will say to fill 2/3 or 3/4, and I'm horrible at judging and I think I tend to overfill. When I've had caved in cupcakes, the ones that were filled less also caved less, which is what led me to this conclusion.

Anyway, one more thing to consider! Everyone had great ideas for what could cause it though, and I'm also the type to dip the measuring cup into the flour instead of spooning it into the measuring cup. So it could be other things causing my failures too. I definitely will be more careful in the future!

everyone's said everything i was gonna say! but one thing that sunk my cupcakes (that i later found out about), was overmixing the margarine and sugar - for some reason if soy marg (like earth balance), is overmixed there's no chance in hell that it will produce a good result.

i have the VCTOtW book but i can't remember if the recipes you listed call for margarine or not (and i'm too lazy to go upstairs and check).

i second (or third or fourth), the suggestions to get new ingredients. baking soda that's been in the fridge for 2 years is good fer nuthin', imo! hee. ;)

Hi! Just stumbled across your blog, and I've really enjoyed poking around. Everything looks so beautiful--food, dishes, photos, everything! Anyway, so far I have made multiple batches of the chocolate, vanilla, and low fat cupcakes from VCTOTW and they've all risen perfectly, so I can vouch for those recipes, at least. I'm sure you're trying everyone's suggestions of chucking the baking powder etc., but one other thing you might try is mixing everything but the baking soda and powder really well, and then adding those in last and mixing just enough so they get absorbed. That's what I do because I worry that I overmix. I do use an electric mixer, though. Good luck!

Hey vegancore, I had my first major failure with VCTOTW last night, so thought I'd report back. Last night I tried a double batch of vanilla cupcakes. I've always used my stand mixer in the past and they're come out perfectly, but since the instructions say "with a handmixer" I decided to give it a go with a handmixer. Well, the cupcakes turned out TERRIBLE. Crater cakes indeed. I had to throw them all out. I think the handmixer caused me to mix a lot more than I had done in the past, which caused the failure. So, I'm going to nominate "overmixing" as the culprit in your similar failures. Maybe the recipes are just really delicate when it comes to mixing...

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