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Why Are My Cupcakes Sticky On Top ? Here’s What’s Going On

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Sticky cupcakes may be a nuisance at first glance, but there’s more to then that just sticking to your fingers. There’s a good reason some cupcakes end up sticky, and some don’t . Luckily this is in your control (for the most part), meaning you can fix it if you want.

So let’s first find out why cupcakes get sticky on top, and then what can be done about them.

cupcake sticky

Why are my cupcakes sticky on top ?

Cupcakes are sticky on top because that is the part exposed to air, and as it cools down the sugar attracts the moisture in the air. This happens to all cakes, cupcakes, muffins, or sweetbreads due to the sugar content. It’s more likely to happen if you have high moisture in your kitchen, which is often the case when cooking, but there are solutions.

Sugar attracts moisture

Sugar, due to its structure, attracts moisture from the air. In fact, sugar attracts water because it dissolves in water. This means that if you’re using sugar in your cupcakes – which you likely are – then the tops will get sticky. More sugar means stickier cupcakes.

This is not easy to get around since few other sweeteners are as efficient in baking.

Read also: Why Are My Cupcakes So Dry ?

Brown sugar retains more moisture

If you’re using brown sugar you have an even higher chance of sticky tops. Brown sugar has more moisture and attracts more moisture than white sugar. This is also the reason cookies baked with brown sugar instead of white end up chewy and softer, instead of crispy like with white sugar.

The molasses still present in brown sugar is also a factor here.

This is common is baking with gas ovens

If you’re using a gas oven, then you’re likely to get a sticky top cupcake. This is because as the gas burns, it releases moisture, which then permeates your kitchen.

These ovens are also much drier on the inside, leading to a higher chance of drying out your cupcakes, cakes, muffins, and even roasts.

How do you fix sticky cupcakes ?

If the sticky cupcakes upset you, know that there are ways around it. There’s no real way to keep them from happening if you use sugar, but you can make them less sticky or cover them.

To be fair this doesn’t seem like a very big problem, unless the cupcakes are very sticky and even crumbly.

Powdered sugar

The first thing you can try is coating the cupcakes in powdered sugar (or icing sugar). This will turn the sticky tops dust, and you can even play around with powdered sugar and cocoa powder to make different patterns.

These will come out really great if you’re going for a wintery, snowy look.

Use frosting as usual

You can try frosting the cupcakes as usual, with your regular frosting. If it’s a thick, dense frosting it may not stick, even if the tops are not that sticky. So try and go for a softer frosting. If you’re using ganache be sure to add more cream to make it a bit runnier.

Give the cupcakes a nice glaze

Another idea would be to glaze your cupcakes and give them a nice finish. We don’t recommend the classic water and icing sugar glaze, at least not the thin one used for gingerbread.

Instead make a glaze out of egg whites and icing sugar. This way it gets that nice crispy texture that will contrast beautifully with the soft interior of the cupcake.

Or, you can glaze them with dark chocolate like the Hostess ones, and add some colored sprinkles on top.

glazed cupcakes

Read Also: What Causes Domed Cakes ?

Cut off the tops

If all else fails or none of the ideas above really strike your fancy, you can simply cut off the top of the cupcakes. This way you won’t have anything sticky and the tops will be nice and flat. This may be useful if your cupcakes are domed, or if you want to pile the frosting high.

In case you can’t spare the extra height, simply take a fork and ruffle the tops. This way you expose more crumbs and non-sticky areas to the surface.

All in all, we think sticky cupcakes are not that bad. If you’re going to frost them – you likely are – then they won’t really be noticeable, nor will they hinder the decorating process.

So don’t worry if your cupcakes are a little sticky on top. They’re likely still delicious ! 

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