As a baker (and lover of all baked goods), I get bothered when people can’t tell the difference between cupcakes and muffins. Or even worse, believe that cupcakes and muffins are the same. No, cupcakes are cupcakes and muffins are muffins.
Though it may be hard to pinpoint the difference between a cupcake and muffin, it should be clear whether or not you’re eating a cupcake or muffin after your first bite.
One similarity between cupcakes and muffins is the ingredients. Both usually contain flour, eggs, butter, sugar and milk. However, muffins sometimes replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, oat flour or even various nut flours. Muffins can also be filled with a variety of tasty mix-ins, such as dried fruits, nuts or chocolate chips. In addition, muffins may replace butter with a liquid form of fat, such as vegetable oil. The amount of butter and sugar is higher in cupcakes than in muffins.
The mixing process and the consistency of the batter differentiates cupcakes and muffins. Cupcakes are made by creaming the butter and sugar together to create a smooth, fluffy batter. Cupcake batter is beaten significantly longer than muffin batter; this creates a uniformness of air bubbles throughout the cupcake. Muffin batter, on the other hand, is beaten briefly and remains relatively lumpy. This makes for a more dense baked good.
Muffins are often believed to be the healthier option, which is why it is acceptable to eat them for breakfast. But muffins are not always the healthier option. You can, however, have savory muffins, but not savory cupcakes.
The most obvious visual difference between cupcakes and muffins is, of course, the frosting. Cupcakes are topped with creamy, delicious frosting. Instead, muffins may have a sugared top or a very thin glaze. Usually the fillings inside the muffins add enough excitement to the baked good, so there might not be anything on top.
If you think removing the frosting from a cupcake makes it a muffin, you’re wrong. This is how I see it: a cupcake is a small cake and a muffin is a small quick bread. If you can’t pour the the batter into a 8-in. circular pan and make a birthday cake, then you have yourself a muffin.