Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you've probably noticed the intense popularity that cupcakes have gained over the past several years. These treats have been around since the 1700s, but it wasn't until the ladies of Sex and the City started eating gourmet cupcakes that their popularity really soared, putting everyone on the hunt for their perfect cupcakes.

Given the increase in popularity, novice bakers from all over have been trying their hand at baking these little cakes. Unfortunately, their efforts sometimes yield... interesting results. Cupcakes baked incorrectly often end up dense and dry, or even just gross. And decorating without the proper tools can be a challenge as well. 

I have good news for anyone struggling with cupcakes: they no longer have to be an elusive, finicky dessert. Here's my six tips to getting delicious and beautiful cupcakes every time.

1. Stick to the recipe

coffee, tea
Emily Starling

This one may seem obvious, but hear me out. It's a shock to many new bakers that baking really is a very technical science. Unlike cooking, there's not much room for adding your own flair. This is why, if you want your cupcakes to look exactly like the picture and taste like they're described, you must follow the recipe word for word, and get your measurements as accurate as possible

2. Start with room temperature ingredients

cheese, cream, egg, milk, butter
Emily Starling

This will totally change your baking game. The best way to get your ingredients perfectly combined is to leave cold ingredients on the counter for about an hour. No longer will you have to struggle with stiff butter in your mixer, and room temperature eggs will actually help you end up with a lighter, fluffier dessert. 

3. Don't over-mix your batter

Emily Starling

Many people might think that "mixing until combined" means mixing for several more minutes than you should. Really, you should only be mixing your batter for a couple minutes at a time, especially after you've added any flour. There's a whole lot of science to this, but basically over-mixing the batter leads you to a dense and gummy result, which no one wants. 

4. Be careful not to over-bake

mint, green tea, tea, matcha
Emily Starling

All ovens are different, so it's important to learn how to tell when a cupcake is done without simply relying on the time given in the recipe. The most popular way to do this is to stick a toothpick in the middle and see if it comes out clean. Cupcakes are incredibly time-sensitive, and if you bake them for even a couple minutes too long, you're in for a very dry product. 

5. Get the perfect top every time

cookie, chocolate
Emily Starling

For aesthetic reasons, everyone loves seeing a round, domed top on their cupcakes. Not only are they easier to decorate, but they look more bakery-style than their flatter counterparts. Ensuring you've followed all the other guidelines to mixing a proper batter, there's an easy trick to getting a domed top with every bake. 

First, set your oven temperature to about 10-15 degrees above what the instructions tell you, and spoon the batter evenly into the cupcake liners. After putting them in the oven, immediately set it to the correct temperature. Doing this will bake the outside of the cupcake first, and will push the top up as the rest of the cupcake rises, giving you a perfect cupcake.

6. Learn to use a piping bag

Emily Starling

Decorating your cupcakes with beautiful frosting is actually much easier than you think. All you have to do is invest in some cheap piping bags and some standard piping tips (most baker's favorites include the Wilton 1M). Piping bags make decorating your cupcakes with beautiful mountains of swirly frosting super easy, and you're sure to look like a pro every time. 

Cupcakes, just like any other baked dessert, can be difficult to get exactly right. But if you follow these simple tips, most of the basic cupcake baking problems will be solved, and you'll have a delicious, fluffy, and beautiful treat that's perfect for your Instagram feed.