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Why do cupcake papers separate from the cupcakes after baking?

Somayya asks: Why do my cupcakes separate from the paper a day later?  I have tried paper cups and foil cups and the same thing happens.

Baking S.O.S. says: I’m glad you asked this question. I have been baking cupcakes a lot recently, and I am having the exact same problem!

In my case, I assumed the reason the liners were separating from the cupcakes is that I was spraying the liners with cooking spray before I poured the batter into them.  My guess is that the cooking spray was not only preventing the paper liners from sticking to the cupcakes–which is what I intended it to do–but also causing the papers to slip away from the cupcakes completely.

One of the very first lessons I learned in culinary school was the proper way to prepare pans for baking cakes: “Spray, Paper, Spray.”  And I still use that method to this day.  When making cupcakes, I always spray the paper liners with cooking spray because otherwise, you have the reverse problem, and the papers stick so much that when you try to peel them away from the cupcakes, they take half of the cupcake with them!

When you asked this question, I decided to do a little more research to see if there might be any possible remedies for this problem that other bakers have used.  I found the following suggestions helpful:

– Be sure to fill the cupcake pans full enough so that the batter will stick to the top of the paper liner, keeping it adhered.  Cupcake pans should be filled 1/2 – 2/3 full. (any fuller than that, and the batter will spill over the top, making a flat, messy cupcake top)
– Turn the cupcakes out of the pans as soon as they are finished baking.
If cupcakes are left in the pan too long while cooling, steam will condense between the cupcake and the pan, causing the liner to loosen.

I hope these suggestions will be useful–both to you AND to me!  Good luck!

180 comments to Why do cupcake papers separate from the cupcakes after baking?

  • Yay I thought I was going crazy! This happened to me when I sold some to a local cafe……..they were being refrigerated and the liners just peeled right off…..but another local cafe where they stored them in tins it didn’t? V.strange! I have found that taking the cupcakes out of the tin to cool on a wire rack, icing them then leaving the lid not quite on overnight does seem to help…….give it a go….I am tomorrow so I’ll let you know if it works for all recipes not just vanilla! WISH ME LUCK!
    Rebecca, owner of peaches & cream – personalised cakes

  • Thanks for sharing your tips, Rebecca–always good to hear from the professionals out there who do this regularly! Good luck!!

  • Did storing them in cardboard boxes seem to help? I hope so–it sounds like it works for others, too!

  • Jennie

    Hi, I have also been baking cupcakes for a number of years and have only recently experienced the problem of cases peeling away after cooking. After reading everyones’s comments on here it seems to me this is a new problem, therefore must be caused by something we are doing differently, otherwise it would always have been a problem. Also the problem isn’t consistent, and the suggested solutions work for some, but not others. However there must be a common denominator, which could be a combination of factors, causing the cases to peel away.

    Liners are assumed to be the culprit here and it is possible that the way the liners are made has changed over the years. But why do different bakers using the same liners, have different results and why do some batches work and others peel, when using the same batter mixture and method and liner??? Therefore I don’t think it can be just the liners fault.

    A very good point was made earlier about newer pans having the ‘non-stick’ coating on it and this got me thing that maybe this is what is causing the liners not to stick to the cupcakes. I have both older (metal) and new (non-stick) pans, and use them randomly when baking cupcakes – i.e. i just use whichever pan I grab first from the cupboard, and I don’t really pay any attention to whether it’s an old or new pan. Therefore this could explain why some cakes turn out fine and some peel away, with no real pattern or obvious explanation. Also when making a large order of cupcakes, I will use both the older and newer style of pans for the same batch, and this would explain why in that batch some would peel and some would stick. It would also explain why this never used to be a problem, before the non-stick pans were around.

    I think this needs some more research into how the non-stick coating on the newer pans effects the cooking and cooling process of cupcakes. When using cupcake liners, you don’t need a non-stick pan, so I would suggest using old style metal pans and see if this makes any difference. I will definitly be doing this in future as I can’t afford to keep redoing batches of cupcakes.

    NB – I also noticed this happening more often with chocolate cupcakes, but maybe that is because the days I make chocolate ones, I just happen to be using the non-stick pan!?!?

    Good luck Jen x

  • Hi Jen, Thanks for putting so much thought into this problem! I agree with you that the plain metal pans produce better results than the non-stick pans, so a long time ago, I switched to baking exclusively in the plain metal muffin tins. Even so, I still have problems with the paper liners peeling away sometimes. So I don’t think the pans are the only cause of the problem. However, I would be interested to hear what you experience after you experiment with it more and see how the different pans affect the final outcome. Please keep us posted!

  • Gloria Brashier

    I have been having this baking cup coming off cupcakes problem too. In tears. I have to make 30 more cupcakes AGAIN and not sure I will make the deadline. And it’s costing me a fortune. Some cups do hold and some don’t. Plain white ones I don’t seem to have a problem with but decorated ones I do. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT BUY CUPS FROM SUNNY SIDE UP BAKERY, they sell them at Michaels and Hobby Lobby. They have been the worse. I’ve written to Wilton to see if they have any answers. Hoping a solid answer comes soon or I will have to give up my business 🙁

  • Trudi Main

    Have just made cupcakes and half of them have came away from the cases! Now I know the reason why…..used cases from 2 different shops and the ones that peeled away were the white ones from a shop that a very famous young chef promotes! Will not be buying those again!

  • Jenny gardner

    I have had the same problem in recent years but I always use the same metal tins I have used for 40 Years. It only happens to some of the cakes as well.
    Maybe it is something to do with the paper cups, although I use different ones often. I am about to make some just now for my grandsons 5th birthday.
    Hope they work this time

  • Helen

    I recently had this happen with my cupcakes too for the first time. I did 2 different batches from different suppliers, one lot separated, the other didn’t… I’m wondering if it is the type of paper used?

  • That sounds like to most plausible explanation–and a good insight into the problem! Many readers (and myself included) suspect that the type of paper liner has an effect on whether the liners separate or not. Since you used the same cupcake batter in 2 different types of paper liners and ended up with different results, that seems to indicate that the type of paper liner really DOES make a difference! Do you recall which paper liners you used that did NOT separate from the cupcakes? I bet a lot of readers would like to know. Thanks!

  • Michele

    I have to jump in here – as I’m having the same problems! I have noticed that it appears to be the cupcake liners that are causing me problems. (as all my pans are the same).. I’ve still been playing around with different ones – trying to see what causes it. What I have learned… the cheaper ones, are thinner and flimsy and for me, are the ones that have the tendency to pull away. I don’t know if it’s this particular brand or not, I haven’t gotten that far into it… but I began noticing it with the thinner ones, but the last few batches I’ve made I used a sturdier, thicker liner and they remained attached. – I don’t know if it helps any… but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. lol

  • Hi there! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I just baked dozens of cupcakes for an event, all using the same liners, but 2 different recipes for cupcakes.

    Based on some of the recommendations here, I bought some very sturdy cupcake liners that were foil on the inside and decorative on the outside.

    One batch was a vegan chocolate cupcake that used canola oil for the fat. The other batch was a standard yellow butter cake.

    The vegan chocolate cupcakes stayed attached to the liners without any problems. But the yellow butter cupcakes peeled away horribly and looked awful!

    So I wonder if the type of fat used in the recipe has an effect on whether the liners pull away or not? Some readers have noticed that in their experience, and I did, too.

    But what I do know for sure from that experience is that even the sturdy foil-lined cupcake papers can still peel away from the cupcakes. Frustrating!

  • Wren

    I used old metal tins with different liners. Just wondering if the mount of time to cook has anything to do with it. If cooked for an extra minute or two and the cake is drier does the liner adhere better?

  • That’s a good question! I haven’t tested the theory of baking cupcakes longer to dry them out, as you say. I wonder if any other readers have experimented with this?

  • Limmy

    I am having this same issue, used the same pans for ages but recently changed cases , I used to use easybake cases with no issues at all but switched to a different thicker case , seemed much better and cheaper , however I think it is these causing the issue.

  • Lyndsay

    Hi there
    So interesting reading your advice / findings. I have just made 50 cupcakes (well currently remaking half of them) as guess what – half are peeling and half aren’t. It was all the same mixture and I used dr oetker muffin liners, as I find these fit in my cases the best. I used easybake last week and had no peelers, but all my cakes peaked despite cooking at 150 with an oven thermo. Today I stirred the mixture with a cocktail stick, used different types of pans, lowered the temperature to 150 and got lovely flat topped cakes – but now half of them are peeling yet they were all cooked in the same oven! I measured all out with an ice cream scoop too. Some are however slightly fuller than others – despite the careful measuring and it is those which are sticking better to the paper. So I wonder if this is the reason – as discussed above. I found on another site that a possibility was because you either underbake or overbake them- however I have sampled some of the peeling ones and they are perfectly cooked through. Moist and spongy with an even crumb. i also use spreadable butter with a proportion of vegetable oil in the cake mix so it can’t be a butter vs vegetable oil thing either. Keep the comments / thoughts coming. Maybe eventually we’ll solve this together.

  • Hi there, as you described your experiences, I noticed that the cupcake papers that were a little bit fuller of batter tended to stick better to the finished cupcakes. I think THIS may be one of the key secrets to success! I experienced the same thing recently when I baked 2 different types of cake batters: one vegan chocolate and one yellow butter cake. Regardless of the ingredients used, it seemed that the paper liners stuck better to the cupcakes that were filled with just enough batter to dome slightly on top–without spilling over. Those liners that were a little under-filled tended to peel away from the cupcakes.

    But exactly HOW you fill the papers with exactly the right amount of batter is a challenge! I imagine each different cake batter is going to bake a little differently, so the only way to truly know is the make the same recipes again and again until you get to know that cake batter well.

  • Missy

    I am making cupcakes for a wedding shower. I just read on the Wilton site that the pleat helps make the papers not stick to the cupcakes. YEAH
    My last batch stuck and I have vowed not to make them again since about the 1990’s.

    I am using Wilton and Martha Stewart liners. We will see.

  • Missy

    I just used the Wilton brand liners and the key lime cupcakes came out great. I notice they have tight sharp pleats.(like a kilt does :)I have had older cupcake liners in the past that got combined in with other liners and I shoved them into other containers. This may have caused them to lose the pleats. Maybe that was the reason they
    stuck ?

    My hypothesis: the pleats allow air pockets to form, and create a space that is not attached to the batter once cooked. These air pockets allow one to pull off the liner without problems. Handling cupcake liners makes them stretch out and the pleats flatten thus making them stick. Price, type of batter, type of pan, type of paper do not seem to be significant. Thus, if batter is not cooked enough the air pocket effect will not emerge, it is only the baking process itself that makes the liner work. Also, if one overfills a cupcake and it puffs up the vent system does not work because the excess batter seals up the vents. However, the air may have been trapped and might not stick. Too little batter may not make the air vet system work, what is too little and not enough? Many scientific unknowns exist, these could be so small that sight alone cannot determine. The size of pleat may or may not be relevant.
    What seems to make the most sense is that sharp pleats, filled 2/3rds full, seem to be the answer.
    Test this theory out, I could be totally wrong. Please post any results you “Baking Detectives” out there. It will be fun!!!

  • Thanks for your insights. This is a new theory that hasn’t been suggested before, so I’m interested to hear if any other readers have noticed the same thing? Keep the ideas coming!

  • Lori-Anne

    I just finished baking 300 cupcakes – 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 vanilla using betty Crocker mix b/c these are cheaper and faster and just for kids. I didn’t have the time to mix from scratch but I too had 1/4 of my vanilla liners come off after cooling. I measured mixed each recipe exact, measure each batter same, bake each tray same. used different trays – non stick vs old tray – and each tray baked differently even tho in oven at same time ! I use baker quality liners from a kitchen store in Toronto – the pleats are sharp like Missy mentioned in her June post. I dont’ handle the liners except to put into trays. My blue paper liners (chocolate) all stayed attached. My yellow paper liners (vanilla)peeled as they cooled. Had 4 do this. BUT when i opened the boxes today to ice them, I had to remove over 2 dozen liners that had drastically peeled away. My A/C has been running all day, the boxes have not been in the sun – I have no idea what hapened and am very frustrated ! This is the 2nd time for me with a different recipe for vanilla before that peeled. And different liners from same store. My bff had her liners (from same store) peel from her vanilla the other day. We dont’ know why!! This has been a good site to read all the ideas. I just wish we could find an answer

  • janine cross

    i have 3000 cupcakes to bake over 2 days. i have had a problem with the liners coming off if the cupcakes are left in a warm environment, but on this occasion i am using dr oetker white cases and they are peeling while they are in the oven! you can imagine i have had to bin over 200 now and time is running out, it must be the cases i always use asdas own but they didn’t have enough in stock so i used these instead. very annoying i’ve spent well over £200 on ingredients and cases, etc. and now they are useless, someone must know how to stop this from happening ?????

  • I am very sorry to hear this. I understand how frustrating it is! There are lots of different suggestions and ideas in the comments on this thread, and each baker has found a few ideas or suggestions that works somewhat for them. But it does not seem as though there is any ONE “magic bullet” that will do the trick for every situation. Unfortunately, everyone has figured out what works (or doesn’t work) for them through their own trial and error.

  • susu

    I’m quite new at this game, but I have just come across this problem, when using cheaper brands of cases I had no problem, even in this great weather, but baked some cupcakes a few days ago, although I usually add a little soured cream which I omitted this time around, in more expensive cases and the cakes shrank away from the cases the next day looking like they had been peeled away. Will try again in my cheaper cases and post the results.

  • vivien

    I think the problem may be fan assisted ovens as I never had this problem till I changed
    ovens to fan assisted..

  • Kelly

    U might be right Vivien…I’ve never had a problem n just moved house with brand new oven n guess what they peeled…yes fan forced

  • Lyndsay

    I am so so grumpy about this issue today and I knew it would happen too. So I have previously been given the advice that it was due to moisture so not to underbake and to take out of the trays straight away on to the rack and make sure they are completely cooled before storing them.

    I did all of the above. I used the same trays for all of them and the same sturdy cases bought from a cake supplies at a hefty price and 3 different mixes, vanilla, lemon and chocolate. Low and behold when I opened the storage tins some had come away and others hadn’t but all flavours were affected. I bet by the time I get home from work all of them will have come away. There is nothing i can put my finger on to resolve this issue and I have one night now to bake and decorate 108 cupcakes in the hope it doesn’t happen again. Frustrating beyond belief.

    I am using a fan due to moving house and not being able to get a new oven yet so could be that but it use to happen in the conventional too. I really need to suss this out.

  • Ingrid's Oven

    Hello folks, I am a newbie here.
    I have been facing the same problem as you all with cupcakes liners and have been doing some reading on the web too.
    Today, I tried a sponge cake recipe for cupcakes – and I increased the amount of flour. No fancy liners, just those plain ones. It turns out well, no peeling off. I have 100 cupcakes to do for this coming Tuesday, hope everything turns out well.

  • Hi, I believe the peel off issue is frustrating, but I have a suggestion. Try a recipe from joyofbaking.com. I have tried the recipe (vanilla cupcake) and it works well with the paper liners.

    Good luck!

  • Thanks for the suggestion!

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