Saturday, March 30, 2013

Square Mini and Whoopie Muffin Experiment

Previously in my Waits N Measures, Baking Pans N Papers article, I mentioned my experiment of using a whoopie pan and a silicone pan that has square wells. I had cake mix powder left from Valentine cake mix cookies for trying this experiment.

I'd not yet tried using cake mix for making muffins. Well, why not try? Use up my half batch of Red Velvet and strawberry cake mix powders. Try a cake-mix-to-muffin recipe. Try a couple of different pan shapes and establish baking times and temperatures. As for pan choices, I had two thoughts:

Square mini-shapes could be cute, especially if the batter flowed over the rim just enough like muffins should. The recipe that came with my whoopie pan made my eyes glaze over—too much information, too many ingredients, too many steps. Soooo, how about using whoopie wells for making Seinfeldian muffin tops? (Take a trip down memory lane about the muffin top episode.)

The Duncan Hines Cake Mix Muffin recipe that I used provides additional recipe suggestions. (I almost always modify recipes that I try.) My only deviation for this one is the cake mix flavor(s), baking pan shapes, and baking time.
My pixstrip shows seven image areas:
  1. Implements
  2. Dry ingredients (flour, cake mix, baking powder)
  3. Wet ingredients (eggs, oil, milk)
  4. Silicone pan and whoopie pan with paper liners
  5. Batter in the pans, not all wells filled, unused liners removed
  6. Baked square (20) and whoopie (2) muffins
  7. Closer look at 8 square muffins and the two whoopie muffins (Seinfeld-esque muffin tops)
In my experiment, I used 1/4 box each of Red Velvet and strawberry cake mixes for making a half batch of muffins. You can use a whole box of any flavor. The ingredients I list make a whole batch, which can yield 48 square mini-muffins or 24 muffin tops. If you try round mini-cupcake pans, the yield number will be similar to using square silicone pans, but the tops might not billow over the edge as much.

Note: Yield can depend on the cake mix weight and recipe that you use and how full you fill the wells.
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium small mixing bowl
  • mini square silicone pans
  • mini-cupcake paper liners
  • whoopie pans
  • regular cupcake paper liners
  • pastry blender
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • additional spoon for ladling batter if desired
  • rubber spatula(s)
  • cooling rack for done muffins
As part of the pre-preparation, I shaped some regular cupcake liners for the whoopie muffins and mini-cupcake liners for the square minis. For each whoopie liner, I pressed a liner between a peanut butter jar lid or similar size lid and a whoopie well. For the top- and bottom-row square wells, I preshaped each liner by pressing a square cookie cutter into liners that I put inside the wells. For the middle rows, I simply inserted and finger-pressed the liners. (After I dropped the batter in, I removed the liners that I didn't use.)
  • Dry
    • 1 box cake mix
    • 2 T flour
    • 1 t baking powder
  • Wet
    • 3 eggs
    • 2/3 C milk
    • 1/3 C oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place paper liners into cavities.
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, using the pastry blender to blend well.
  4. In the smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients.
  5. Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the larger bowl and stir the ingredients until they're moistened.
  6. Scoop about a rounded tablespoon spoonful of batter into each paper-lined square well or two rounded tablespoonfuls for whoopie pan wells
  7. Bake for about 16 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned. (Use toothpick test for doneness if desired.) I initially baked for 8 minutes, checked, and baked another 8 minutes. I thought it was nice that both muffin shapes baked in the same amount of time.
  8. Transfer the baked muffins onto cooling rack.
It's nice to be able to use cake mix for baking muffins. The number of ingredients are not much more than baking cakes or cupcakes. The density is only slightly more than cake. In the future, if using mini-cupcake silicone pans, mini-cupcake liners easily fit and work fine. One huge difference between using a mini square silicone pan vs. a mini-cupcake pan—24 wells vs. 12, respectively. With the silicone pan, I put a cooky sheet underneath for supporting the floppiness and in case the batter dripped over. Maybe I'll skip the cooky sheet the next time.

If you don't have silicon pans and want to read up on advantages and disadvantages, two sites you can visit are Silicone Vs. Metal Bakeware and Silicone vs metal for shaped pans.

In my Waits N Measures article, I note that whoopie well capacity is 4 tablespoons (12/pan) and regular cupcake well capacity is 5 tablespoons (12/pan). Enough volume similarity to think of whoopie shapes as flat and wide cupcakes or muffins (muffin tops!).

Thinking that I'm more likely to use the whoopie pan more for baking muffin tops than whoopie cookie halves that the pans are originally for. The whoopie pan might be a really good way to bake muffin tops and not wind up with stems like the ones Elaine couldn't get rid of. :-)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Waits N Measures, Baking Pans N Papers

I'm big on baking. I bake frequently enough to know what I'm doing, but still need to consult with recipes online and in books for quantities, capacities, and baking times and temperatures. I use cake mixes frequently for cooky recipes. I fiddle around with modifying basic cake mix recipes. Sometimes I change up ingredients. Sometimes I use different pans than the recipes call for.

I've included a table for using different baking pan cavities—square mini-cupcakes, mini-cupcakes, regulation-size cupcakes, and mini-loaves. For measuring capacity, I pulled out the pans and poured amounts of water into a well of each pan. The table has wait (bake) times and measures. Dimensions, capacities, and baking times are approximate. (I did mention in Lemon Poppyseed Mini-cupcakes recipe that mini-cupcake baking time is about 25% less than for regular cupcakes.)

Shape Dims (") Capacity Wells
1 1/2 x 1 1/2
x 5/8 dp
1 1/3 T
(4 tsp)
24 15-16
1 3/4 U dia
x 1 1/4 L dia
x 5/8 dp
Less than
2 T
12 13-17
whoopie 3 dia
x 1/2 dp
4T 12 15-16
standard cupcake 2 3/4 U dia
x 2 L dia
x 1 1/16 dp
5T 12 15 to 20,
22 to 27
mini-loaf 3 5/8 x 2 3/8
x 1 1/8 dp
8 T
(1/2 C)
3 teaspoons (t) per tablespoon (T), 16 T per cup (C),
77 fluid drops per teaspoon

Caution: Recipes say to fill the wells about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Remember to differentiate advised-fill from capacity. If you fill the wells to capacity, the batter will expand during baking and spill over, making a BIG mess!
Actually, I still need to test for wait time for mini-loaves. I bought that pan several years ago, but I have yet to try using it. Visit Cake Mix Doctor and Duncan Hines topic links.

I recently acquired a couple of whoopie pans. I used one of them and one of my silicone pans for experimenting with a muffin recipe that calls for cake mix. The cake mix powder itself was a modification—half Red Velvet (Duncan Hines) and half strawberry (coincidentally, but not significantly, Pillsbury). More on the recipe in an upcoming article.

If using a cake mix powder, the box usually seems to specify baking times for 2 round layers, regular cupcakes (24), and a 9 x 13 sheet. In my experience, the mini-cupcakes yield tends to be about 2 1/2 as many—60. My Lemon Lemon Poppyseed Mini-cupcakes recipe yielded 77 units. (I'm positive that adding 2 T poppyseeds didn't contribute to raising the yield past 60.) In trying out the square mini-cupcakes, the yield would have been 24. More on that Red Velvet and strawberry cupcake experiment in an upcoming article.

For those who bake, the table is handy for planning the number of small-size baked items (assuming using an 18 1/4 oz. box of cake mix), the amount of batter to pour in, and how long to bake them. I am disappointed to say that, out of the three national brands of cake mix, only Duncan Hines mix has 18 1/4 ounces of powder for the normal 2-layer or 9 x 13 sheet cakes. The other two brands contain 15 1/4 ounces.

In my Internet travels, cupcakes and muffins, particularly small ones, cause confusion because of their similarities. Cupcakes are small cakes. You beat the batter. The cupcakes tend to have frosting. Muffins are quick breads, and the batter is best stirred gently. Muffins tend to have crumbs or icing drizzle. "Cupcakes Vs. Muffins: An Epic Battle and Some Big Questions" is an extensive article about their differences.

Standard paper liners seem to be mini-cupcake or standard cupcake sizes. Want to be cost-effective? For starters, don't pay extra for fancy colors or designs. The list has some quantities and prices to consider. (If the price was $[something].99), I rounded it up.
  • Michael’s (undiscounted—40% coupon available online)
    • 100 sm/$2 (~2 cents each)
    • 350 sm/$4 (~1 cent each)
    • 75 standard/$2 (~3 cents each)
    • 18 short crown 2 ½ dia/$2 (~ 5.5 cents each) Yow!
  • Make It Sweet (in Austin)
    • 100 sm/$2 (~2 cents each)
    • 500 sm/$6 (~1.2 cents each)
    • 75 standard/$2 (~3 cents each)
    • 500 standard/$9 (~ 1.8 cents each)
Looking for an alternative to short crown papers? Get large muffin papers and trim to size. Watch Todd Wilbur obtain shorter paper liners (at about the 1:41 mark) for making his peanut butter cup clones. Sure, he uses standard cupcake liners, but you get the idea.

Another Todd Wilbur video shows how avoid buying a Twinkie-shape pans for his Twinkie clone recipe by wrapping aluminum foil pieces around a spice jar. Move your pointer to about the :56 mark.
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