Substitute for Cupcake Liners

Even though I’ve been baking for years, I still forget to purchase essential items like cupcake liners. Does that mean I ditched my cupcake recipe for another day? Definitely not! When the cupcake craving hits, there’s no getting rid of it.

So what did I do? Well, I knew I had to come up with a solution to bake cupcakes without a liner. I tried a few different options and found that the best substitutes for cupcake liners are parchment paper, aluminum foil, or good ole fashioned grease (butter, spray, oil).

Whether you’re baking for a birthday party, a school bake sale, or just hankering for a bite-sized cake; you can whip up a fresh batch without cupcake liners. (Although I’d make it a point to buy some cupcake liners for next time, especially reusable ones!)

Today, I will teach you what to use instead of cupcake liners to achieve cupcake perfection.

Top 3 Substitutes for Cupcake Liners

If you don’t have any cupcake liners on hand, there’s no need to panic. You can create your own liners using parchment paper or aluminum foil. Or, you can nix liners altogether and go with the “old school” method of greasing your pan.

1. Parchment Paper

If you’re anything like me, then you have way too much parchment paper on your hands. Parchment paper is one of those items that come in bulk, but you don’t use it too often, so it stays tucked in the back of your pantry for months.

The good news is that you can find a new way to use up your handy pack of parchment paper: DIY cupcake liners. Don’t worry – it’s easy, even if you’re not the best do-it-yourselfer.

  • Start by cutting your parchment paper into squares approximately five inches long.
  • Place the cut-up parchment paper inside each cup of your cupcake pan. Make sure they are perfectly placed in the center so they don’t shift during baking and cause sticking.
  • Push the parchment paper liners down using a bottle to create a crease.

2. Aluminum Foil

If you don’t have parchment paper, aluminum foil is another staple found in most people’s kitchens. And, as you may assume, it can work as another top-notch sub for cupcake liners. 

The benefit of using aluminum foil is they’re bright and shiny, so it’ll add some vibrancy to your cupcakes – especially if you’re baking brightly-colored cupcakes or a batch riddled with sprinkles. 

The process is the same as the “parchment paper” technique. Simply do the following:

  • Cut the aluminum foil into 5-inch squares.
  • Place the cut-up aluminum foil inside each cup of your cupcake pan. Ensure they’re centered to avoid batter spillage.
  • You can use a bottle to crease the foil. However, you can also simply use your hands to mold the highly pliable aluminum foil into your desired shape.
  • Fill the cupcake slots and bake as usual.

3. Grease the Pan

Your last (and most “classic”) option is to grease the baking pan! Now, there are a few different ingredients you can use. You should have at least one of these components hanging around your kitchen.

1. Butter

Mmm, butter (hold on a second while I stop drooling). Butter is found in a multitude of dishes and baked goods. Why? Because the rich flavor is just so irresistible. That said, it’s no wonder I included it on my “best subs for cupcake liners” list.

Using butter is a bit trickier than the handy cooking spray. You will either need to use cold butter and manually grease every inch of the cupcake tin, or you can melt the butter and use a brush to apply it to the slots.

It’s up to you, and the difference in application is negligible. You’re still going to end up with a perfectly greased cupcake pan and cupcakes that taste even more delectable. (Thanks, butter.)

2. Cooking Spray/Baking Spray

Cooking spray is a convenient product most people have. Why? Because it makes cooking and cleanup a breeze without sticky, stuck-on messes. 

Whether you’re making scrambled eggs, muffins, or roasted vegetables, most people begin by spraying their pan generously with cooking spray.

The same is true for cupcake pans. Spray each slot with a light mist. Don’t overdo it, though. There shouldn’t be so much spray that it begins pooling at the bottom of the cups. This can cause cupcakes to come out greasy and undesirable.

If you have baking spray, all the better. Baking spray is specifically designed for baked goods, like cupcakes, and won’t have a potentially overpowering flavor (like olive oil cooking spray).

3. Oil

Your final option is to use oil. Any oil will do, but you need to be careful as some oils will be more robust than others and can alter the flavor. 

For example, I wouldn’t recommend using strong olive oil with a delicate vanilla cupcake, but I’d use coconut oil to add a twist to a chocolate cupcake recipe.

If you’re concerned about the flavors, you can always opt for vegetable oils. Vegetable oils have a neutral flavor profile so that they won’t interfere with the taste of your bite-sized cakes.

You will need to use a brush or a paper towel to apply. I prefer a brush because it’s easier to use, but a paper towel can reach those tight crevices that a brush might miss.


There’s nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a cupcake, and you don’t even “need” cupcake liners to be successful. You can use any of the options mentioned above and achieve brilliant results. Keep reading if you want to learn a little more about this topic.

What can I use if I don’t have muffin liners or parchment paper?

If you are all out of muffin liners and parchment paper, you can DIY aluminum foil liners or simply grease your pan. I recommend greasing with butter for an enhanced flavor, but cooking sprays and vegetable oils work like a charm, too.

Can you make cupcakes without cupcake liners?

You can make cupcakes without using cupcake liners. In fact, some people prefer to bake cupcakes without them, to begin with. That’s because cupcake liners can be pricey, and cheap liners can cause sticking. It can also be challenging to find the correct size.

Are cupcake liners necessary?

As much as I love to use cupcake liners, I can agree that they aren’t “necessary.” You can make delicious cupcakes that don’t stick to the pan without liners. My runner-up picks are to use DIY parchment paper liners or grease the pan with butter.

Can I use coffee filters as cupcake liners?

Although this seems like a nifty idea, unfortunately, coffee filters will not work as an efficient cupcake liner substitute. The batter will seep through the coffee filter, and you will have a big mess on your hands. 

Final Words

No cupcake liners? No problem. Create rockstar cupcakes that won’t stick and cause a crumbly mess by creating your own parchment paper or aluminum foil liners. Or, ditch liners altogether and stick to greasing with butter, spray, or oil.

Which method do you use to bake cupcakes when you’re all out of liners?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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