How to Make Cupcakes without Cupcake Pan

During the COVID lockdown last year, many of my shipments obviously got delayed. I didn’t have a cupcake pan for the longest time and for someone who is known for her cupcakes, this was obviously not great.

Not only did I have to hold off any cupcake orders, but I also couldn’t make them for my friends’ birthdays either. The situation got me so fed up and after disappointing a few friends I decided to take some time and experiment with making cupcakes without a cupcake pan. 

I was so pleasantly surprised by the results. Sure, in some cases the cupcakes didn’t look exactly like the cupcakes I was used to seeing and making, but they were still undeniably tasty, looked adorable in their own way, and perfectly captured the essence of a cupcake! 

I’m Angie, I’m a self-taught baker who’s been baking for over 10 years. In this article, I’m going to share with you my tricks on baking cupcakes without a cupcake pan.

Keep reading if you want to know how it’s done!

Method 1: Stack It Up

You might not have your cupcake pan, but if you have your cupcake liners ready, you’re all good.

Yes, I’m talking about those parchment paper liners you can easily get at the baking section in grocery stores. No, I’m not crazy. I know they’re “paper-thin”, but if you just grab a few of them – a stack of 3-5, you’ll be surprised how strong they hold. 

Just gently pour your cupcake batter into the stacked up liners, and I mean a lot more gently than how you normally would so it doesn’t crinkle everything up, place it on your baking tray and bake away!

Don’t worry about not being eco-friendly, your cake will stick to only one layer of liner and you can simply peel off the rest and reuse them for next time.  

Method 2: Aluminum Foil

While it’s more common nowadays to find parchment cupcake liners, aluminum foil liners are also a popular choice. 

There are a lot of cupcake pans made of aluminum on the market which tells you that aluminum is great for baking. Aluminum foil is metallic and has a shiny look to it. It is already thick and quite rigid in texture, which means it will provide a strong sturdy hold for your batter.

Generally speaking, aluminum foil liners are packed with paper separators to prevent sticking so greasing is unnecessary. But if you are making your own foil liners with aluminum foil, I suggest giving it a light mist of baking spray.

Another great thing about aluminum foil liners is that they stand upright on their own. To be extra sure of this, you can stack two together for extra stability. Set them out on a baking tray about an inch away from each other and you’re all set. 

Method 3: Cutting Corners

And by that, I mean actually physically cutting the corners off, with a round cookie cutter!

So this clearly isn’t your conventional cupcake, but it does make a small tasty cake that captures all the essence of a cupcake I promise.

For this method, line your baking tray with parchment paper and pour your cupcake batter directly on top. You can also adjust the amount by using a sheet cake recipe specifically for the size of your can pan.  

Bake your sheet cake as you normally would, and once you’re finished, let your cake cool completely. 

After that is the fun part. Using a round cookie cutter, whatever size you prefer really, cut out circles in your cake. Remove the cake scraps and you are left with little round cakes!

A tip if your sheet cake turned out too flat – just take two pieces of your round cake, stick them together with a bit of frosting for more height!

Method 4: Canning Jar Lid

Using paper liners as you normally would but without a cupcake tray is a no-go. As your cake heats up in the oven, it will rise and expand. If you place it directly in your single parchment liner, the liner will flatten out and your batter will turn into a pancake at best.

If you don’t have a cupcake pan and you don’t want to be stacking so many paper liners together, try using a mason jar lid or any canning jar lid for some support.

For this method, you’ll need canning jar lids, specifically the ring part of the lids. Lay your jar lids out on the baking sheet, placing a paper liner in each and you have yourself a DIY cupcake tray. 

The canning jar lid provides support for your cupcake liner to prevent it from flattening out when your cake expands and ensures that your cupcake liner stays upright throughout the baking process. 

Method 5: Ceramic Mug

Think about it, mugs are not that different from cups. Sometimes they can be a bit bigger, or a bit thicker, but really they perform the same exact task. Surely you’ve heard of “mug cakes”? 

If you’re like me and have a strange obsession with collecting mugs, this might just be the perfect solution for you. All you’ve got to do is to lay out as many mugs that fit your baking tray, putting a paper liner in each, and pour batter into them. 

Don’t get carried away though, you are still trying to make a cupcake so you don’t want to be filling your mug. As always, fill your cupcake liners about ⅔ of the way full to give it some room to expand. 

FAQs

Here I will answer some commonly asked questions regarding how to make cupcakes without a cupcake tray. 

Can I bake cupcakes without liners?

Yes, you most certainly can! There are two main ways you can bake cupcakes without liners and I’ve written all about it in this article here, so make sure to check it out!

Can I bake cupcakes in paper cups?

If you’re talking about parchment paper cups, then the answer is yes. But if you’re talking about regular paper cups for drinking, the answer will depend on what material the cups are made of. You don’t want your paper cups to catch on fire so please check the label to see if your paper cups are oven safe before trying it!

Final Thoughts 

Cupcake trays make cupcake baking efficient and they help you get nearly identical cupcakes almost every time, but not having them doesn’t mean you can’t bake cupcakes! 

Part of the fun and challenge in baking is finding your own creative ways to improvise and find substitutions. I hope you’ve found these five hacks useful and let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any other interesting methods. I’d all love to know! 

About Angie
I am a self-taught baker. I’ve been baking for over 10 years and started my own home baking business as a side hustle. I was born in Hong Kong and spent a pretty big chunk of my life in Canada. If you’re ever looking for me, I am probably there whisking vigorously away in the kitchen.

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