Why do cupcake cases peel?

 IMG_1559Oh the scourge of every baker – peeling cupcake paper cases!

They’re fine one minute, beautifully risen golden cupcakes on the cooling rack, turn your back for a minute and they’ve made a bid for freedom with the cases sagging and splitting right the way away from your cakes.

Or worse still, they’re decorated and waiting lovingly for their recipient, a sneak peek back in the box (just to check they’re as lovely as you thought they were – yes own up we all do that) and 2 of the blighters have peeled themselves off out of the batch.

Well I’m here to tell you why it happens in the hope that you can give yourself the very best chance of avoiding the dearth of the peeling cupcake case!

So let’s go right back to the beginning, cupcake and paper cases start out as a flat sheet of paper.  Circles are cut out, the cases are crimped (pleated) into shape usually within a long tube (I’m sure it has a technical name but we don’t need to be concerning ourselves with the super fine details here) and then heat is applied to set them into shape.  Think curling your hair!

Sometimes a certain brand of cupcake cases are a nightmare to use and really don’t hold their shape well.  This is down to the thickness of the paper and the process of their manufacture.  If those pleats aren’t put in properly or the paper is too thin then us bakers, have no chance in making them stay.

Always store your cupcake cases in the tubes/tubs that they come in.  It stops them getting pushed out of shape and starting their own bid for freedom in flattening out again before they even see a sniff of cake mixture.


Cases left to dwindle out of shape like these are never going to deliver you good results.

Cupcake Cases 006 Cupcake Cases 007

And now to the peeling.  What causes it?  There are a couple of things, the first being…


When cupcakes are left to cool in the tray, the cooling cake creates steam, around the base of the paper case and up the sides against the hot metal tin.  It is important to get them out of the tin right away, not 2 minutes after coming out of the oven, not 10 minutes – straight away out and onto a cooling rack.  The steam can escape and doesn’t sit lingering around the case causing it to loosen and peel away.

Think about doing the ironing.  How do you get stubborn creases out?  An extra shot of steam.  That works exactly the same way with cupcake case pleats – expose them to steam and they will start to loosen and ultimately cause a peeling case.


Now back to the ironing.  If you’ve a stubborn crease you’d spray it with a bit of water to get it out.  That’s the second cause of peeling cupcake cases –


Now obviously you don’t want a dried out cupcake but it is important to bake them fully – so they are light and springy without cake mixture wetness left.  Cupcakes containing fresh fruit and juice ie. banana, lemon and especially orange are the worlds worst at peeling. Adding too much sugar or flavoured syrup after baking can be a cause too so be cautious.

To avoid the moisture trap cakes should be cooled completely before storing and the best place to store them is in a non airtight container.  Most cake tins are fine unless they have a tight plastic seal and the clip it type boxes should be a complete no no.  If you trap a cake within an airtight container the moisture from the cake is absorbed into the case and it peels, usually by the next day.

Top Tips for Non-Peeling Cupcake Cases!

  • Use good quality cases with a good shape.
  • Use a cupcake tin that holds the case and cake tightly.
  • Remove the cakes from the tray as soon as they are out of the oven and cool on a wire rack, don’t leave them in the tin.
  • Avoid overloading cupcakes with flavoured or plain sugar syrup.
  • Store completely cooled and decorated cakes in a non airtight container.


I hope that helps some of you unravel the mystery of peeling cupcake cases and puts you on the road to tight cupcake cases forever more!



Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire

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14 Responses to Why do cupcake cases peel?

  1. Daisy Pratt says:

    Hi Ruth,
    This is so so helpful as I had this very thing happen to me for the first time last month and I couldn’t work out why (I’ve made cupcakes so many times before and have never had this happen so I was really puzzled), Thank you so much for sharing! Now to try and master the art of baking flat topped cupcakes without the peak! x

  2. Rella says:

    Ruth, you are a genious! It’s not cupcake cases I’ve been having a problem with, but shop-bought loaf tin liners. Exactly the same thing! They peel off and it makes my baking look terrible. And I have to admit that I have been keeping my banana and pecan loaves in an airtight container with clip sides! Thank you for the tips and hopefully that’s the problem solved. Good on you!!

  3. Alex says:

    Brilliant tips – thanks Ruth :).
    I have to say that I have the opposite problem though – my cases stick to my cupcakes! Any tips to stop that happening?!

  4. Theresa O'Brien says:

    Thank you so much for this – I never realised why this happened before. Another point is when freezing cup cakes I sometimes get a few bun cases trying to release their hold on the buns. so what’s the best way to freeze cupcakes? – In the freezer on a rack? in a box? Bagged? undecorated?? Any help would be wonderful – keep up the good work!! :))

    • Hi Theresa,

      I would always open freeze them ie drop them in open on a tray or rack and then transfer to a bag once they are frozen through. This just stops them from getting knocked and damaged. x

  5. Lisa Irwin says:

    This only happens to me when I make chocolate cupcakes!!

  6. sue james says:

    I usually put the empty cupcake cases (in the baking tns)into the hot oven for a couple of minutes or until the cases drop down into the cup case baking tins, then bring out of the oven (they soon cool again) put the cake mixture into the case and bake, I have never had a problem with peeling case ever since a good friend gave me this tip.


  7. Pam says:

    excellent, thanks for all the info re cupcake cases. A great great help. Keep up the good tips! xx

  8. Caroline Lowings says:

    thankyou so much for this post Ruth, have been having this problem for years and now I know why!

  9. Liz Miller says:

    Thanks Ruth, I’ve stopped using one of my recipes because they always peeled and made by baking look terrible. Now I know it’s down to the moisture in the cake!!! Thank you

  10. Paulina Stuart says:

    have the sme problem that Lisa Irwin – they only peel with chocolate cupcakes. I will use the same wrapper for vanilla and chocolate. All vanilla are fine but some chocolate peel grrr!

  11. Julie says:

    very kind of you to share, thanks will try this.

  12. Thank you for such a great post. We just released our new US made liners and they are thicker and taller. We’ve communicated the best we can but we keep finding that customers are not baking long enough and upset when their liners pull away. Because ours are thicker, they don’t contract as easily with the cupcake. The greaseproof quality of our liners is superior to others but it’s such a learning curve to reteach all the tips! Great post.

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