Difference between Muffin and Cupcake

Published on October 26, 2016

Are you a muffin person or a cupcake lover? Oh, you love both! Then maybe you could share how to tell the difference between a muffin and a cupcake – no cheating and reading the packages they come in. What if we presented you with a batch of homemade muffins or cupcakes? Would you still be able to tell the difference between them? Here are the things you need to watch out for when it comes to these two desserts.

Definitions

Muffin vs Cupcake
Profile of a chocolate chip muffin on a plate

A muffin is defined as a cup sized sweetened quick bread. The U.S. version of a muffin is a product served at breakfast or with coffee. Its texture is quite dense and it is savory more than it is sweet. It can be made with a variety of ingredients, such as whole wheat flour or flour made from other types of grains. You can even have salty muffins with cheese and ham and other ingredients.

Muffins are sold at bakery shops, in grocery stores or they can be homemade. Preparation is quite easy, as the ingredients are mainly mixed in together without having to apply difficult gastronomic procedures. A great thing about muffins is that anything can be put in the batter, from chocolate chips to dried fruit and nuts. They can even be topped with a variety of frostings.

cupcake
Cowboy themed cupcakes

A cupcake is a small cake for one. It is baked in small shapes and can have frosting on top. The preparation of the batter is similar to that of any type of cake. Technically, you should be able to use the same batter for either cupcakes or a regular cake. The frosting on top can be as creative as the person making it wants.

The cake part of the cupcake should be small enough to fit in a cup, hence the name of the product. It is usually very sweet and moist enough to work well with the frosting that goes on top.

Muffin vs Cupcake

So what is the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

First of all, any baker will know that the main difference between a muffin and a cupcake is in the fact that one is a quick bread while the other is a small cake. As far as size is concerned, the muffin is a bit bigger and the cupcake without frosting is supposed to fit in a small teacup.

Theoretically, frosting only goes on a cupcake. It also lies better on top of the bun, which is moist and tender. In reality, people can also put frosting on top of a muffin if they want. However, given the dense and dry texture of the muffin, it will not be just as well suited.

As far as preparation goes, they are both made with roughly the same ingredients. However, muffins are made with whole grain flours, while cupcakes are supposed to be made with all-purpose cake flour. Also, in the case of cupcakes, the cupcake batter needs to be silky; therefore emulsion is important when preparing it. In comparison, muffin batter can be a bit lumpy.

Creative frosting toppings are the prerogative of cupcakes. So is the sweet taste. Muffins are supposed to be savory more than sweet. This is why they are considered an exquisite dessert, whereas muffins are a socially acceptable breakfast option.

Comparison Chart

Muffin Cupcake
Is a quick bread Is a cake
Small in size Supposed to fit in a tea cup
Savory Sweet
Batter is simply made, can even be lumpy Batter must be smooth, emulsion is necessary
The texture of the bun is dense The texture of the bun is soft, just like the layers of a cake
Can be filled with chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, ham and a full range of toppings Can have a wide variety of frostings
Made with whole grain flours Made with all-purpose flour
Breakfast and coffee food Dessert