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Cupcakes are an easy treat to make and are even easier to eat in their single-serve form with just the right amount of frosting in each bite. The only problem is when a late-night sweet craving hits, and the pantry is stocked with everything needed to make the little cakes except for paper cupcake liners. Don't worry, because bakers can make easy substitutes for cupcake liners that won't impact taste or baking time, and all the necessary gear is typically found in most kitchens.

Can You Make Cupcakes Without Liners?

Using a metal cupcake tray, which typically comes in six-cup or 12-cup varieties, there are several easy methods to ensure cupcakes don't stick to the pan even without using store-bought cupcake liners. Bakers can grease and flour the pans before adding the batter. Alternatively, it's possible to make liners out of parchment paper.

How to Grease a Cupcake Tray

It's easy to make cupcakes that slide right out of the pan even without liners. All that's needed is butter or nonstick cooking spray and flour.

  • First, start with a clean cupcake tray and spray each cup with a coating of nonstick spray. If you don't have spray, butter will work too.

  • To grease with butter, melt a few teaspoons of butter in a small mug or bowl in the microwave. Then, use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and side of each cup. If you don't have a pastry brush, dip a paper towel into the butter and then grease each cup with the coated paper towel.

  • After each cup is coated (either with nonstick spray or butter), finish with flour. Sprinkle about a half teaspoon of flour in each cup, shake the pan the coat the sides and bottom with flour and then turn the cupcake tray upside down over the trash or sink to discard the excess flour.

  • Fill the tin about 2/3 of the way with batter. Tins filled to the top will overflow and run over the side when baking.

How to Use Parchment Paper to Line a Cupcake Tray

If you'd prefer to use some kind of liner instead of greasing the pans, substitute parchment paper for cupcake liners. The end result will look like the oversized wrappers found in bakeries.

  • Cut the paper in squares that are about 5 inches in size.

  • Once you have enough squares, fill the liners with the paper, centering the paper in each cup.

  • Press the paper down with a small glass or bottle to crease the parchment paper.

  • Fill each parchment-lined cup about 2/3 full with batter and bake as directed.

If you are wondering, "Will paper cupcake liners burn?" the answer is no. Parchment paper is oven safe and is often used to line trays and cookie sheets and to even wrap food while cooking.

Is a Muffin Pan the Same as a Cupcake Pan?

Both names are typically used interchangeably, and metal or silicone pans can be used to bake muffins, cupcakes or even savory dishes like bite-sized egg soufflé. However, be sure to make note of pan sizes. Most cupcake recipes (and baking times) are written to be used with a standard-sized pan, which holds about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter.

There are also mini tins, which hold about 1/4 cup of batter in each cup and jumbo pans, which can hold about 3/4 cup. Mini tins require much less cooking time, while larger cupcake tins will require more time. Be sure to check the recipe before choosing a pan.

About the Author

Kristin Amico

Kristin Amico is a travel and food writer who quit her full-time job in 2017 to travel the globe while freelancing. Her work has appeared in Hemispheres, Fodor's, The Independent and USA Today. She blogs at howtotraveltheglobe.com.