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When is a Cupcake a Muffin?

Feb 3, 2013 | From the kitchen of Rose

My Quest for the Perfect Blueberry Muffin
I worked for years to create my vision of a perfect blueberry muffin, soft, moist, tender, and bursting with blueberries with only lemon zest to accentuate them and a whisper of nutmeg in the crisp sugar topping. Although I had arrived at my idea of perfection, I discovered that both my husband Elliott and my protégé David thought they were too cake-like and wanted a coarser muffin-like texture.

I made a batch using my original recipe but mixing by mixer rather than by hand, which strengthened the structure of the batter, making it firmer and coarser in texture. David and I were both happy with the result but Elliott still wanted a drier firmer muffin. After giving it about 1-1/2 hours of chemical analysis of ingredient ratios, comparing my muffins to scones, which are more like a cross between a cake and a pastry than are muffins, I came to the ridiculously simple solution. All that was needed was more flour!

Here is the recipe originally published in The Bread Bible but with now with my newest version--the mixer method. And, if you prefer your muffins to be more muffin than cake, use the higher amount of flour.

Blueberry Muffins

Special Equipment
6 small soufflé, custard cups, or a 6 cup muffin pan, lined with foil or paper liners, lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (see Notes).

unsalted butter (65˚ to 75˚F/19˚ to 23˚C)4 tablespoons (1/2 stick)2 ounces56 grams
sugar1/2 cup3.5 ounces100 grams
lemon zest2 teaspoons.4 grams
1 large egg, preferably Safest Choice Pasteurized3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoons (47 ml)1.7 ounces50 grams
pure vanilla extract1 teaspoon..
bleached all-purpose flour1 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1-1/4 cups, lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off4.7 to 5.3 ounces135 to 150 grams
baking soda1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon..
fine sea salt1/4 plus 1/16 teaspoon..
sour cream1/3 cup2.7 ounces80 grams
small blueberries, rinsed and dried3/4 cup3.5 ounces100 grams
Topping: sugar3/4 teaspoon..
nutmeg, freshly grateda dusting..

Preheat the Oven Thirty minutes or longer before baking, set oven racks at the middle and lowest levels. Preheat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C.

Make the Batter

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the flat beater, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add 1/2 the flour mixture with 1/2 the sour cream and beat on low speed until it is fully incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. With a silicone spatula, fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into the muffin cups. Dust with sugar and nutmeg.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the center and a wooden skewer comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack and allow the muffins to cool for about 15 minutes before unmolding them.

Notes: I like to use muffin liners as they keep the cupcakes fresher. If using muffin pans, spray them before setting them in the cups to prevent the spray from baking onto the pan.

If using frozen Maine blueberries, do not defrost them but toss them with about 2 teaspoons up to 1 tablespoon of extra flour to keep them from staining the batter when mixed in.

Frozen muffins can be reheated in a preheated 400°F/200˚C oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until a metal cake tester inserted briefly into the center feels warm.


Hi Rosvla,
We always recommends, you should make the recipe with exactly the same ingredients, equipment, and techniques as called for by the author's recipe to establish your control. From there you can experiment by substituting one ingredient or adjusting one technique at a time to obtain results that match the control or to your preferences. You may also want to experiment past what you think is the best results to fail the recipe so that you know the recipe's limits, and contact the author for her/his advise.
We do have banana nut muffin recipes that also have virtually all of the same ingredients, but are structured differently due to bananas offering structure to the batter. There is not a direct substitution without adjusting other ingredients including the leavening. You may want to try substituting just the banana on an equal weight replacement and tinker after seeing the results.
Rose & Woody


Hi Rose,
Is it possible to substitute the blueberry with banana and oats? Thanks.


It is sad that you will never know what you have been missing. Or what good you may have done for your health all these years.


One egg and no separating, yay! My sister gave me your 'Heavenly Cakes' for my birthday and I love it. But I was feverishly searching for a recipe that used whole eggs as I don't like to waste or having to use leftover yolks or whites for something else - until I was almost dizzy, haha.
So the first thing I made (from the book; previously I did your Whipped Cream Cake a few delicious times) was your wonderful pineapple upside-down cakelets - except I only had clementines which worked really well especially when I grated some rind into the batter. It was a simply fabulous after-dinner Valentine's treat for my spouse and me.
An ex-colleague gave me your Bread Bible many years ago and I have made two breads from there. Must try more soon! Thanks so much for sharing your detailed expertise and experience, Rose.


I don't but my husband does. The batter calls for butter and sour cream so these muffins are for my husband only. I've been baking separate cakes for me. He has his but shares mine too.


Butter? You don't eat butter!


LOL! I give mine a topping. I melt butter in a small bowl. I combine granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in another bowl. I dip the top of the muffin in the butter then roll it in the sugar mixture. YUM and nobody would ever know you are eating good-for-you fruit ;)


I've always been a fan of food made in factories, not this natural, grow-on-plants sort of food, but a whim overtook me the other day and I bought a package of blueberries. As I tentatively popped the first one into my mouth, I was surprised to find that they tasted of....nothing. Almost completely flavorless. Thank goodness I hadn't been missing anything all of these years. A blueberry would never have left a factory lacking in flavor or sweetness! Man: 1, nature: 0.


Thanks Rose and have a good trip.


so funny--i'm in the car with a frozen bb muffin thawing for lunch. and i'm leaving for TX on friday! no these are std size muffins. my husband prefers the TX size but we ARE trying to eat less these days and i find the smaller size just right!


Flour Girl
Flour Girl in reply to comment from Julie
02/ 5/2013 10:58 AM

Ooooo! I have to try that too. Thank you Julie.


Great! I have bags and bags of blueberries in my freezer from this summer. I'm going to make this tomorrow.

One question: Is the 6-cup muffin pan the Texas size?

Thank you for posting this recipe Rose.


thanks patti--i really look forward to hearing what you think of it.

i actually did teach at the silo many years ago. it was a beautiful place and i really enjoyed it. wish i had more time to do travel teaching--hopefully in the future.


Rose, thank you so much for posting a muffin recipe. I have been trying to find that perfect muffin as well - right in between. However, most of the recipes I have tried (at least the fruit ones) have mostly been more cupcake like. My goal is to be able to perfect the muffin. I will try this recipe and let you know how they came out. Thank you. Also, I would love to have a cooking class with you here in Connecticut. There is a place in New Milford,CT called The Silo that would love to have you there to do a cooking class. They offer an array of different cooking classes.


So excited that you posted this recipe- I've used it for years as my go-to muffin recipe, it is divine! We make the blueberry version most often, but it also works wonderfully as a base for chocolate chip muffins (we omit the lemon and sub mini chips by weight for the blueberries). My daughter's soccer team adores these :)


You're right Charles. Conventional wisdom is that mixing less results in a coarser texture but with this particular formula it seems to work in reverse. It could be that because sourcream's acidity results in a finer texture, developing more gluten results in more chew and also a slightly coarser texture.


I'm surprised that they key to making a muffin more muffin-like is to mix it more like a cake. Usually, when you want something like a muffin, you mix it more like a muffin, where less mixing is better. The coarseness is on a larger scale, caused by the incomplete mixing of the batter, rather than having larger gas pockets. I presume.



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