Though they are quite similar when you first think about it, given you bake them in the same tin and they are the most portable baked goods next to cookies, muffins and cupcakes are not the same thing. In fact, there are a few key differences between the two, though they may not be well known to some. Here is a quick breakdown of the significant differences between muffins and cupcakes:
Can You Make A Birthday Cake?
There is a quite simple test you can run to determine if something you are baking is a cupcake or a muffin. If you have cupcake batter, you can just pour it into a cake tin and bake it, resulting in a nice birthday cake (or a cake for another occasion). For muffins, on the other hand, the batter will not make a nice birthday cake if you were to pour it into a cake tin instead of the individual tins for muffins/cupcakes. No, if you have muffin batter you could make a quick bread like banana or zucchini bread, which are both denser than cakes, much like how muffins are denser than cupcakes.
Only One Can Be Savoury
Most people tend to make sweet muffins and cupcakes when they are baking. This is, after all, what baking is most associated with! However, the idea of savoury baking is rising in popularity at a steady pace. Most significantly, you can make savoury muffins, such as cornbread muffins to go with chili or a baked egg muffin for a quick breakfast. You cannot, however, make savoury cupcakes. Those remain exclusively sweet.
Down To The Batter
Both muffins and cupcakes share common ingredients, such as flour, eggs, butter, milk, and sugar (though this will vary based on the specific recipe). However, with muffins you can commonly find the regular all-purpose flour substituted for oat, nut, or other wheat flour. In muffins you are more likely to find mix ins like nuts in the batter, whereas you may find a filling in a cupcake. The major differences come in the quantity of the ingredients, like the higher amount of butter and sugar in cupcakes, and the mixing process. For the most part, a baker would mix cupcake batter for longer, resulting in a different consistency, including more aeration than with muffin batter.