Sunday, May 4

Muffin Tops: Flat or Pointy?

strawberry muffin napkin 2
What makes a muffin top pointy?

Until this year, every batch of muffins I ever made was a flat-topped failure. I consulted cookbooks, called my mom (whose muffins are always perfect) and tried every conceivable combination of baking powder, baking soda, oil, butter, and eggs. I used dark muffins tins, light muffin tins, different oven temperatures, electric mixing, hand mixing -- still flat. My final attempt wasn't pretty -- twenty-four unevenly cooked, pancake-flat muffins (from 2 different attempts) along with my muffins tins, ended up in the trash, as I declared, "That's it! I'm never making muffins again!"

All this changed when I made my honeyed orange ginger muffins this year. After about 7 minutes, I turned on the oven light and peeked inside. I was shocked. They were rising. I started jumping up and down and exclaiming, "Jeff, my muffins are rising! They're actually rising!"

"Don't jump up and down!" he said. "Don't do anything to jinx it this time." He had a point.

We actually stood at the oven watching those muffins rise as gloriously as angels. After years of abject muffin failure, it was a beautiful moment.

strawberry coconut muffins in pan

Each plump muffin had a small hill top. I couldn't have been more pleased. Since then I have made several batches, all successful. So what's my secret? Darned if I know. But here are a few suggestions:
  • Use both baking powder and baking soda which are leavening agents.
  • Stir with a spatula, not an electric hand mixer, for a lighter batter.
  • Use light colored bake ware rather than dark to keep the muffin bottoms from burning.
  • Fill the muffin cups 3/4's of the way to the top.
  • Place the muffins in the center of the oven at 350-375 degrees F. Many muffin recipes call for a hotter oven (400-425 F), but I have found they usually burn on the outside and remain undercooked on the inside.
  • Talk sweetly to the muffins as they're baking. Don't underestimate the power of kindness.
  • If all else fails, buy a GE Monogram oven. I have made muffins in 7 different ovens, and persistence pays off.
Made with creamy coconut milk, these muffins are moist and cakey with tiny pieces of fresh, juicy strawberries baked inside. Each delicious bite is laced with tangy honey and aromatic toasted coconut and almonds. In fact, your entire kitchen will be redolent with the fragrance of rich almond and sweet strawberries. That's why I'm contacting Yankee Candle to suggest it as a new fragrance-- Food Blogga: Strawberry Almond Delight Candle. Whadda ya think?

I'm sending my muffins to Michele of Greedy Gourmet who is hosting the third round of Snack Shots. This time she wants muffins, any and all muffins. But hurry! Tuesday is the deadline.

Fresh Strawberry, Almond, and Coconut Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins
Print recipe only here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons pure almond extract**
1/4 cup toasted sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup diced fresh strawberries**

2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Wash strawberries, remove the hull, and pat dry. Dice and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut milk, melted butter, and egg. Add the orange zest, honey, and almond extract, and whisk until just combined. Add to the flour mixture, and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the strawberries and toasted coconut. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds.

For the topping, mix 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons sliced almonds in a small bowl. Sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

**Note: Pure almond extract is deliciously, intensely flavorful. If you want a mild almond flavor, then I'd suggest 1-1 1/2 teaspoons; if, like me, you want a bold almond flavor, then I'd add 2 or even 3 teaspoons. You decide.

Strawberries are often considered "too watery" to use in baked goods such as muffins and breakfast breads. Here are some tips for baking successfully with fresh strawberries:
  • Use only really fresh berries that are firm, not mushy.
  • Don't add too many strawberries to the batter which could make it too wet.
  • Avoid using frozen strawberries, which would be too watery.
You might also like:

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)

Ricotta Hotcakes with Peaches

Banana Coconut Almond Bread

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sponge Pudding

Save This Page on


LyB said...

They're so beautiful, I love the addition of almonds on top. They sound delicious!

Annie said...

Susan, I know exactly how you feel. I too have been on a muffin top quest for many years and have also tried every trick under the sun.
Sometimes they rise and sometimes they don't. Only once, many many moons ago, I made Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins and they rose so high, I couldn't believe it. I still don't know why. I thought it was due to using a higher temp to start, but I have done that with other muffins with no result...
Anyway, your muffins look fantastic and I just may try these because I happen to have all the ingredients needed. I love that. And by the way, Congrats on your victory!!

Anonymous said...

All dishes look very delicious! I am interested in the food culture of your country. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan

glamah16 said...

Congrats on the points. However I feel the flat tops were just as tasty.

Johanna GGG said...

I've never thought of muffins being pointy until I have started to see discussions about it int eh blogosphere - maybe it is inspired by the snackshots theme! Yours look perfect and the combination of flavours sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on these delicious beauties! I'm no muffin expert but I've read that if the muffin cups are overfilled the tops will be flat. But I'm sure this is not the only factor. Personally I like the idea of using flat muffins as an excuse to pitch for a new oven. :-)

Manggy said...

Nice muffin-top, Susan! Hee hee :) You could also use dried strawberries with no problem, I just have no idea where one gets any :)

Anonymous said...

"Stir with a spatula, not an electric hand mixer, for a lighter batter."

I don't consider myself a baking expert by any means, but I've never used an electric mixer on any baked goods because I've heard it will make them tough.

I use a whisk to mix up the dry ingredients, then use that wisk to mix the wet ingredients in another container. Then I gently fold the wet into the dry with a regular large spoon, mixing just enough to combine most of it together. I've even read that leaving a few small dry areas is preferable to overmixing.

eatme_delicious said...

Beautiful muffins! They're some of the pointiest muffins I've seen actually. And made with coconut milk and shredded coconut? Yum! I love the almond on top too.

Pille said...

I'm sure it was your sweet, sweet talking that made your muffins pointed this time :)

Brittany said...

The mental image of you guys huddled in front of the oven, watching your muffins rise, is just too adorable for words.
That is a nicely domed muffin by the way. In fact, I'd say it's a perfect muffin.

Nic said...

They are beautiful Susan! I would love that fragrance in my house.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those muffins look wonderful! I love mine to have pointy and cracked tops... Anyway, both versions taste great!



Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

One of my favorite kitchen tools is my muffin-top baking pan. Instead of full muffins, it has six wide compartments and bakes tops only! The tops come out a bit flatter (more spread out) than they do in a regular muffin pan, but for those of us who love the tops, this pan is the tops!

Warda said...

Baby got back! Sorry! I couldn't help it ;) I know that when it comes to my madeleines, the temperature of my oven (400F) and chilling the batter befor ehelps ne get this nice, round mound. Yours look gorgeous. I've never had muffins this beautiful.

Anonymous said...

No idea what makes a muffin top peak, but I like the tip about talking to them sweetly :) And I like the combo of strawberry, almond and coconut in these morsels, nice!

ames said...

I don't know how closely related muffins are to cupcakes, but this one time I made a batch of cupcakes and then had to jet out for some reason or another so I stashed the second half of the batter in the freezer. When I could come back to it a few days later, I didn't let the batter warm all the way up to room temp and when I baked them, the tops were absurdly tall and pointy. So along with Warda's suggestion, maybe try chilling the batter before filling the muffin cups? Who knows, it could make all the difference!

Those muffins look absolutely *divine*!

Unknown said...

These look so friggen amazing. I'm gonna make them tonight, and if they're good, I'm gonna send them in some mystery prizes!!!

Thanks for the recipe!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I have been trying to get high domed muffins like these forever! I'll be using your precious hints.

your muffins look absolutely perfect, my friend!

Gattina Cheung said...

Susan, your muffin photo looks so sweeeeeet and stylish! And I should have come here earlier to pick up all these useful tips :) :)

Cakespy said...

This brings up another muffin issue on my mind: ears, or no ears? (ears= the "spillover" on the top that is easy to grab). I love "ears"! And of course as much top as you can cram on there! MOUNTAIN tops! Much ado about muffin!

~~louise~~ said...

Just dropped in via Technorati.

Glad I did.

Those muffins look scrumptious!

Your blog is filled with tantalizing dishes. I'll have to come back and stay a while.

I'm curious. What happened with Yankee Candle and you idea?

Mishmash ! said...

You always make me smile with your posts :) Thanks :)) All those pointers are going to be useful for me...want to try this soon...


Lisa Turner said...

Nice job! That's my kind of muffin. Not too sweet and full of fruity flavours. I don't bake too much, as I don't need sugary sweets around to tempt me, but I am inclined to make muffins, biscuits and scones. I'm really liking the coconut milk idea. A must try.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

lyb-Thank you so much!

annie-Jordan Marsh? That's a blast from the past! I used to go there all the time with my mom. And I'm so glad you have all of the ingredients. Let me know if you make them. :)

edamame-Thank you for visiting. I will drop by.

coco-They are tasty, just not pretty. :)

johanna-Aha! So it's Michelle and the Snack Shots theme stirring up all this chatter about pointy tops. ;)

susan-I've experienced it first-hand. That do fall flat. That's why I say to fill them 3/4's of the way to the top. Thanks!

manggy-Cute. Very cute. ;)

shreela-That's exactly what my mom says, so I know it's good advice. :) Thanks a bunch for the suggestions and for visiting!

eatmedelicious-WoW! Can you see the smile on my face? :)

pille-You think? ;)

brittany-It's true. Thank you kindly. :)

nicisme-Let's hope Yankee Candle goes for it. ;)

rosa-I love cracked tops on quick breads too.

lydia-I just learned of the muffin top only pans last week on someone's blog. I've got to look for them now.

warda-Thank you so much for the generous tip and kind words. I'll have to try chilling them and see how they come.

ellie-Whatever works, right? ;)

ames-Yeah, I will definitely try chilling the batter to see how they come out. Thanks!

superawesome-How super awesome is that? ;)

patricia-My fingers are crossed for you. :)

gattina-You don't need any baking tips, my friend. :)

cakespy-I've never heard of "ears" before. That's too cute.

louise-Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope to see you again! Once you get to know me, you'll see I'm often facetious. I didn't really contact YC; it's just my sense of humor. Sometimes it works, sometimes not? ;)

shn-Well now you've made me smile.

lisa-It adds such moistness to baked goods. I use it in many recipes to much success. I hope you try it.

Anonymous said...

Muffin batter should be lumpy when you pour it into the pan. The key is in not overmixing--just stir the wet and dry ingredients together quickly with a fork and you're good to go.

RecipeGirl said...

I'm getting better at my muffins. Usually I get a nice even round rise- rather than a hilly top. Congrats on finding your secret!

I love the idea of adding coconut milk to a muffin recipe. I'll bet that gives them a nice flavor.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

They sure look good! Congratulations for this success!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

"Talk sweetly to the muffins ..." I'll have to try that!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I want to try using lite coconut milk, that really got my attention, great idea, not to mention the whole muffin looks and sounds terrific! You got the perfect dome. :)

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I know what I want to bake tomorrow. You may see a picture on my blog, in a few days, of those muffins.

Emily said...

Even though they're crazy expensive.

The muffins look wonderful. I've heard that overstirring your batter will make them flat, and understirring will make them domed. I don't know if that's true or not. I think it really depends on how much you fill up the cup. Will have to experiment!

I also find that talking sweetly to your muffins, helps a lot.

Renee said...

The muffin top around my pants is flat ;) I always thought the dome shape had to do with how much the cup was filled, but I guess there's a lot more to it than that!

Chibog in Chief said...

this time i know the trick, i will definitely talk and begged my muffins to rise :-) hehehe your photos and recipes as usual took my breath away.....hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Susan from Food Blogga said...

anonymous-Just a fork? Would the flour get incorporated well enough?

lori-It adds flavor and moistness.

aran-Thank you!

tw-It works like a charm. ;)

marie-I encourage you try it; I've made several baked goods with it, and they have all turned out wonderfully.

helene-I hope they work out!

emiline-I agree. Not over stirring or over filling both work. As for YC, they are $$, but they smell oh-so-good.

nan- :) for the first comment. I think it's a big part of it. 3/4s filled works best.

dhanggit-That's so generous of you to say. Happy to see you blogging again, my dear! :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

Too funny that the muffin top was your nemesis. These look terrific!

Susan said...

With muffins, it doesn't matter to me whether they point or not. Cupcakes, well, that is a different story - the flatter the better for those so you can pipe the points with frosting.

They look great in that tin, Susan. Could be an illusion, but the tin looks aqua - very attractive photo.

Prudy said...

I'm a first time visitor and oh, my-the food looks divine. I'll be back! Erin

ChichaJo said...

Your muffins are officially perfect! :) And that recipe sounds delectable! Coconut milk is an ingredient commonly used in our native sweets but I've never thought of using it in a muffin...yum!

Mama Mia said...

those muffins are perfectly pointy! I need to practice your tips!!

Swati said...

Your posts are so refreshing always Susan.. thanks for the lovely tips and will use them when I am making muffins... Flavours sound heavenly!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! coconut and strawberry, what a wonderful combination. Those tops sure are pointy! They look so pretty with the almonds on too.

Anonymous said...

Aren't those wonderful, pointy big muffin tops. CONGRATS! I am one who has always been in this pursuit, so appreciate your excitement :)

Deborah said...

These sound like a little bit of heaven!

Ivy said...

They look so perfect.

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

I gave up making muffins and now make my muffins in 9X9 pan. My girls for some strange reason won't eat muffins but they love it in the cake form...go figure!

Heather said...

I always thought you were supposed to leave muffin batter slightly lumpy. I can't remember the last time I tried, though!

Nupur said...

"Talk sweetly to the muffins" :) Susan, you are so soooo sweet, you know that?

Anonymous said...

What a delicious combination of ingredients! I rarely make them, but when I do I usually make them sort of in between flat topped and pointed. Usually works ;)

Jeanne said...

You are right - sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to whether muffins rise or not... I am going to try the baking powder AND soda idea for now - although mine aren't too flat usually, they have never risen like these babies! What HAS been happening though is that the entire muffin top is breaking off when I remove them from the pan (cue much swearing). I suspect I'm leaving them to cool in the pan too long... Now I've ingested in paper muffin cups so hopefully that's another problem solved :)

Bron said...

While you're trying to get pointy tops on muffins - I'm trying to get flat tops with my cupcakes...hehe
These looks super yummy!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

You're absolutely right. Somehow, a muffin isn't quite one unless it has a dome!
My muffins have always domed. I'm not sure what I've done right, I just usually follow the recipe. I think it helps if the batter is just folded in and not over mixed.
I have been away from blogging and just saw your May event. Really appreciate the theme.

Anonymous said...

Great looking muffins! Your photos are stunning!

Dana said...

Okay, first of all, I am obsessed with muffins (as I think is clear from my blog, haha), and these look FANTASTIC! I agree with your tip about the spatula vs. electric mixer. I'll use the mixer for part of the process, but for folding in dry ingredients, I find a spatula is the only way to go to prevent over mixing. Yum!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Too funny Susan . . . still I'm happy you're happy with your pointy tops!!
Orange and strawberry with coconuts sounds like great flavors.

Sharon said...

thanks for the muffin tips! My experience with muffins is very inconsistent. Sometimes they're beauties, sometimes they're rubbery ugglies. Go figure. I found your blog by a serious of clickthroughs that I can't remember, but I enjoy your writing style & recipes.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

gretchen-You think I've conquered them finally?

susan-It's just an illusion, but I liked it too!

erin-Look forward to your return. Thanks!

swati-That is so kind of you to say.

chichajo-It makes the muffins exceptionally moist.

lina-They really work--I hope you try them.

helen-The almonds add beauty and texture. Thanks!

kristen-Oh, good, then you understand my excitement. :)

deborah-Thanks a bunch!

ivy- :)

judy-Hey, if they like in it cake form, then let them eat cake. ;) It'll taste just as good.

heather-Yeah, I think that's related to not over stirring.

nupur-I think you're pretty sweet yourself.

linda-Hey, whatever works, right?

jeanne-I haven't used paper liners for muffins, but good luck!

bron-That's funny.

aparna-Well, then you've just got the natural muffin touch! :)

farida-Many thanks!

dana-You are so right about the spatula. And what's not to love about muffins?

tanna-They really are lovely together.

sharon-Welcome and thank you for the kind words. I'm so glad you found me.

Amy said...

Wow those are some good looking muffins! I don't think I've ever baked muffins with such a prominent top. I love a lot of almond extract too. :)

Le Flâneur Novice said...

Hi Suzi!

If even you had difficulties with baking muffins, I must be lucky to get success on muffins since the first bake then lol

I only use baking powder, and use a whisk to stir the batter by hand. You know... mix drys, and wets, and then stir them together. But just until the dry ingredients get moistened. I almost fill the cups to the top. And I bake them at about 375 F too.

Result is always a good rise with craking tops :)

You will eat it and you will like it said...

Dear Susan, may I share my reflections on the topic (and perhaps add to your confusion).

You know how cake recipes (as in sponge cakes, muffins and cup cakes) are based on either of two methods: 1) egg and sugar whisked + dry ingredients + melted butter or 2) sugar + soft beat + eggs + dry ingredients + wet ingredients.

For a long time I have taken that as a fact, simply. But why is it so? Well, a clever lady in the blogspehere recently enlightened me. If the batter hold a certain amount of butter/fat (150 g and more) it's less good to combine it melted as the batter risk to divide. Makes sense, doesn't it?

However, and here is my point, I usually bake my muffins based on method #2 even though I just go for half a batch. They always rise in the most satisfying and delicious way. As if the butter (always, never margarine or other trans-fatty acids) retains its power by going in unrefined.

You will eat it and you will like it said...

They key ingredients got lost:
2) sugar + soft butter beaten + eggs + dry ingredients + wet ingredients.

marley said...

Hi- I see I'm coming really late to this conversation, but I, too, have known the frustration of years of flat-topped muffins. Two things have made all the difference for me. First: knowing about the protein level of different brands of flour.Cook's Illlustrated addresses this in it's basic information about baking in it's Baking Illustrated cook book.Shirley Corriher and Harold McGee both have books that explain kitchen chemistry in an approachable way. McGee's 1st book does it better than the later one for me.(Libraries are often very responsive to patron requests for new book acquisitions.) King Arthur flour has the highest protein content of any commercial all-purpose flour I know. All my baked goods rise much better with it. They have on-line shopping if you can't get it locally. The second significant help for my muffin results is to pre-heat the oven 25 degrees higher, but immediately turn it to the written temp when the pan is put in. There's something about that extra heat at the beginning that helps. I hope this will be useful to somebody!

marley said...

Hi- I see I'm coming really late to this conversation, but I, too, have known the frustration of years of flat-topped muffins. Two things have made all the difference for me. First: knowing about the protein level of different brands of flour.Cook's Illlustrated addresses this in it's basic information about baking in it's Baking Illustrated cook book.Shirley Corriher and Harold McGee both have books that explain kitchen chemistry in an approachable way. McGee's 1st book does it better than the later one for me.(Libraries are often very responsive to patron requests for new book acquisitions.) King Arthur flour has the highest protein content of any commercial all-purpose flour I know. All my baked goods rise much better with it. They have on-line shopping if you can't get it locally. The second significant help for my muffin results is to pre-heat the oven 25 degrees higher, but immediately turn it to the written temp when the pan is put in. There's something about that extra heat at the beginning that helps. I hope this will be useful to somebody!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

marely-Thank you so much for that incredibly helpful comment! I didn't realize that KA flour made that much of a difference. I'm going to buy it next time. And thanks for the tip about the oven temp. That's an easy one to try too!

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has been frustrated by flat muffins! I found your blog after yet another attempt at chocolate muffins came out flat-flat-flat! My fruit muffins all come out fine, it just seems to be the chocolate ones. I've tried stiffer dough, using both baking powder and baking soda, a higher oven temp, etc. I haven't tried chilling the dough yet though, that's a new one to me. Really happy to see I'm in good company though, and not the only crazy holding my breath to see if my muffins rise!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

margaret-I feel your muffin pain. Would you believe I have never made chocolate muffins. If you discover any new secrets, let me know. In the meantime, keep baking, and good luck! :)

John McKirdy said...

I came across this page when searching for why my apple-cinnamon muffins were flat-topped.
I thought this recipe looked good so I made it, using the tip about chilling the batter.
The muffins looked fantastic when they came out - nice big rounded tops. However after a few minutes cooling, most of them developed a big sinkhole in the middle, which had uncooked mixture in it. Perhaps it is necessary to turn down the temperature and cook for a little longer if the mixture is chilled?
As for the actual recipe the muffins tasted good, but the almond flavour was a bit weird, perhaps because I used immitation essence? I don't know that I'll make it again.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

John-Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry that happened. Sometimes oven temperatures vary which could affect the cooking process, as could overfilling the tins. I'm not exactly sure what happened to you, but it really does work for me. Good luck!