Do You Need Muffin and Cupcake Liners for Baking?

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The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

Muffin and cupcake liners are papers used to contain batter poured into muffin tins. Made of paper or foil, they are usually corrugated and are often decorative. Most store-bought muffins and cupcakes come in liners. But do you really need liners to bake a successful muffin or cupcake? While there are good reasons to use one, they are absolutely optional and you can make cupcakes without liners.

muffin liners
The Spruce Eats / Hilary Allison 

Cupcake Liner Pros

While muffin liners are not necessary for baking, they can often be a good idea. Here are a few reasons for using muffin or cupcake liners:

  • Sometimes greasing the pan is inadequate and you can end up with some cupcakes or muffins sticking to the pan. Liners guarantee a beautiful final product and easier removal of delicate cupcakes.
  • Muffins and cupcakes are easier and more hygienic to handle when in liners. They're a great option for potlucks and bake sales where several people will be reaching for dessert.
  • There's no need to grease baking pans when using liners, saving you some time and effort.
  • Liners reduce wear and tear on the nonstick finish of your pan since little to no oil or batter will come in contact with the pan.

Cupcake Liner Cons

You can bake excellent muffins or cupcakes and remove them safely from pans without using baking liners as long you effectively grease your baking pan. If you don't want to bother with liners or make a special trip to the store, you're not alone. Here are some reasons to avoid muffin liners:

  • Liners are not required. As a completely optional step, they're easy to forget to pick up at the store. You can simply grease the pan well and avoid them.
  • Liners add to the cost of baking. Paper liners aren't free and are technically an unnecessary expense.
  • Muffin liners are sold in different sizes and it can be tricky to get the right size for your specific pan. If you have a mini muffin pan, small enough liners can be tricky to find at the store.
  • Cheaper brands of liners do not always remove well from muffins or cupcakes, and some batters (especially oil or butter-free mixes) will stick to ungreased liners.

Removing Muffins and Cupcakes Without Liners

If you choose not to use liners or don't have any handy, you can still make delicious baked goods. Follow these tips for making muffins or cupcakes without liners to ensure perfect-looking final products:

  1. Be sure your muffins and cupcakes are, in fact, cooked through when you remove them from the oven. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cupcake or muffin. If it comes out dry and clean, your muffin or cupcake has finished baking.
  2. Allow your pan to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes with the cupcakes or muffins inside.
  3. If needed, use a butter knife to gently loosen each cupcake or muffin from the pan, careful to not puncture your baked goods.
  4. Cover with a clean towel or baking sheet large enough to cover the muffin tin. Securely grab each end, securing the muffin tin and towel or pan. Flip the tin upside down and onto the towel or baking sheet. Your muffins or cupcakes should come out of the pan.
  5. Let cool before serving or adding frosting.

Types of Liners

You will see some liners labeled specifically for cupcakes or muffins but the two are interchangeable. Make sure you buy the correct size muffin liners for your pans. Most muffin and cupcake liners are affordable and a pack can be used on more than one batch of cupcakes.

Back in the olden days there were waxed parchment muffin liners. These are still available, but the options have expanded tremendously. Your choices are really limited only by your taste and budget. Some options include:

  • Colored Paper Liners: Standard paper liners come in every shade and can be a nice addition to birthday party cupcakes or sports-themed parties (using the team colors).
  • Foil Liners: Thicker than paper liners, foil liners are stronger and more decorative than paper but are also likely to cost more. They are often available in silver and sometimes metallic colors.
  • Tulip Liners: These are heavy waxed paper liners that rise above the top of the cupcake to create a pretty tulip shape. They are often used by professional bakeries.
  • Silicone Liners: Washable and nonstick, silicone liners are more expensive but can be used again and again. They're a good option for home gatherings where you can make sure they don't get thrown away.
  • Special Occasion Liners: Dress up your cupcakes or muffins with patterned liners. There are endless variations for every occasion available at grocery stores and party shops.