I ran out of cupcake liners the other day. When I desperately looked around the kitchen for a solution, I spotted my trusty pack of coffee filters. They looked quite a bit like cupcake liners; had I found the solution to my cupcake dilemma?
Can you use coffee filters as cupcake liners? No, coffee filters do not work as cupcake liners. The batter will drip through the filter and get all over the baking pan. Instead, try greasing the pan or making your own liners out of parchment paper or tin foil.
Cupcake liners are designed to hold liquid batter, prevent messes, and peel off the cupcake easily so that you can enjoy your delicious treat. Coffee filters aren't designed to do any of these things. In fact, the way they're designed is the exact opposite of how cupcake liners are supposed to work.
Why Coffee Filters Can't Line a Cupcake Pan
Everything in the kitchen has been designed to fulfill a specific purpose. Cupcake liners are used to separate liquid batter from the metal baking pan. This means they need to be waterproof, heat resistant, and safe to use with food.
Coffee filters are not intended to be used in the oven, so they don't actually have the same features as cupcake liners. They might look the same, but they make a terrible substitute for cupcake liners.
Coffee Filters Aren't Waterproof
The number one goal of a cupcake liner is to hold cupcake batter. Batter is pretty runny, so it needs to be in a container that can hold liquid.
Coffee filters aren't designed to hold liquid. Instead, they're designed to let liquid through. In a coffee machine, a filter holds onto your coffee grounds and lets the freshly-brewed coffee drain into the carafe.
This works because coffee filters are made from coarse paper with long internal fibers. Water and other liquids can pass between the fibers, but coffee grounds and other solid materials can't.
If you put cupcake batter in a coffee filter, the batter will slowly start to seep through. Because batter is much thicker than coffee, it won't filter through completely, but it will definitely make a huge mess.
Coffee Filters Aren't Oven Safe
Another important feature of cupcake liners is that they are safe to put in the oven. Most liners are made from parchment paper or tin foil. Neither of these materials will burn when exposed to normal baking temperatures.
Coffee filters are not made to withstand baking temperatures. They can handle hot water from a coffee machine, and they can usually withstand a microwave. However, there's a chance that the ambient heat in the oven will burn the filter.
Whether or not a coffee filter can technically go in the oven depends on the materials used to make it. But since they're not marked as oven-safe, you probably shouldn't try it while you're making cupcakes.
Coffee Filters Stick to Food
There's something so satisfying about peeling the wrapper off a cupcake. The best liners leave the entire cupcake behind in one immaculate and delicious piece.
Coffee filters won't do this. Most filters have very long and coarse fibers that cling to the coffee grounds during the extraction process. If you baked the filter into a cupcake, those fibers would cling to the batter and fuse with your pastry.
It's one thing if some of the cupcake sticks to the filter. Unfortunately, the most likely result is that some of the filter will stick to your cupcake. Even if it looks like it peeled off completely, tiny fibers could still end up in the cake and ruin the taste.
Solutions for No Cupcake Liners
I'm glad to know that I can't bake my coffee filters, but that didn't solve my cupcake problem. Luckily, liners aren't actually necessary to make cupcakes; they're just extremely convenient.
The goal of a cupcake liner is to keep the cupcake from sticking to the bottom of the pan. To mimic this effect, you have two options: grease the pan, or put something else between your batter and the bottom of the tin.
Grease the Cupcake Tray
Greasing a baking tray is a tried and true method to prevent batter or dough from sticking. It doesn't matter whether you prefer butter, oil, or cooking spray; they'll all work to keep your muffins from sticking to the pan.
Personally, I like to use butter. That's because I already put a lot of butter in my cupcake recipe, so a little more won't actually impact the taste. Try melting the butter and applying it to the pan with a brush, a paper towel, or even a coffee filter.
Some people like to use vegetable oil to grease the pan instead. You can also use canola oil, coconut butter, or really any other cooking grease. I don't recommend using olive oil; it doesn't work with the sweet taste of cupcakes.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure to apply plenty of grease to the pan. The more butter you use, the easier it will be to remove the finished cupcakes. Just don't add enough oil to make a liquid layer. You can always pour excess butter out of the pan.
Bonus tip: Are your cupcakes stuck to the tray? Place the pan in the oven for about 30 seconds. This will heat up the pan and melt the butter. After you've taken the pan out of the oven, use a butter knife to gently remove the cupcakes.
Use Parchment Paper or Foil
Cupcake liners are popular for a reason – they're really easy to use, and they let you pull the cupcakes out in one piece. Luckily, you can make your own liners out of baking parchment or aluminum foil. You'll also need a ruler and a glass or cup that fits in your cupcake tray.
- Check the size of the cupcake pan. A standard cupcake pan is 2.5 inches. Jumbo pans are about 3.5 inches, and mini pans are about 1.5 inches.
- Determine your liner size. Each liner will be a square, and each side of the square will be double the size of your cupcake pan. So if you have a standard 2.5-inch pan, you'll want a 5 by 5-inch liner. If you have a mini muffin tray, you'll want a 3 by 3-inch liner.
- Cut the liners. You need one square liner for every cupcake; most pans require twelve. I recommend measuring out 5-inch portions of parchment paper and then cutting them into squares.
- Mold the cupcake shape. Lay one of your liners flat on the table, waxed side up. Place the glass in the center of the paper. Carefully fold the edges of the liner up around the glass, and press down to make a strong impression in the paper.
- Place the liners in the tray. The circular shape you made with the glass goes on the bottom, just like with a normal cupcake liner. Press the edges of the liner against the side of the pan to get the best fit.
- Fill the liners with batter. Because these aren't real liners, pour the batter carefully, and check for leaks as you go.
If you don't have a glass, you can also carefully press the square liners into the pan. Use smooth and gentle motions to prevent the liner from wrinkling; this is especially important if you're working with tin foil.
Don't worry if your liners are too big for the pan. Both parchment paper and tin foil are oven-safe, so it's fine if the edges are sticking out. Don't try to cut the liners after you've filled them with batter – you'll just make a mess.
Alternative Uses for Coffee Filters
Coffee filters can't be used as cupcake liners, but that doesn't mean they're just for coffee. Here are just a few of the cool things you can do with extra coffee filters.
Coffee filters are completely non-toxic, which means that you can use them with food. In a pinch, I often use a coffee filter instead of a napkin to serve myself a handful of chips or another snack.
Because coffee filters look so much like cupcake liners, they make a clever way to serve other baked goods. Why spend money on delicate paper doilies when you could use your favorite coffee filters instead?
Coffee filters can absorb and retain a small amount of moisture. This doesn't impact the coffee brewing experience, but it can work miracles for food storage.
Try wrapping a coffee filter around a sandwich or other baked good before you put it in a zip-lock bag. When you go back for the sandwich, you won't see the usual moisture condensation on the bag. Instead, you'll find a slightly damp filter and a fresh-looking sandwich.
In the same vein, coffee filters can be used to separate stacked food items like cheese or deli meats. I'll definitely be using this handy trick the next time I need to pre-cut single servings of something for a party.
Related Article: 4 WAYS TO BREW COFFEE WITHOUT A FILTER
Finally, coffee filters are the perfect streak-free way to clean glass or polished metal. Get the coffee filter wet, and use it like a paper towel. I typically use a coffee filter to wipe down my coffee machine, and I've also used them to clean wine glasses once or twice.
Obviously, you should only use clean filters for this purpose. Used coffee filters should go in the compost instead.
Can you put coffee filters in the oven?
No, coffee filters are not oven safe. Most filter designs have not been tested for baking and could catch fire or melt when exposed to high temperatures.
Do you need liners to make cupcakes or muffins?
You can make cupcakes without liners; just grease the pan with lots of butter. You can also try making your own liners out of parchment paper or foil.
Related Article: CAN COFFEE FILTERS BE COMPOSTED?