A piece of chocolate cake on a plate

Muffins and “Tulips” to Celebrate Spring

In just a bit I am going to give away all my secrets for how to make muffins that are so great your friends and family will call you a genius. But first, I want to show you what happened one Saturday morning as I was in the middle of making a fabulous—if I do say so myself—brunch.

I was all ready to fill the muffin cups with batter when I remembered that I’d used every last one of my cupcake paper liners. I was in no mood to go to the store. Muffin batter is not kind to those who do not move it quickly to the oven once the wet ingredients have been stirred in.

I wanted to kick myself because I’d planned to splurge and order these very nice Tulip Muffin Papers online …

A piece of cake on a plate, with Muffin and Batter

… but at the last minute felt myself choking at the price: $6.95 plus $6.00 shipping for 24 elegant muffin/cupcake papers—about $.54 each.

How dumb would that be to spend twice the cost of the muffin just to bake it in a very cool looking throw away “paper?” Don’t answer. And don’t hate me when I tell you how much I wished that I’d ordered them anyway because at that moment I really needed them.

Back to my dilemma.

I really do not like to bake muffins in a muffin pan without paper liners. The batter tends to flow onto the pan as the muffins rise, making them ugly and difficult to remove. And then once removed to cool, their poor little bodies are all exposed, which makes them get all dried out and crusty well before their time.

Right about then, I got to thinking: What if …

A close up of a rug

 A close up of a device

A cup of coffee on a table, with Muffin and Tulip

A piece of paper

A piece of paper

A close up of a hand

Muffin and Cake

 A plate of food, with Muffin and Bread

My photography skills leave much to be desired, but trust me on this: It worked so well, no more cupcake paper liners for muffins in my little bakery. My DIY tulip papers are way superior because they keep all of the muffin in the cup; not even the muffin top spills out. And besides, they look like they came from a quaint little French bakery.

Here’s how I did it:

I used parchment paper cut into 6-inch squares for these regular-size muffins. I folded each one twice, diagonally from corner to corner to show me the center. Then I centered and formed them over a small can of tomato paste (a small juice glass would work as well) sliding my hand down the side of the can to “pleat” the paper to conform to the size of the can. Because parchment paper is sturdy, it holds this shape very well.

Filling these muffin “tulip” papers without making a mess all over the sides of the paper is a little tricky, just go slow and easy. What works really well for me is to pour the batter into  disposable cake decorating bag or a gallon-size zip lock bag to fill the muffin cups. I tried the zip bag idea a few days after these pics were taken, cutting off one of the bottom corners just large enough to allow my blueberry muffin mix to pass through easily. I filled the cups as if I were decorating a cake. Fabulous results.

Baked in these tulip papers, muffins are a cinch to lift out of the muffin pan to cool, because as I said, everything in contained. Just pick them up by two “ears.”

To open right at the moment of consumption, pull on two opposite “ears” and Viola! There it is, a beautiful, moist, luscious piece of heaven.

For jumbo-size muffins, 7-inch squares of parchment work perfectly when formed over a regular size can, like a can of soup.

I also have a mini-muffin pan. Yes, I made tiny tulip papers for it: 3 1/2-inch squares of parchment formed over a an upside-down prescription bottle. So adorable.

The parchment paper cost $.10 per sheet. I got 6 regular-size tulip muffin papers out of one sheet for a cost of about 1 1/2 cents each.

And now for muffins …

I love to bake, however baking has not always liked me. We’ve had our moments. It wasn’t until I surrendered to following recipes exactly that our relationship made the turn. I had to come to the point that I was willing to measure the ingredients, follow directions and believe that little things like “folding in” does not mean “beating it to death,” “one-cup of flour” doesn’t mean, “that looks about right,” and “butter softened,” does not mean “boiling like a witch’s cauldron.”

Food on a table, with Muffin and Blueberry

One day that I will not soon forget, I was reminded about how far I’ve come as a home baker when DPL staffer, Max, could be heard throughout the office, “These blueberry muffins are insane!” Sure, he called them blueberry muffins, but I call them Einstein Muffins. That’s because every time I make them, I feel like a genius. And you can feel like a genius, too—provided you follow these recipes exactly.

Einstein Blueberry Muffins

Muffins:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumb Topping:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 12 muffin cups lined with muffin liners like your very own DIY tulip muffin papers.

To make the muffins: In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Beat slightly with a fork. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To make crumb topping: Mix together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Mix with fork until crumbly and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until done. which means when a toothpick is inserted, it comes out just barely clean. Caution: Err on the side of under baking for the yummiest, moistest muffins.

Einstein Banana Muffins

Muffins: 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 medium or 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

Crumb Topping:

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

To make muffins: In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

To make crumb topping: In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Err on the side of under baking, even if the centers appear to be a little sunken.

Question: What have you done lately that made you feel like a genius?

Woman giving a thumbs up on no christmas credit card debt white background
cleaning black leather boot with olive oil
A piece of cake sitting on top of a table
vintage white slow cooker on white background
chicken with homemade teriyaki sauce
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10 replies
  1. KathyW says:

    That’s funny….yes, Mary, baking is an exact science! I had a co-worker years ago who couldn’t bake to save her life, her kids screamed and ran away when she tried to get them to lick the batter from the mixing bowl. I “taught” her how to bake and measure liquid vs. dry ingredients. She got to be pretty good but the first rule is: Measure correctly, follow the recipe, and know which ingredients you can substitute and those you cannot.

    Reply
  2. eveh says:

    How wonderful! I always have parchment paper on hand. Be great if it came in brown. When we first got married I made muffins for Billy. He though they tasted funny so I ask him what muffin he liked. He said the little Debbie ones with orange icing. What? He thought cupcake and muffins were the same thing. I had to school him. Sometimes you have to do that with a husband. And btw Dear, your MaMa’s great tomato sauce? Poured right out of a can! With 8 kids, who had time she said to me. LOL

    Reply
  3. Nancy says:

    Thank you for this post with its great tip for making tulip paper liners as well as the muffin recipes. You gave me such an LOL moment while reading your “former” beliefs about the meaning of cooking terms. Oh, how it does make such a difference, lol! I want to clarify, for my own understanding, that we grease the muffin cup liner and not the muffin cup itself?

    Reply
  4. Me says:

    It looks like if a person would obsess just a little with the folding, maybe make a few cuts, they could make them look almost just like the commercial ones. 😉

    Reply
    • Bookworm says:

      Good idea! This might work: Instead of folding corner-to-corner, fold side-to-side. Then hold it against the can firmly with one hand and cut along the fold lines almost to the can, leaving a bit so the batter doesn’t leak out before it cooks, maybe 1/2 inch (? — needs testing). Then press it down around the can so that the cut edges overlap.

      Reply
    • Me says:

      But how does that work with the baking powder? Use a double-acting kind so the second half would kick in when baked? I’m not much of a baker, so I don’t know. I thought quick breads like muffins had to be baked right away.

      Reply
      • JN says:

        Double-acting baking powder’s reaction to heat can be part of it, and some rising power comes from the eggs. Also the bubbles from the initial mixing and chemical reaction are not totally dissipated and will expand with heat. Don’t stir again before filling pans, if you can avoid it.
        The moisture in the mix is more evenly distributed with an overnight rest, and the loss in rising power is not significant. Baking time must be increased since the batter will be cold from refrigeration.
        There’s a common recipe out there called Six-Week Bran Muffins (easy to find with a internet search) that you can keep in your fridge for a long time, baking as needed. The resulting muffins gradually get a little flatter after long storage of the batter, but are still good. (I don’t keep it the full six weeks, though.) That recipe uses only baking soda, not baking powder!
        Another trick is to freeze the unbaked, pre-portioned muffin batter until needed. Bake from frozen.
        Some professionals also make standard pancake batters the night before. Yeasted and sourdough pancake batters must be made in advance, of course.

  5. Tiana says:

    I have been using that Einstein blueberry muffin recipe for several years, ever since I saw it the first time Mary printed it. The BEST blueberry muffin recipe I have tried. I do half the crumb recipe though because it makes too much for the batter you end up with …

    Reply
  6. Deanna says:

    These sound delicious! I would like to try them in mini-muffin form. How long do you bake the mini-muffins? And truly an Einstein moment for the papers as well!!

    Reply

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