how to bake 200 cupcakes & keep your sanity

by Patricia on February 25, 2011 · 18 comments

Well, almost. Even though I estimated that I needed 100-140 cupcakes I wound up baking almost 200. What can I say? I’m an overachiever.

As freaked out as I was the night before, it wasn’t so bad. I’m not saying that if you’ve never baked a cupcake you should start by baking 200 in one day, but if you’ve got a method to your madness, it ain’t that bad.

I started planning months in advance: what I’d put the cupcakes on, the kind of liners, the flavors. But the real work began on a Thursday. I did a few calculations, made a shopping list, and bought ingredients. Friday was all about baking and frosting. And Saturday was transporting, eating, and sharing. (Sunday was all about recovery).

My mom asked, “Why not buy the cupcakes?” with a distinct “tsk, tsk” in her voice. I told her because I wanted to do it in my most confident tone while the voice in the back of my head agreed with my mom.

But even though she was skeptical at first, as soon as the baking commenced my mom was completely supportive and was the first to suggest that we needed to do a taste test.

Here are a few things I learned…

Equipment that makes life easier:

  • 2 12-cup muffin pans so that you can always have 1 in the oven and 1 getting ready for the oven.
  • A scooper/disher. Mine is a little bigger than ideal but still made filling the cups easier. I think the right size is the #20 disher, but I don’t have that size and used one about 1.5 times bigger than that but just didn’t fill it up all the way. I also tried the Oxo medium cookie scoop but had to scoop twice per cup and that’s just too much scooping.
  • Lots and lots of cupcake liners. I love the dark brown ones I bought from Sweet Cuppin Cakes. They have some really cute colors on there that were tempting but I wanted to keep it simple for the wedding reception.
  • A KitchenAid stand mixer isn’t required, but will keep things running smoothly if you are crazy enough to bake 200 cupcakes in a day (I’m not sure I would’ve made it without mine).

Tips about ingredients:

  • Do the math up front. I know some you don’t want to hear that, but if you leave it up to your gut you may end up with six times the powdered sugar you actually need. I’m just saying.
  • Shop ahead of time and take a list. I went the day before, but wound up forgetting the oil. Still, it was a relief to only have to pop into the store for 1 thing while my mom watched over the oven.

The night before

Okay, so it’s the night before the cupcakes start exploding from your oven. You have the equipment and your ingredients. What now?

  • Set up your work areas. Designate a table where the cupcakes will cool & be frosted and make sure it is clean and ready to go. (I used a folding table and covered it in craft paper (taped down at the ends of the table) to create a clean workspace that was easy to clean up when I was done).
  • Locate all of your tools and equipment. Where are your frosting tips? Pastry bags? Spatula for scraping down the bowl? All those little things you know you are going to want but you don’t use very often… now is the time to find them (to avoid the heat of the moment meltdown over your missing star tip)
  • Set the butter out before you go to bed.
  • Go to bed early. Once everything is set out, walk away. Unwind and get some sleep. Once I had everything laid out, I was tempted to start baking. It was 8:30pm. But I forced myself to go watch TV because I knew if I started doing anything at that point I would be up all night. It will be there in the morning, go get some rest.

D Day

Or perhaps I should say B Day. Anyway, it’s here. The big day. You have been planning forever and now it’s time to execute. But first things first:

  1. Eat breakfast.
  2. Have a plan for lunch. Whether that’s a peanut butter sandwich, leftover fried rice, or sending someone out for rations. You need to eat (for strength and to avoid getting hangry), but you also don’t need to wait until you are too hungry to think and surrounded by cupcakes. Don’t worry, you will get to sample plenty of cupcakes, but real food is important too.
  3. Know yourself. If you are a social worker bee and love the extra hands (good for you), have those hands lined up ahead of time. If you are a loner (read: control freak) and others just get in your way (read: stress you out), then plan for that… but consider having one or two friends or your mom standing by just in case. They can keep you company and if get overwhelmed you know you aren’t alone (I find having moral support keeps me from getting too overwhelmed. Wait a second, did I just admit to being a control freak?)
  4. Make sure everyone else knows that the kitchen is not open for big stuff. You don’t need someone else coming in trying to cook beef bourguignon or something while you’re mid-cupcake. Also, if you are the primary cook, delegate dinner duty to someone else, you’re going to be busy. (I was lucky to have my mom there to take care of dinner. So not only did I get all of the cupcakes baked I got to eat one of my favorites: bulgogi)

Now Bake!

  • Do things in batches. I baked all of the first flavor, then took a break and had lunch. Baked the 2nd flavor, took a break (I’m talking hour long breaks – off my feet and mind on something not wrapped in brown liners). Made frosting, had dinner… you get the idea.
  • Don’t worry if the first batch doesn’t come out. Count it as the practice batch and set them aside as samples for anyone who comes by (Luckily we had a lot of family around that I was able to push cupcakes onto). But do take the first batch as an opportunity to hone your method (how much batter per cup? how long to get the perfect golden brown? etc)
  • Since the first batch is “practice”, that means you should be overestimating in your math. I had enough extra ingredients to go over my original estimates by half a batch or more.
  • Take breaks. Yeah, I know I already said that, but you’ll feel better if you do.
  • Don’t stress. They are only cupcakes… (worse case scenario you place an emergency order at the local bakery. But it’s not going to come to that. You’ve got this).
  • Sample your handy work! That’s the best part, right? Though truth be told, when I’m baking that much I don’t really want to eat very many sweets. Crazy, right?
  • Don’t fear the frosting. Use the largest frosting tip you can find. I found some at a cooking store that was going out of business and wasn’t sure I’d ever use them. But they were perfect. Each cupcake was covered in one circle of frosting. (Update: the tip I used: Ateco #807 though this one looks to be the same size – 9/16 inch diameter opening).

Since this has turned into a long post already, I will continue with a part 2 that will talk about storing the cupcakes overnight, transporting them, and displaying them.

{ 15 comments }

1 pearl cope March 12, 2012 at 7:59 am

i happened onto your blog due to the 1000 cupcakes i have been asked to make for our church easter egg hunt, no that is not a typo i actually meant 1000! yes i am freaking out while maintaining some control…..my question would be the about the disher you use, everyone says a #20 but when i measure i use 1/3 cup im worried that the #20 will make them more flat than i would like……what do you think???

2 Miranda July 11, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I bookmarked this when I ran across it a few months ago, knowing that one day I would get myself into a situation that was similar to this… And now is that day… I have to make about 200 cupcakes for this Friday and I swear, this is going to be my bible and, along with my best friend, it will keep me from ending up in the corner crying about frosting consistency or something ludicrous… Fingers crossed! Thanks for sharing your experience!

3 Bakie March 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

What tip did you use to create the circular frosting affect (the one without the ridges)?

4 Patricia March 21, 2011 at 10:20 am

I used an Ateco #807 which has an 9/16 inch opening. I found it in a specialty shop that was closing down, but if you can find something with 1/2 inch opening or bigger that would work. (I looked for the tip I have on amazon but couldn’t find it).

5 pearl cope March 12, 2012 at 8:04 am
6 Silvia March 3, 2011 at 1:22 am

amazing post! i’ve never made this many cupcakes but it’s good to know what to do if i ever do! can’t wait until part 2

p.s. what an adorable photo of your mother!

7 Eliana February 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm

You are one lean, mean cupcake makin machine!

8 carolinaheartstrings February 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

You did an great job. They all look amazing.

9 Sara February 27, 2011 at 10:38 am

I loved this post! I made 241 (exactly) cupcakes in November for a wedding and wish I was as organized and prepared as you were. Luckily there were no huge disasters, but I was exhausted and my apartment was a war zone. I am excited to read Part II to see how you managed the storing and transporting… I am going to be doing another wedding in May and could use more advice. You did a great job! The cupcakes look beautiful. Congratulations.

10 April February 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

Not only were they cupcakes beautiful, but they tasted amazing !! I must admit, I also thought tht you were crazy for attempting this, but you pulled it off. The most amazing part is that you did it all with such grace and never seemed stressed out :)

11 Lauren at Keep It Sweet February 26, 2011 at 5:10 am

Wow, this was really helpful! I am really anxious to see how you got 200 cupcakes to a different location without messing up your frosting. I agree that you need breaks, when I spend hours on end cooking my feet and back are not happy!

12 Michelle February 26, 2011 at 4:55 am

Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine making that many of anything, much less cupcakes! You did a wonderful job ~ they’re all beautiful!

13 Dani February 26, 2011 at 4:39 am

200? Well done you, I baked 40 last saturday for the village fete and I was knackered! You are my hero!
xxx

14 MaryMoh February 25, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Wow…200 cupcakes!! I am not too sure I can handle that. I dont think my heart is strong enough to take that stress…haha. Well done! Your cupcakes look awesome.

15 Marie Remgiio February 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

This is really helpful! If only it was around by the time I made 200 cupcakes, maybe it would’ve gone more smoothly. I’ll just bookmark this for the next time I’m crazy enough to accept orders for 200 cupcakes.

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