The real difference between muffins and cupcakes might surprise you

You might have pondered the difference between muffins and cupcakes before. Perhaps you fell into the common misconception that muffins are just cupcakes without a thick layer of frosting on top, but there are actually more differences between the two than just icing, and it's probably a more technical distinction than you might expect.

The characteristics of both muffins and cupcakes can be pretty easily differentiated just by looking at them. Cupcake Project states that cupcakes have a flatter top, which allows more space for your icing, while muffins are generally more domed. Muffins also have a coarser or larger crumb and cupcakes tend to be tiny cakes, which means the crumb is finer — especially if it is a delicate type of cake such as a chiffon cake (via Delishably). There's also a difference in the ingredient ratios. The amount of fat, sugar, and eggs to flour is doubled in cupcakes compared to muffins. But there's another major difference that comes down to how you combine those ingredients.

The difference between muffins and cupcakes is more than just the presence of frosting

The real difference between muffins and cupcakes is all in how the batter is mixed together. Though some cupcakes follow the muffin method of mixing the batter together, muffins always follow this method. According to The Kitchn, the dry and wet ingredients for muffins are always mixed together in individual bowls. Once the dry ingredients and wet ingredients are separately combined, they are then incorporated together to form a complete muffin batter.

Cupcakes are also made by mixing together both wet and dry ingredients in a specific order, but usually all in one bowl. The butter and sugar are generally creamed together first, then the eggs are beaten in, and finally, the flour and milk are alternately added (via The Kitchn). This also means that cupcake batter is beaten for longer than muffin batter is. So even if muffins are made sweet, savory, or topped with something very cupcake-like, such as a crumble, sugar, or a glaze, they'll always be muffins so long as the ingredients are combined using the muffin method.