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Foil cupcake liners: you’re probably using them wrong

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What in the world are you supposed to do with those little paper liners in between the foil cupcake liners? I’ll tell you!

Foil cupcake liners with paper liners inside.

Cupcake liners

The other day my friend Shannan posted this revelation on Facebook: “So all my life, I have been leaving the paper liners inside the foil cupcake liners when I bake. Guess what, y’all? YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO!”

I chuckled to myself. Of course you’re supposed to remove the paper from foil cupcake liners. It says so right there on the package!

The instructions on the back of a package of foil cupcake liners

I thought Shannan and my husband were the only people who didn’t know this. But based on my extensive research (which consisted of reading the comments on her Facebook post) I realized that most people were doing this wrong. Am I the only person who reads instructions?

[Now, I should note here that when I first wrote this post, all of the foil liners I had in my kitchen had instructions on the package clearly stating that you’re supposed to remove the paper separators. But people in the comments and on Facebook told me that they know how to read, and their liners had no such instructions. Know what? They were right! The ones I have in my cabinet right now don’t have instructions. The ones I directed you to in that link up there don’t have instructions. So it seems to be hit or miss: some companies are clear and helpful, others just assume you were born knowing what to do.]

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Those paper separators are just there to keep the foil cupcake liners from sticking together. Even though they look the same as the non-stick paper liners, they’re not. Good paper liners are usually coated with either quilon or silicone, both of which keep your muffins and cupcakes from sticking to the paper liners. The paper separators don’t have that coating. 

Paper separator test

Will they work? Sort of. They won’t be terrible, but they won’t be great.

Here’s a cupcake baked in a regular paper separator. You can see that some of the cupcake stuck to the paper as I was removing it.

Cupcake baked in paper separator.

Now, here’s a cupcake baked in a non-stick paper liner. That’s a big difference!

Cupcake baked in a non-stick paper liner.

Cookie sheet vs. muffin pan

But what about the other directions on the foil cupcake liner package?

Foil cupcake liner instructions: "No muffin pan needed!"

“No muffin pans needed!”

That’s right, you’re supposed to put the foil cupcake liners on a cookie sheet!

Will it hurt anything to use the foil cupcake liners in a muffin pan? No. But you’re wasting money. If you have muffin pans, you can use paper liners, which are cheaper.

Now, Shannan pointed out that she doesn’t put her foil cupcake liners on a cookie sheet because she’s afraid that they will spread out flat. They won’t. But, they will spread out some.

Here are cupcakes baked in foil cupcake liners. The ones on the left were baked in a muffin pan, the ones on the right baked on a cookie sheet.

Cupcakes baked in foil cupcake liners in a muffin pan and on cookie sheet.

I’d filled all of them 3/4 full, but because the ones on the cookie sheet spread out as I added the batter, those ended up being 42 grams, versus 31 grams for the ones in the muffin pan. If you want bigger cupcakes, great! But if you’re trying to make normal-sized cupcakes, you really need to use a muffin tin, no matter which kind of liner you use.

Of course, you could just fill the cookie sheet ones half-way instead, but they’ll be wide rather than tall. Or, go ahead and fill them three-quarters for bigger cupcakes and a wider area to decorate. Just remember that you’ll end up with fewer cupcakes.

Decorative cupcake liners

There are also foil cupcake liners that have decorative paper on the outside. Not only are these pretty, but I’ve found that they don’t spread out quite as much when baked on cookie sheets. The foil combined with the paper makes them a bit stiffer than the ones that are just foil.

The bottom line is, even if you’re doing it wrong, you’re still going to wind up with something delicious and acceptable. But if you want your cupcakes and muffins to be prettier, follow the instructions! And if you’re using muffin tins, you can totally get away with using pretty paper liners. No reason to waste money on the foil liners!

Cupcake liners with designs on the outside: on the left, an orange Halloween liner with a black bat, and on the right, a pink liner with white polka-dots.

Kim Conover

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

Why not use the paper liners used as separators for the foil liners on the outside of the foil just to bake your cupcakes? Would they help to keep your foil liners from spreading out as much? Then remove the paper after baking.

Amy Oztan

Friday 15th of December 2023

My complete guess is that they wouldn't be strong enough against the weight of the batter, but I'm happy to try next time I make cupcakes!

Diana Mohyi

Sunday 24th of September 2023

Wow. Who knew. Thanks for the useful tip.


Thursday 8th of June 2023

Thank you; so informative, especially for my friends! I already knew, but now they don't just have to take my word for it! ❤️


Saturday 29th of April 2023

Thank you for writing this article!!


Saturday 28th of May 2022

Funny, I had to look this up. I’ve always used paper liners, but my husband picked up foil ones for me. They were store brand and had no instructions at all. The description was merely ‘cupcake liners’ on the package. Since I’ve never eaten a cupcake with a foil liner, I was really confused. I thought the foil was there to keep the paper liners from sticking to each other! But I had my doubts. So here I am. Too bad the company omitted the instructions for the ‘unfoiled’, ha! Glad I found this, thank you!

Amy Oztan

Saturday 28th of May 2022

I'm so glad it helped!

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