orange berry muffins


I ran a little test with these muffins. I read somewhere, at some point, that it’s best to grease just the bottom of muffin cups and not the sides. But not all recipes specify this, so I’ve never known how important it is.


This muffin recipe, which was made by Tuesdays with Dorie before I joined the group, calls for the dry and wet ingredients to be mixed separately before folding them together. Because this is standard muffin procedure, it seemed like a good candidate to test out my question about oiling the cups.


For the six muffin cups on the outside of the pan (the two outer rows), I sprayed just the bottom of the cups. For the six muffin cups on the inside of the pan (the two inner rows), I sprayed the entire cup.

copy-of-img_2193left – bottoms only; right – whole cup

As you can see, the difference is striking. The muffins baked in the bottom-only sprayed cups rose taller and rounder. The muffins baked in the thoroughly sprayed cups have flat tops. My theory is that those muffins rose evenly on all sides, where the muffins baked in cups with unsprayed sides were held down at the sides and could only rise in the middle.

copy-of-img_2197left – whole cup sprayed; right – bottom only

Unfortunately, there’s another significant difference between each set, and that’s in how easily they came out of the pan. No one will be surprised to hear that the muffins in the completely sprayed cups were far easier to remove. The others needed a bit of prying around the edges before I could get them out of the pan, although they all came out cleanly.

For me, the extra few minutes to get the muffins out of the pan are worth it for the beautifully domed tops. (Of course now I’m wondering if there was a difference in texture. If there was, I didn’t notice.) And if the prize after carefully removing each muffin is these tender orange-scented treats studded with juicy blueberries, all the better.

copy-of-img_2198left – whole cup sprayed; right – bottom only

One year ago: Rice Pudding

Orange Berry Muffins (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

The only change I made was doubling the salt. However, you can see that my muffins got a little too dark. I know my baking pan has a dark finish, but I’ve never had problems with muffins before, so you might want to lower the oven temperature a bit, or at least check the muffins earlier than the recommended 22 minutes.

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
About ¾ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries – fresh, preferably, or frozen (not thawed)
Decorating sugar, for topping (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.



  1. Interesting experiment and lovely TWD muffin recipe!!

  2. Don’t you just love experimenting?!? I don’t usually grease my pans whenever I bake and just line with parchment. The reason being, the sprays scare me and I don’t like to smear butter all over my pans…haha Luckily for muffins, I haven’t had anything stick yet. Sometimes i think we go overboard with the greasing and lining with paper and greasing again.

  3. Whoa, thanks for testing this hypothesis – the difference really is noticeable. There’s not much better than an orange-scented muffin for breakfast (or anytime for that matter) so I can’t wait to make these once I get home for break.

    Also one question: I’m not sure if you’ve tried this in any sort of controlled experiment, but if I tried to increase the baking powder/soda in this recipe (or any recipe, for that matter), will the muffins rise higher (pretty domes!) and still retain their texture and flavor, or will the latter two be sacrificed for the taller structure?

  4. Goofy me, I just always thought it to be a difference in the amount of batter I “spooned” in the cup. Then I started using my ice cream/cookies scoop and tried to figure that out. I had never thought about the method of choice of greasing the pan. Thanks I learned something new today.

    BTW these muffins really sounds good right about now, you know, breakfast?

  5. What a difference. I have to try that. I wonder when we put baking cups if they will rise high as well. Thanks for sharing.

  6. That is so cool! I’ve never heard that tip, but I’ll definitely need to try it out the next time I make muffins. Which should really coincide with going back and making that recipe – it’s only one of about 4 I haven’t made yet.

  7. Very interesting experiment! I will definitely keep that in mind next time. They look delicious.

  8. Hmmm!!! Those look delicious – and thank you for the instructions. I’m always too lazy to mess with all that, so I just use cupcake liners! I bet this recipe would be scrumptious with raspberries and orange!

  9. brannyboilsover says:

    Yeah, I once read that the sides need to be ungreased to allow the dough to climb….I believe it was a brownie recipe that told me that. I wish recipes would be more specific. Thanks for this post!

  10. Angiebaby says:

    Bridget… I am so looking forward to tying this muffin recipe! As for prepping only the bottom of muffin tins, cake pans, etc., with dry pan sides, the batter clings to those sides as it rises, thereby giving it something to hold on to help it rise higher. The surface of the pan sides helps the batter rise, instead of leaving the batter work by itself, as happens with prepped sides.

  11. realistic bird says:

    That was a cool experiment! I didn’t think the way you sprayed a pan affects the shape of the muffin though I only use paper cups.

    By the way does anyone know how to get those muffins that are huge on top you find in some coffee shops? It is the type of pan?


  12. I’ve heard that too, and I’m glad to know what to do now! The tops of those muffins look so nicely rounded.

  13. pinkstripes says:

    Wow! What a difference. Thanks for the experiment.

    Aren’t these muffins great? It’s one of the few TWD recipes I’ve made multiple times.

  14. Miss Madeira says:

    Cool experiment! I know that if you want a domed top you should decrease the Baking powder and increase it if you want a flat top (compliments of RLB) 🙂

  15. The muffins look tasty! I made those a long time ago…I need to make them again!

  16. Jillian says:

    Wow. I never knew. Thanks for the tip!

  17. neat experiment. you totally confused me though by flip flopping the photos. i had to re read it a couple of times to catch that.

  18. Jaime – I totally thought about that when I posted the photos! But it was too late then.

  19. Wow, how interesting! I’d never heard about only spraying the bottoms of the muffin cups. Thanks for posting about it!

  20. Thanks for the great comparison! You have me sold on only spraying the bottoms though! I wonder what the difference is when you don’t spray the tins at ALL, like with silicone baking products?