Muffins: A History
See Also: English Muffins
English style muffins which are yeast raised and cooked on a griddle, may date back to the 10th or 11th century in Wales.
American style muffins are 'quick breads' made in individual molds. Quick breads (chemically leavened as opposed to yeast leavened) were not developed until the end of the 18th century. This took place in America, where pearlash was discovered. Pearlash is a refined form of potash, and it produces carbon dioxide gas in dough.
In 'American Cookery' (1796 - the first American cook book) Amelia Simmons published recipes using pearlash, and we exported some 8,000 tons to Europe in 1792. Baking powder was not developed commercially until 1857 (phosphate baking powder).
Quick bread muffins really need to be baked in molds because they are made with a batter rather than a dough.
Which came first, cupcake 'cups' or muffin pans? The term 'cupcake' is first mentioned in E. Leslie's 'Receipts' of 1828.
So, what it really comes down to is who invented the muffin pan, or who used cupcake molds first to make quick bread muffins?
It would seem that the history of the quick bread muffin and the cupcake are intertwined.