Our Best Baking Tips

Ever notice how some people just love to bake? And then, how others hate even the thought of it?

Of course, we all love having the delicious aromas drifting from the oven and dispersing throughout the home. In fact, real estate agents often suggest that sellers bake some favorite cookies when prospective buyers visit as it creates a huge appeal.

But for those who never learned to love the art of baking, it seems more like torture than pleasure. Will those cookies ever taste as good as Grandma’s?

While even the best baker using a tested recipe occasionally experiences that baking day flop, knowing the basic tips and tricks reduces the chance of the baker’s disaster. In fact, these tips ensure you always (almost!) have great success with your baked goods.

 

OUR BEST BAKING TIPS AND TRICKS

1) Baking is a Science. 

When we think of cooking, it seems to be as much art as science. In fact, we encourage cooks to take a basic recipe and creat their own masterpiece. Cooking encourages changes in spices and herbs. You might even change a main ingredient.

Not so with baking. Bakers are chemists, creating exact science experiments. Once the experiment is perfected, it can be recreated over and over with similar results.  Conversely, even a  small adjustment could be your undoing. However,  you probably won’t know it until you pull your cake out of the oven. Before beginning your baking, read the recipe thoroughly, beginning to end. Yes, even if you have made that chiffon cake several times, it helps to read through and remember all the ingredients and steps. And then, complete each step precisely as it is written. Once you have baked the recipe at least once, you may find ways you want to alter it. In fact, that is how new recipes are developed. But unless you have followed the directions the first time, leave the initial experiments to expert bakers.

2) Measuring matters.

Carpenters practice the “measure twice, cut once” adage. Bakers should consider this rule, too. A teaspoon of baking soda is not the same as a tablespoon. Measure using cups and spoons and be exact. Further, some incredients may need to be weighed for best results.

Flour is one of those ingredients. The weight will depend on the type of flour, the way it is packed into your cups, and even the humidty in the air. One technique that helps is to stir the flour in the bag. Then use a spoon to scoop it into the measuring cup. The backside of your table knife makes a good straight edge to level the flour in the cup.

3) Quality ingredients.

Your end product will only be as good as the ingredients used to create it. Look for quality brands that fit the recipe requirements. It really does matter.

4) Ingredient temperature. 

Again, remember that this is chemistry. The temperature of your ingredients will affect your finished product. Cold butter is not the same as melted butter. Any adjustment in the ingredient temperature may cause a different chemical reaction. The end result may be very different!

 

5) Fresh Ingredients.

Most items are affected by age. Butter, for instance,  loses moisture the longer it sits in the fridge, causing baked goods to be dry. Buy and use the freshest ingredients you can find. Check dates on the packing.

6) Use unsalted butter in baking.

Most baking recipes call for unsalted butter. This allows you to control of the sodium level which in turn affects the moisture absorbed in your baked goods. However, if salted butter is all you have, reduce the added salt required by half.

7) Leavening.

Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast lose their lifting power over time. Bakers may buy new baking soda and baking powder every 6 months. While you can use it past that point, you may need to test it to see if it is still active. Better yet, bake more often!

8) Yeast.

Active dry yeast should be stored in the freezer to retain its lifting power.

 

9) Mood matters.

Yes, your mood matters. If you are rushed or having a bad day, you may not be as careful with your measuring and mixing. Most mixing and kneading requires a relaxed baker. So, consider finding a time when you are not rushed, not overly tired, and have the energy to work through your recipe. Find the best time of day. Add in your favorite cooking music. Dance, if it helps!

10) Weather.

You may have heard the old adage, “Never bake on a rainy day.” Humidty and temperature outside do have an affect on the climate inside your home. Higher humidity affects the ability of the dough or batter to rise and dry properly. Even rolling out your dough can be a challenge.

Of course, you might want to still bake on rainy days. Just remember that you may need to adjust your quantities and times slightly.

11) Parchment paper- your baking buddy!

Not only does parchment paper helps batter and dough bake evenly, it also makes removing baked goods from their pans much easier. And your pans are nearly clean!  Our general rule is to always line baking sheets, cake pans, and baking dishes with parchment. ALWAYS.

 

12) Invest is a good mixer.

Good mixers cost money, but they last for many years and save so much time and money. Imagine having a bread kneader, meringue maker, and whipped cream talent at your side. That is your stand mixer.

13) Grease and flour.

Cake pans should always be thoroughly greased and floured. Then the cakes can slip out of the pan easily after cooling. If using a bundt pan, the more grooves your bundt cake pan has, the more critical the greasing and flouring process. Consider using a baking spray that incorporates flour in the spray.You will get better coverage with a spray. And the onestep process is nice.

14) Nonstick spray.

When spraying pans with nonstick spray, hold the pan over the sink. This keeps the side spray off your countertops. Make sure you spray every nook and cranny.

15) Scrape your bowl.

Whether mixing by hand or with a mixer, it’s important to scrape the mixing bowl and then remix. Otherwise, you may be missing some ingredients that stick to the bottom or sides of the bowl. Your final product suffers for it. Scraping is best done with a good quality flexible spatula.

 

16) Invest in good spatulas.

Sure you can find cheap spatulas. But good quality ones will last much longer and don’t cost much more. Consider using a silicone spatula that will withstand heat. Look for one with a one-piece handle that is easy to keep clean.

17) High altitude baking.

Chemistry again! Higher altitudes have less air pressure. Your baked goods, especially cakes and the like, will rise higher but dry out because the liquids evaporate faster. That is why many recipes give different measurements and oven temperatures and times for altitudes above 3500 feet.

For most cake recipes: Increase the oven temperature from 350 to 375 degree F. Then increase the liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup used. Decrease each cup of sugar by 1 tablespoon, each teaspoon of baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon. Also decrease the baking time by 5 minutes.

18) Pan size.

If possible, use the pan size recommended in the recipe. If you alter the pan size, your baked good will cook much faster or slower than mentioned.

19) Like fluffy cookies?

Create your own break and bake cookies. Roll your dough into logs, wrapping the logs in plastic, and freeze it. Then cut the dough into rounds and bake just like store bought break-and-bake cookies. The exterior of the dough will set and bake before the interior has time to thaw, resulting in puffier cookies.

 

20) Bake in the center.

Place the pans and baking sheets in the center of the oven, unless otherwise noted in your recipe. They shouldn’t touch each other or the oven walls. If your oven isn’t wide enough to put pans side by side, place them on different racks and slightly offset, to allow for air circulation.

21) Rotate pans while baking.

This pertains primarily to cookies and pastries, because you do not want to open the oven while a cake is rising and risk a collapse. Rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking will ensure even baking. In fact, you can rotate cake pans after they’ve been in the oven for at least 20 minutes. However, most bakers avoid moving cakes while baking.

22) Cooling.

Remove cookies from the oven when the edges are golden and set and the center looks slightly under-baked. Then cool completely on the cookie sheet for soft chewy cookies.

23) More on cooling and keeping cake top level

Cool cakes upside down on a cooling rack. This will flatten out the tops, creating easy-to-stack disks for layer cakes. Alternatively, using a string or serrated knife to slice off an uneven dome.

24) Don’t change the oven temperature and times

You might feel rushed and want to speed up the baking. Don’t. Most baked goods, especially cakes, lose moisture when cooked hard and fast. And you also run the risk of burning delicate ingredients, possibly ruining your baked good.

25) Use an oven thermometer

Ovens can run hotter or cooler than the selected temperature. Over time, this may become a bigger difference. Attach an oven thermometer to the oven rack. Monitor it each time you bake, adjusting your temperature, as needed.

 

26) Substitutions.

Substitute at Your Own Risk. Yes, we offer a page that includes substitutions. And most will work out well in your recipes. However, we try to note when a recipe must use the exact ingredients. And you should always consider your substitutions potential chemistry experiments.

27) Separating Eggs.

Separating eggs need not be messy and difficult. Start with cold eggs. Crack them on the side of the egg, hitting just once, hard. Some will hit on the flat side on the counter. Other chefs use the side of a bowl or cup, again, hitting very hard to ensure it cracks. Using the side of the bowl sometimes creates more shattered pieces. These tiny pieces might find their way into your baked goods. While you can use a cute little egg separator, it’s just as easy to use your fingers. Even better, in our experience, is using a slotted spoon which is probably already in your kitchen. See the video below for examples.

video: https://youtu.be/zYsP_0oQ5kA

28) Meringues.

If using egg whites for meringues, make sure tyour fingers don’t touch the egg whites. Oils from your hands can flatten the meringue. Also, make sure the yolk doesn’t break. One drop of egg yolk will make it impossible to beat the egg whites into firm peaks. Then, using a whisk attachment, beat with an electric mixer with 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar for each egg white, or according to the recipe directions.

29) Room temperature.

Room temperature, chilled, or frozen? Unless otherwise stated in a recipe, always start a baked recipe with room temperature eggs and room temperature butter.

30) Warming eggs.

To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, crack them into several small bowls before starting the recipe. Another option is to run them under warm tap water for 5 minutes before cracking.

 

31) Easy does it with the dough.

Be gentle with pie crust, other pastry dough, and bread dough. While it might be tempting, avoid taking out your daily frustrations on dough. Treating your dough roughly causes tough baked goods. Handle dough gently.  And use only a light dusting of flour on the rolling pin or counter.  Remember, too much handling and extra flour results in a tough dry pie crust and bread.

32) Rest your dough.

Pie crust, scones, biscuits, and other quick breads need to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Allowing them their chill time ensures they are easier to handle.

33) Keep your cool, and theirs.

Pie crusts and quick breads need to be rolled and formed quickly. Doing so gets them  in the oven while they are still cool. This results in the light, flaky texture we expect. However, If the dough warms before you are done rolling and cutting, simply chill it again before baking.

34) Foaming or proofing the yeast.

The yeast proofing or foaming, also known as sponge or bloom is essential to a quality rise. Here, water temperature plays a key role. Too hot and you kill the yeast. Too cold and it won’t activate. Your water temperature should be around 110-115°F. Use a thermometer to ensure accuracy.

Follow your recipe. Usually you will need about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of sugar or other sweetener. Stir the sugar into the water, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface and gently stir in. It should begin to foam within a couple of minutes, if your temperatures are correct and the yeast is active. Allow 5-10 minutes for a good foam to form.

If it doesn’t produce a foam, discard and beging again. If the water temperature was correct, you will need to try a fresher yeast.  If it’s been a while since you’ve used your yeast, you may want to test a small amount in warm sugar water before starting.

35) Lightly flour

Flour keeps your work surfaces, tools, and hands working well together. This includes your bakers’ mat or countertop, rolling pin, cookie cutters, knife, and also your hands. When it doubt, add a light amount of flour. Don’t overdo it, however. You don’t want to undo the proper proportions you have established in measurements.

36) Use wax paper.

Save yourself the hassel of dough sticking to surfaces or falling apart when you are moving it. Wax paper enables you to move your dough easily. Simply roll your pastry dough on a sheet of lightly floured wax paper. Invert the pastry over the pan, or filling, and peel the paper off. So easy!

 

37) Cover up and patch.

Tears and holes in your dough happen. Even the most experienced bakers understand this fact. But they need not ruin your product. You can patch tears in pastry by pinching or pressing it back together. Large gaps can be patched with trimmings cut from the overhanging dough.

EXCEPTIONS: Bread dough, including pizza and focaccia, should be handled very carefully. In fact, they may be impossible to patch once it is torn.

38) Save the stretches

Pie crust should be rolled a bit larger than you need, then carefully placed into the pan. Be careful not to pull or stretch it into position. Crusts will shrink back to their original shape, if stretched. Ease the pastry dough into the pan. Then gently tuck it into the bottom creases and crimp the edges. Gently handle your pie crusts to enjoy that deliciously flaky crust!

39) Shine on!

Want your baked goods to glisten? Just before baking, brush the top of crusts, scones, rolls or biscuits with cream. You can also sprinkle sugar over the top for extra glitz. Egg wash works as well. (see our next tip)

40) Egg wash.

A simple mixture of 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water, egg wash seals crusts together (like in turnovers) and adds color and shine on the crust of baked goods. Some bakers use egg wash over pie crusts and pastry dough, while using cream over everything else.

41) Air baking.

Air baking sheets produce even results for most baked goods. Comprised of two layers of metal, they allow for air flow between the metal sheets.

 

42) Conventional vs. Convection.

Convection cooking has been around for awhile. Newer ovens often offer the choice when you set them for baking. With a greater airflow, convection heating creates higher, crustier, baked goods. Cookies will be fuller and have a crispy exterior with a soft center. Breads develop a nicely browned, crusty texture.

So when should you use convection? If the recipe calls for convection, of course. But even if it doesn’t, try the convection setting. Most baked goods benefit from the airflow and drying effect.

But remember to adjust your temperature. Some ovens adjust the temperature automatically for convection cooking. If not, you can do so. In general, convection cooking is done at a lower temperature (25°f less for most; 50°f less for higher temperatures). Cooking time is usually slightly less, too. Your 8-10 minute cookie bake time might be as low as 5 minutes. Watch each batch and adjust accordingly.

43) Hands off the door.

Whichever style,  conventional and convection baking, resist opening the oven door until the minimum baking time has passed. Heat is lost each time the door opens. This can alter the baking time and may produce a lower quality product.

44) Preheat (don’t cheat!)

It’s so tempting to put those cookies into the oven before your oven is quite at the proper temperature.  Remember, baking is chemistry. That “little cheat” may produce dismal results. Temperature greatly affects the outcome.

45) Preheat tweaks.

If you are putting more than one baking sheet in the oven or will take an extra moment to put your products in, consider that the door might be open longer than normal. It’s losing heat, causing the temperature to lower below the desired baking temperature.

Consider setting the preheat temperature 25°f higher than needed. Put the items in and close the door. Then (and this is important!) lower the temperature back to the correct baking temperature. Chances are that your oven will indicate that it is now at the right temperature. In fact, some experts believe that about 25°f is lost each time the door is opened.

46) Frosting Facts.

Homemade frostings are delicious and easy to make. However, getting the right consistency provides some challenge. Adjust it slowly. Avoid making major changes, even if it seems necessary. The consistency changes quickly. It’s easily fixed by adding a little extra powdered sugar when it needs thickening. Or, for frosting that is too thick, stir in a spoonful of milk, mixing completely, before adding more. Remember, adjust in tiny amounts to get the perfect spreadable frosting.

Resist the urge to frost your cakes cookies, or other baked goods until fully cooled. Patience is virture for baking, as well as in life! Frosting a warm or hot baked good will melt the icing and cause it to slide off the side. Patience!

 

47) Quick cool.

Running late? Sometimes we need to hurry and our cake is just not cooling fast enough. It’s best to plan ahead, but for those rush times, we have a solution. Clear a place in your refrigerator or freezer. Most will cool in about half an hour in the refrigerator, half as long in the freezer.

48) Flash freeze.

Remember those frozen cakes from your grocery? They came already perfectly iced!

Flash freezing is the process of freezing something unwrapped. Once frozen, you can wrap it and freeze again. This works well with frosted cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. Simply place them in the freezer, uncovered, for 30-60 minutes. When  the exterior is quite hard, wrap well and put back in the freezer.  To enjoy your cake, remove from the freezer, unwrap, then let it thaw on your countertop for several hours before serving. It will have the perfect appearance of just baked and iced!

49) Bake in advance.

You probably have seen the ready made pie crusts in your freezer section. You might have even used them before. Did you know you can bake your own in advance?

This not only saves time when you need a pie crust, it also makes it easier at baking time. You can make up extra crusts when you are baking, then freeze them to use later. This works with cookies, too. When you are ready to use them they go from freezer to oven with no additional prep needed! We find this especially helpful at holiday time, but also useful for those quick quiche dinners.

50) Mix in order.

Those who had home ec class in school probably remember the “dry first” directions the teacher drilled in during baking days. That was good advice!

In general, beat sugar and butter together before combining with anything else. As your teacher said, combine all dry ingredients before adding liquids. Only then should you add the liquids. Following these steps ensures smooth, even mixing. It also makes certain your ingredients are truly blended.

When do you not follow this? A few recipes may change the steps. Of course, follow your trusted recipe, even if it deviates. However, make sure you understand the steps of your recipe clearly.

51) Beat it! 

But only as much as needed. In fact, beating too much or too little affects the texture and volume of your cake. Most recipes will specify either hand mixing or beating with an electric mixer. A good rule of thumb is that one minute of medium beating with your electric mixer equals about 150-180 strokes by hand.

52) Gentle folding.

Most of us know how to fold clothes but how do you fold batter? Using a good spatula, start at the bottom of the bowl. Sweep from the bottom to over the top, then back again. Remember we are not whipping or beating. Folding is a gentle process. Ensure even folding by turning your bowl as you fold.

53) Creaming butter and sugar.

Creaming might better be called beating. In fact, it’s best done with your electric mixer on high speed, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. This breaks the sugar down and creates a very sweet buttery mixture.

When called for in your recipe, creaming is a critical step that should not be skipped. Proper creaming, which may take 3-5 minutes, creates a lighter, airy baked good. The difference is quite noticable in cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.

54) Testing cakes- toothpicks or kabob skewers?

If you bake cakes, you want to keep long toothpicks or wooden skewers on hand. The test is simple. Insert your toothpick deep into the center of the cake (but not all the way to touch the pan). If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Still batter on it? Pop it back in the oven for a few minutes.

No skewers or toothpicks? If the sides of your cake are pulling away from the pan (you will note a small separation around it) and the cake is puffy and golden on top, try lightly toughing the top. If it bounces back, it is done.

Another way is to check the internal temperature. Insert it into the center of your cake (again, don’t touch the bottom of the pan). It’s done at 210°f.

55) Test batch.

Testing a small batch of cookies, pastries, or other baked goods allows you to make adjustments, if needed. You may find the oven temperature is too hot or not hot enough, or that you need to adjust baking time. In fact, often it’s the size of the individual cookie that makes the finished product perfect. Testing takes a little longer, but ensures better results.

56) Don’t overbake.

Just a little more time? It might be tempting to make sure it is totally done. However, overbaking produces less desireable results. Always set your timer for the minimum baking time and check your baked goods when the timer alerts. It’s important to remember that cookies will usually be slightly undercooked in the center when they are ready to come out. The centers set as the cookies cool.

57) Those cool baking sheets. 

Use only cooled baking sheets. Putting cookies on a hot baking sheet changes the texture before the go in the oven. Also, make sure you wipe them clean between batches. Using parchment paper helps keep them clean; use a fresh sheet with each batch.

58) Baking Soda and Baking Powder–Both?

Often recipes call for both baking soda and baking powder. This might seem redundent; after all, baking powder contains baking soda.

While both neutralize the pH of the recipe and create the airy lift, together they balance. If you use only baking soda, you will not have the lift as it is missing the acid to help it react. However, if you use only baking powder, the acid might take over the flavors, leaving an acidic taste to your finished baked goods. The combination is the balance in many recipes

59) Invest in quality bakeware.

Good bakeware will last for many years. You might even pass some treasured pieces to your children. Bakeware is not a place to economize. Buy fewer pieces to begin with, and buy the best. Then add to your collection as you are able.

Confused on what to buy? We’ve put together a guide for you!

60) Toasting nuts.

Intensify the flavor of nuts when using them in or on top of your baked goods by toasting them.Simply spread the nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast at 400°f for about 10 minutes. About half-way through, shake the pan to ensure the nuts are all distributed evenly. The delicious aroma will alert you that they are done. You will also notice a deepened color.

 

61) More is not always best

Most baked goods rise and expand during baking. Therefore, your recipe will instruct you to fill your baking pans and tins to only about 2/3 full. This leaves the room needed for a nice rise that doesn’t spill over into your oven. If you truly want those mega-muffins, use the jumbo size muffin pans.

62) Baking with chocolate

Baking chocolate ingredients affect your finished product. For the best baked goods, select the best chocolate. Read the label. The ingreadients should include cocoa butter but no other fats. If it contains vegetable oil, look for another product. Vegetable oil in baking chocolate creates an inferior product.

Also, chocolate chips are not the same as the chocolate baking squares. They contain additives that will help them hold their shape in your chocolate chip cookies. That’s good for cookies; not so good for melting chocolate for dipping or for ganache. For these, use the baking chocolate bars or squares. Save your chips for cookies.

63) Chocolate chips.

Semisweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate– what do the terms mean? Sweet milk chocolate chips are pretty much a delicious treat. We reserve those for fresh eating. 

Semi-sweet is a dark chocolate. Bettersweet is extra-dark chocolate. Although they are interchangeable in recipes, semi-sweet is usually more available.

64) Freezer storage. 

If you have room in your freezer, you can extend the life of many baking staples. Consider freezing:

  • yeast
  • flour (all the types)
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • nuts
  • berries and other fruit
  • spices
  • bananas (peel them first!)
  • butter
  • buttermilk

65) Baking equivalents. 

  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup
  • 2 cups = 1 pint
  • 2 pints = 1 quart
  • 4 quarts = 1 gallon

66) Refreshing spices. 

Fresh spices have that fragrant aroma that pulls you in. Delicious! But they lose their intensity over time. To refresh them, simply place in a dry skillet over medium heat. As soon as you smell the spice come alive, remove from heat and stir.

Alternatively, if you will be using with oils in your recipe, heat the oil in a skillet. Add the spices and saute over medium heat until the aroma develops.

67) Rise times.

Yeast doughs, including breads, usually need two rise times. The rise is affected by several factors including the room temperature, the ingredients used, and the recipe itself. As a general guide, consider the first rise to be 1-2 hours. During this time, your dough doubles in size. At this point, you deflate the dough, roll, cut, or form according to your recipe. Then it begins the second rise which normally takes about half the time that the first rise needed.

Why are the times important? If the dough does not have sufficient time to rise, your bread will be quite dense and compact, rather than light and airy. However, if it rises too long, it may deflate in the oven. In fact, too long a rise often produces an almost alcohol flavor to the bread.

68) Servings.

Servings you expect from your cakes? Of course, you might choose to serve smaller or larger pieces. However, for general guidelines, consider these.

  • 8 inch square pan serves 6-8
  • 8 inch round layer cake serves 12-16
  • 9×13 inch sheet cake serves 12-16
  • 12 cup bundt cake serves 12-20

69) Dairy substitutions. 

Need whole milk for the recipe but only have skim  or 2% on hand? Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to your measuring cup and fill with milk to make each cup needed. After all, butter is made from the cream of milk! You might also try substituting sour cream or full-fat plain yogurt. The difference will probably not be noticable.

70) Split into small batches

If the recipe calls for chilled dough, consider spliting it into smaller pieces. Wrap separately. Your dough will chill faster and stay chilled while you work with one piece at a time.

 

71) Keep baked goods soft

You may have heard that placing a slice of baked bread into your container of cookies will help soften them. It does. However, when used with the cookies before they harden, it also keeps them soft. The cookies absorbs the moisture from the bread. When the bread dries out, just replace it. You may use the same technique for muffins and biscuits.

72) Marshmallows soften the sugar

Like bread with cookies, keeping 2 to 3 marshmallows in with your brown sugar keeps it moist and prevents the hardening. Just replace the marshmallows when they harden.

73) Cooling rack improv

No cooling rack? Use your parchment paper that you baked with. You can also use clean baking mitts or silicone baking mats.

74) Cool well before storing.

Completely cool your baked treats to room temperature before wrapping or covering them.  Never rush to put them away warm. The evaporation and condensation from baked goods wrapped warm will ruin the crispy, golden tops.

75) Stay stocked. 

For baking on a whim,  keep these things on hand:

  • flour
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • dry active yeast
  • salt
  • unsalted butter
  • coconut oil
  • cocoa powder
  • nuts
  • shredded coconut
  • pure vanilla extract
  • other flavorings such as mint, almond
  • baking spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, mace
  • plus any others you find yourself using a lot

With your essentials at hand, you can whip up special treats on a whim!

76) Caution: Sugar!

Use caution when adjusting sugar in your recipes. Too much sugar can cause a dark crust. Too little can cause too light of a crust,and a tough texture.

77) Frosting a cake.

Brush the excess crumbs off the cake. Then freeze each layer separately. When frosting, use a long frosting spatula to spread the frosting evenly across the cake. Rotate the cake while dispersing the frosting. Bakers find that the revolving cake stands make frosting a cake much easier.

78) Piping.

Practice piping before trying on your cake. Wax paper makes an ideal practice surface. You need a set of piping tips of standard sizes.

If you are new to piping frosting, buy a set of piping tips with several standard sizes (no need to go overboard) and practice on a piece of wax paper before piping onto your cake. The back of the package will have some guides as to what shapes you can make with the tips you bought.

79) Make it glisten!

Ever notice how professionally made cakes have a beautifully glossy finish? Use your hair-dryer to replicate that. Just before serving, use your dryer on medium heat setting. This creates that gorgeous glistening that we admire!

80) Cutting desserts, made easy.

Simply put, use a hot knife to cut cold desserts. Likewise, use a cold knife to cut hot desserts. For the hot knife, use very hot water, then wipe it dry. To chill your knife, place it in the freezer for a few minutes. Then work quickly to slice. To ensure clean slices, make sure you wipe the knife with a wet paper towel between each slice.

To cut bars, use parchment paper in your baking pan. It helps keep your pans clean, too! When the bars are cool, lift the bars out of the pan with the parchment paper. Now it’s easy to see the edges, allowing you to mark where you want each cut. Cut with a saw-like motion, cut straight down, then pull backward, repeating as you move through the bar. Be sure to wipe the knife before making each cut.

81) Sift when you must

Back in Jr High Home Economics, we sifted every time we used flour. Now, most flour is considered pre-sifted. Still, your sifter will come in quite handy at times.

Some recipes call for sifting, even if the flour is pre-sifted. For those, measure your flour, then sift. Sifting will add air and change the measurement. But by adding air, it creates ultra light cakes, biscuits, and other baked goods.

Another time to sift is when you add cocoa powder to other dry ingredients. Sifting helps to create a well-blended mixture.

 

82) Need cake flour?

Some recipes call specifically for cake flour. However, unless you choose to keep it on hand, it’s easy to substitute. For each cup of cake flour, carefully measure 1 cup of flour (all-purpose or whatever type you are using). Put 2 tablespoons from your cup back into the bag. Now add 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Sift these together. And that is how we can save pantry space by keeping fewer types of flour!

 

83) Buttermilk substitute

When your recipe calls for buttermilk, you can make your own substitute. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a one cup measuring cup. Add whole milk to make a total of one cup liquid. In about 10 minutes, your milk should curdle into a nice buttermilk replacement.

 

84) Milk in the pantry.

Whether you use dairy milk or plant-based, you may occasionally run out. If that happens while you are baking, what do you do?

You reach for your milk in the pantry! In my mother’s day, she always had a box of dry milk powder. That big box could become drinking milk in minutes for times when food might be scarce. I remember using it in recipes, too.

In today’s kitchens, that dry milk option is still available. You will find other options, too, such as dry buttermilk, soy milk, and even potato milk.

And then there are the cans. You may have used evaporated milk in some of your baking. And indeed, a can or two of evaporated milk is a good thing to keep in the pantry. If needed, you can substitute it for heavy cream in a baked recipe.

85) Attitude 

similar to mood in #9, but well worth repeating!

A calm attitude, gentle hands, careful attention to detail, and patience make up for a lot in baking. In fact, as we’ve mentioned, professional chefs avoid the kitchen if at all possible when they know they cannot maintain a good attitude.

Yes, our list is quite long and we’ll probably think of others to add, too! Maybe you have a few to contribute? We’d like to hear your best baking tips! Please leave a comment below.

Whew… Yes, this is a lot of information to digest. In fact, you may not need it  at this very moment. We suggest you bookmark (or pin) this post, so you can refer back the next time you fire up your oven.

Happy Baking!

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