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With a video tutorial and in-depth descriptions, learn about my top 10 baking tips and why each are crucial to the success of your next baking adventure.

sally frosting a cake

With every baking recipe I publish, my goal is to help you become a better and more confident baker. Baking from scratch doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult. Let’s reverse that connotation and put the FUN back into our kitchens. Dirty mixing bowls and all!

I’ve Made the Mistakes: As a cookbook author, home baker, and food blogger, I’ve made THOUSANDS of mistakes in the kitchen and here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

Top 10 Baking Tips

Let’s dive into the baking tips a little further.

1. Always Have the Correct Butter Consistency

Butter is the starting point for an immense amount of baked goods, so it’s important to have it prepped as the recipe suggests. The temperature of butter can dramatically affect the texture of baked goods. There are three different consistencies of butter that baking recipes typically call for: softened, chilled (or frozen like in scones), and melted.

  1. Most recipes calling for butter call for room temperature/softened butter. Room temperature butter is actually cool to touch, not warm. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, leave butter out on the counter for around 1 hour prior to beginning your recipe. I prefer to use room temperature butter in favorites like peanut butter cookies and snickerdoodles.
  2. Chilled butter is butter that has been well chilled in the refrigerator or freezer so that it does not melt during mixing. This helps create flaky pockets in recipes like pie crust, scones, and biscuits.
  3. Unless otherwise noted, melted butter should be liquified and lukewarm. If melted butter is too hot, it can cook the eggs in your batter. I prefer to use melted butter in homemade brownies and my chewy chocolate chip cookies.

Short on time? Here’s my trick to soften butter quickly!

Further Reading: Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means

a stick of softened butter

2. Room Temperature is KEY

Speaking of temperature, if a recipe calls for room temperature eggs or any dairy ingredients such as milk or yogurt, make sure you follow suit. Recipes don’t just do that for fun– room temperature ingredients emulsify much easier into batter, which creates a uniform texture throughout your baked good. Think of cold, hard butter. It’s impossible to cream cold butter into a soft consistency necessary for some recipes. Same goes for eggs– they add much more volume to the batter when they’re at room temperature.

So yes, temperature is imperative. There’s legitimate science involved!

3. Read the Recipe Before Beginning

I feel silly typing this, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a complete recipe disaster because I didn’t realize a certain step was coming up. Reading ahead will help you know the how, why, where, and when of what you are about to do. It will take you 1-5 minutes and could save you from wasting your ingredients (and money!) on a failed recipe.

4. Always Have Ingredients Prepped

Measure your ingredients before starting a recipe. Read through the ingredients, then get them prepared on your counter. There’s very little room for error when you begin recipes this way; you’re not scrambling and rushing during the recipe process.

And avoid making ingredient substitutions. Remember, baking is chemistry. Make the recipe as written first then if you feel confident, make substitutions as you see fit.

ingredients measured in measuring cups

5. Learn How to Measure

This is actually one of the most important baking tips on this page. As you know, baking is science. Excellent baking requires precise ratios, proven techniques, and well-tested recipes. Unlike cooking, you can’t just bake something by throwing some ingredients together, mess it up, then eat it anyway. (Well, most of the time you can’t!)

One of the most crucial baking tips is measuring ingredients properly.

  • Problems are common if measurements are incorrect. Having a firm grasp of measuring techniques is essential.
  • Measure dry ingredients in measuring cups or spoons because these are specially designed for dry ingredients. Spoon and level (aka “spoon and sweep”) your dry ingredients. This means that you should use a spoon to fill the cup and level it off. This is especially important with flour. Scooping flour (or any dry ingredient) packs that ingredient down and you could be left with up to 150% more than what’s actually needed. A recipe calling for 1 cup of flour and baked with 2 or more cups instead will surely result in a fail. And a rather dry baked good!
  • And for liquid ingredients, use clear liquid measuring cups.

Further Reading: How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients

6. Weigh Your Ingredients

A small kitchen scale is priceless! It is, by far, the most used tool in my kitchen. A gram or ounce is always a gram or an ounce, but a cup isn’t always a cup. This is why I offer gram measurements with my recipes. Again, precision is everything. A kitchen scale is included in my Kitchen Tools Every Baker Needs list, Best Cake Baking Tools list, as well as the Gifts for Bakers page. It’s undoubtedly handy!

measuring flour on the kitchen scale

7. Get an Oven Thermometer

I use my ovens so much that the temperatures are sometimes off. Yes, the actual oven temperature can be much higher or lower than what the controller says. I’ve worked with 6 different sets of ovens in the past 10 years (all different brands) and after a period of time, each have been slightly off.

No ovens are safe from this!

Use an oven thermometer. Place it in the center of your oven. Some hang from the racks or can be placed directly on the bottom of the oven. While inexpensive, they’re irreplaceable in a baker’s kitchen. Place it in your oven so you always know the actual temperature.

  • Unless you have a brand new or regularly calibrated oven, your oven’s temperature is likely inaccurate. When you set your oven to 350°F, it might not really be 350°F inside. It could only be off by a little – 10 degrees – or more – 100 degrees! Do you know what that will do to your cookies, cinnamon rolls, and cakes? While this might not seem like a big deal to you, it is a LOADED problem for baked goods.
  • An inaccurate oven can ruin your baked goods, the hours spent on the recipe, the money spent on ingredients, and leave you hungry for dessert.
  • If you use a convection oven, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F. Best to reduce the baking time as well. Your eyes are the best tools for determining when a baked good is done.

I just saved a cake from a baking fail last week using my oven thermometer!

oven thermometer on counter

8. Keep Your Oven Door Closed

You now know how the oven’s temperature can ruin a recipe. But what can completely throw off the oven temperature is constantly opening and closing the oven door to peek inside. I know you’re excited about what’s baking! It’s so tempting to keep the oven ajar to see your cake rising, cookies baking, and cupcakes puffing up. But doing so can let cool air in, which interrupts the baked good from cooking and/or rising properly.

  • Rely on the light feature in your oven if it has one.
  • If you need to test your cakes for doneness with a toothpick, do so quickly. Remove it from the oven, close the oven immediately, test for doneness, then put it back in as quickly as you can if more oven time is required.

9. Chill Your Cookie Dough

Chilling cookie dough in the refrigerator firms it up, decreasing the possibility of over-spreading. Chilling cookie dough not only ensures a thicker, more solid cookie but an enhanced flavor as well. Not only this, cold cookie dough is much easier to handle and shape. In chewy chocolate chip cookies, for example, it helps develops a heightened buttery, caramel-y flavor. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Sometimes after refrigeration, cookie dough can be too hard to roll/handle.

  • If a recipe calls for chilling the cookie dough, don’t skip that step.
  • If a recipe yields super sticky cookie dough, chill it before rolling and baking.

This tip is so important that I wrote a separate post about it!

Further Reading: How to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

Don’t Have Time? Here are my No Chill Cookie Recipes, including favorites like snickerdoodles, giant chocolate chip cookies, and shortbread cookies.

10. Here is my Cookie Trick

Last baking tip and it’s all about cookies. To keep leftover cookies extra soft, store them with a piece of bread. Have you heard of this before? If storing cookies in a container or cookie jar, stick a regular piece of bread in there as well. The cookies will absorb all of the bread’s moisture, leaving the bread hard and the cookies extra soft. And they’ll stay soft FOR DAYS!

Pictured Below: Salted Caramel Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies

When it comes to baking, it pays off to be a perfectionist. Hopefully these baking tips will help bring you the recipe success and kitchen confidence you crave.

More Baking Tips

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. These are great tips! I never would of thought of some of these, it will definitely make life in the kitchen much easier and cleaner!

  2. Hi Sally and Team;
    I have been using your recipes for just over 2.5 years and they are fantastic! I have a question about eggs. The ones I get directly from a farm are fantastic and HUGE! I see you give gram weights for most things that could vary except eggs. Can you give some guidance on how much a whole egg, yolks, and whites should weigh out? I think I have over done eggs a couple of times.

    1. Hi Lisa! What a great question. Egg weights can vary but usually large eggs in the shell are about 57g, and 50g out of the shell. A yolk weighs about 18g and a white 30g.

  3. As a newbie home baker, would you recommend 8×3 pans instead of other 8″ pans?

  4. More of a question than a comment. My old recipe for a Christmas style fruit cake says line a cake pan with “4 layers of heavy waxed paper or 3 layers of brown paper, greasing between each layer and again on the top”. I am using non-stick springform pans – do I need to line the pan with paper?

    1. Hello. I think the many layers of paper are to protect the outside of the cake during what is usually a long cooking time for these larger cakes. I use a buttered tin, lined with one layer of nonstick paper, with a thick layer of newspaper, or brown parcel paper, tied round the outside of the tin with string. Fold the paper over 4-5 times to get a nice thick piece. Works a treat, and the slight smell of baked paper adds nicely to the lovely seasonal baking aroma! Hope this is helpful.

  5. I made the Snicker Doodle recipe. My family loved them. They want them to be a regular bake! They’re easy and quick to make. Everything went according to the recipe. Thank you. I am going to try more of your cookies. I am planning to bake cookies for Christmas gifts. Love it

  6. does it make a difference in the finished cake using an 8 inch X 3 inch pan as a posed to a 2 inch?

    1. Hi Debbie, As long as you are still using the same amount of batter per pan, the height of the pan won’t make a difference.

    2. Is there a general rule of thumb when baking cookies at high altitude. I live near Denver, CO am at about a mile above sea level,

  7. I have a question can you help? My cakes always come out good, rises excellent but after few minutes it sinks, always, what could be the reason? Can you help.
    Thanks a lot In advance.

    1. Hi Nabat, A cake that sinks in the middle as it cools is often under-baked. A minute or two longer in the oven should help with the sinking and make sure the cake is fully baked. If you notice the edges of the the cake baking before the center, you can loosely cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent the edges from over browning.

  8. I have used so many Of your recipes already! You give the best directions and tips ever!
    Looking forward to receiving emails.

  9. I just signed up for your newsletter, but have been using your recipes for a while – muffins especially as we run an Airbnb, and I like to have home-baked muffins waiting for our guests.. Your recipes are spectacular! I love that you cover all the details – no guesswork and all the information so they are going to turn out just as expected. I really like the your tip, to fill the muffin cups all the way to the top, bake for 5 minutes at 425, then reduce the heat for the rest of the time. I always wondered how a bakery muffin would have a nice high round top, and ones made at home didn’t. I always make my muffins that way now.
    I haven’t quite mastered how to adjust baked goods for altitude – we now live at 6,600 ft altitude, but I’m getting better…more flour, less powder and soda, more liquid, less sugar…something like that! Thanks again for your expertise!

    1. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes, Katie!

  10. I need some guidance on how to best bake a 3 layer cake in a single oven. Is it best to bake all 3 layers on the same rack and rotate them around, put on separate racks, or bake on layer at a time. I love your Coconut layer cake and bake it often. I have been baking all 3 layers at one time on one rack and rotate throughout the baking process, but not sure that’s the best approach. Unfortunately I don’t have a double oven. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Mercedes! We recommend baking all three layers on one rack and rotating once during baking. That’s what we usually do!

  11. Hi! I was just curious with the bit on the fourth rule that reads “And avoid making ingredient substitutions. Remember, baking is chemistry.” I almost always have to substitute when baking due to multiple family members having severe casein (a milk protein) allergy, this means that butter is replaced with coconut oil or vegan shortening, milk is replaced with soymilk, so on so forth, is there much way to reduce the amount of changing the recipe without making it dangerous to eat?

    1. Hi Archer! We find it is best to look for recipes that are written for the ingredients you need to use. So instead of trying to adapt one of our recipes, it may be best to search for dairy free recipes to use instead (or other dietary requirements). That way, you’re making the recipe as intended. Hope this helps!

  12. Wow! I always wondered why sometimes my baked goods came out great and other times they flopped! Now I know a lot of the reasons! Thank you so much. The tips are fabulous! I’m looking forward to using them.

    1. Hi Laurie! Not always — only if it is written in the recipe’s ingredients as “flour, sifted” or “sifted flour.” We have more information on the difference between the two and how to measure them in this post on how to properly measure baking ingredients.

    1. Hi Roseann, quick breads usually fall in the middle if they aren’t completely baked through – an easy fix for next time! We always recommend using the toothpick test to check for doneness.

  13. Hi Sally,
    I am 68 years old and have been baking since my early 20s. Since I found your website I have been on a baking binge! I have some baking skills but some of your tips have transformed my success! Here are my favorites: Room temperature butter that is not too soft. I now weigh flour and some other ingredients. When I open a can of baking powder or baking soda I write my own expiration date of no more than 3 months. It is not worth having a disappointment when your tips can save the day! Lately I have been using “cake release” which I mix up and keep in the fridge. Thanks for your diligence and perfectionism. You are my go to baking site!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan! We’re so happy to hear that these tips are positive impacting your baking. Thank you for making and trusting our recipes!

      1. Hi Trina, I truly adore Sally’s recipes and tips. I’ve seen a lot on Italian recipes so I was wondering if Sally has any recipes for Cannoli shells and filling. Guy

      2. Hi Guy, we don’t have a tried and true recipe for Cannoli shells and filling at this time but let us know if you find one you love!

  14. Hi Sally, When I make Chocolate chip cookies, I am asked to put extra ingredients like cranraisins, different flavor chips, etc. how much extra is too much?

    1. Hi Robbin! We recommend reducing the chocolate chips by however much additional ingredients you stir in (so, if you add 1/2 cup craisins, reduce the chocolate chips by 1/2 cup).

  15. Hello Sally
    Sour cream is something we don’t find easily in France . Is it a DIY thing or what else can I use instead.
    Thank you

  16. Hello, Sally,
    Am I supposed to blind bake a pie crust for a cherry pie? If so, how to I add the uncooked lattice after filling the partially baked crust with cherry filling? Thanks! Patti

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