Top 10 Baking Tips

How to make Black Forest Cake cake batter

With every 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!

As a cookbook author and home baker turned food blogger, I have made THOUSANDS of mistakes in the kitchen and here’s what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s kick off my Baking Basics Series with my top 10 baking tips!

The best flaky all butter pie crust recipe is super buttery and easy to work with! Recipe and video tutorial on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

  • 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.
  • Short on time? Soften butter to room temperature quickly with this trick!

Become a better baker with these Top 10 Baking Tips from sallysbakingaddiction.com

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.

Unless otherwise noted, melted butter should be liquified and lukewarm. If melted butter is too hot, it can cook the batter and eggs. I prefer to use melted butter in brownies and chewy chocolate chip cookies.

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 rock hard butter– it’s not so easy to cream that into a soft consistency, is it? Same goes for eggs. They add much more volume to the batter at room temperature. So yes, temperature is imperative!

3. Read the Recipe Before Beginning

This sounds sort of silly to type, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a complete and total disaster in the kitchen 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 dessert.

4. Always Have Ingredients Prepped

Measure your ingredients before beginning a recipe. Read through the ingredients, get them prepared and ready on your counter, then read the recipe in full. There is very little room for error when you begin recipes this way.

5. Learn How to Measure

Baking is a science. Excellent baking requires precise ratios, proven techniques, and successful recipes that have been tested for taste. Unlike cooking, you can’t just bake something by throwing some ingredients together, mess it up and eat it anyway! One of the most crucial parts of baking 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– 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 is 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, I always a clear liquid measuring cup.

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.

Become a better baker with these Top 10 Baking Tips from sallysbakingaddiction.com

7. Get an Oven Thermometer

I was just talking to my friend about this– she tried to bake a cake without realizing how OFF her oven temperature was. The resulting cake was dry and lacking flavor because her oven temperature was much higher than what the dial read.

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 so. Or more than that – 100 degrees or even more! 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. The inexpensive remedy to these baking disasters is an oven thermometer. While cheap, they’re irreplaceable in a baker’s kitchen. Place it in your oven so you always know the actual temperature.

If you use a convection oven, always reduce the oven temperature by 25°F. Best to reduce the baking time as well– for cookies, it’s around 1 minute less. For cakes, cupcakes, bread, brownies, bars, etc (items with longer bake times), it’s usually reduced around 5 or so minutes.

Become a better baker with these Top 10 Baking Tips from sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 that oven to peek at your baking cupcakes. I mean, I get it. It’s tempting to keep the oven door ajar to see your cake rising, the cookies baking, and the cupcakes puffing up! But doing so can let cool air in, which greatly interrupts your baked good from cooking. Or worse– affects how your baked good is rising. 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, put it back in as quickly as you can if more bake time is required.

9. Chill Your Cookie Dough

  • 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.

Chilling firms up cookie dough, decreasing the possibility of spreading. Chilling cookie dough not only ensures a thicker, more solid cookie but an accentuated flavor. In soft 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.

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

Read more: 10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Your Cookies from Spreading

10. Here is my Cookie Trick

Last one! It’s about cookies. Again. To keep leftover cookies extra soft, store them with a piece of bread. Have you heard this before? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. If storing cookies in a tupperware or cookie jar, stick a regular piece of bread in there as well. The cookies will absorb all of the bread’s moisture. Bread will be rock solid and the cookies will be soft FOR DAYS. Best trick ever.

Deliciously soft salted caramel pecan chocolate chip cookies! Cookie recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Above: Salted Caramel Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

When it comes to baking, it pays off to be a perfectionist. Hopefully these 10 tips will help you along!

More Baking Tips:

See all my Baking Tips posts. Bake on, friends!

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295 Comments

  1. My baking fear Sally, is a pie crusts that isn’t raw on the bottom, yet done successfully on top. I’ve tried several different “No fail” recipes, and give up, and reach for refrigerated pie crusts.

    1. This is my full tutorial on my favorite pie crust: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/baking-basics-homemade-buttery-flaky-pie-crust/
      You can watch me bake my recipe in this longer video that will hopefully give you the confidence to try again here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/sprinkled-pie-crust/

  2. My baking fear is putting the time and money into starting this ‘hobby’, that I have admired in others for years, and not being successful. I don’t want to sell anything, just share with others (family, friends, people in our small community) and find joy in the creation of something yummy and beautiful. I worry that everything will be a disaster.

    1. Hi Stephanie, Just remember that even the most professional baker started as a novice also! This is a list of some basic equipment to get started – but you don’t need to buy it all at once. Decide what type of baked goods you wish to start with (Cookies? You just need a good cookie sheet and a silicone mat!) and slowly build your collection as you go!

  3. Hi Sally- I have a hard time with any yeast based bake:-(. Problems such as yeast not blooming (although I use a thermometer to measure liquid temp and check the yeast expiry) or the consistency of the dough too soft (not enough flour when kneading/rolling) or too tough (too much flour)! I hope you have some tips to help- I have yet to be proud of my yeast bakes:-(

  4. How do you use marshmallows when baking them in cookies. Last time I tried that the marshmallows melted and ruined the cookies horribly. I had to throw out the whole batch. I haven’t used marshmallows in cookies since, but I do want to use them. So how do I?

    1. Yes, regular marshmallows will completely disappear inside cookie dough! For my s’mores chocolate chip cookies I actually add them right at the end like here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/toasted-smore-chocolate-chip-cookies/
      and here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/smores-chocolate-chip-cookies/
      And when I want to actually bake marshmallow in side like in my s’mores cookies bars I use the marshmallow fluff sold in a jar.

  5. I simply cannot bake decent biscuits! And I am Southern so this is not ok! No matter what recipe or technique I try they come out somewhat heavy, dry, and flat. Can you help me?

    1. Hi Donice, This is my favorite recipe for traditional homemade biscuits: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/flaky-buttermilk-biscuits/
      There are lot’s of tips and tricks throughout the blog post. Please let me know if you try it!

  6. I got a new convection oven today. My first time convection but I have a choice to bake without or with. I don’t think I will use convection for cakes or something delicate but I would like to bake some cookies. have you baked cookies with convection?

    1. I have, yes. When using the convection setting, it’s best to lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F and bake cookies for a minute or 2 less (or until lightly brown around the edges).

  7. Hi Sally, I just found you by chance, I baked the vanilla cake, my husband was delighted with it, so I encouraged yesterday to bake the sandwich bread, I had never cooked with yeast, it was a challenge, but to be The first one was very good, I have several doubts:
    -To make the pineapple upside down, a) can I use the vanilla cake recipe? or do you suggest the one in the recipe ?, b) instead of pineapples and cherries, can I put plums?
    c) For Homemade cheese bread, can I use all purpose flour? since I can’t find bread flour?
    d) I live in the Gulf of Mexico, do I need to make variations in recipes, to live at sea level?
    Thank you very much for your beautiful page, you motivate me to bake a lot of things, greetings, Martha

    1. Hi Martha! I’m so happy to help– welcome to my website! (a) I recommend following the recipe for pineapple upside-down cake. (b) You can use plums, yes! Feel free to leave the peel on or peel them. (c) You can use all-purpose flour but I recommend bread flour for superior taste. (d) no changes necessary living at sea level. Enjoy!

  8. Hi Sally, I am attempting to make some of your blueberry pies for the holidays to give to my friends and family. I am baking them in 6″ pie tins so I was wondering if you have any advice as to how to adjust the cooking time on a smaller scale. I would really appreciate the help!
    Thanks for the recipe 🙂
    -Emily

    1. Hi Emily! Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact baking time off the top of my head but it will be shorter (a little over half the time) for that size pie to bake through. Hope this helps a little!

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