Top 10 Baking Tips

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 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.
  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 brownies and my chewy chocolate chip cookies.

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

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 measuring cup with flour on a 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 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. 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: 10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Your Cookies from Spreading

Don’t Have Time? Here are my No Chill Cookie Recipes


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.

167 Comments

  1. The oven thermometer is key. A couple of years back, my cookies (dough chilled and all) kept going flat. I finally decided to stick in a thermometer and the temp was 100 degrees off! Broken oven. I haven’t taken the thermometer out since!
    My favorite hack lately is to cover the mixer with a clean towel when adding dry ingredients (like flour) to avoid that cloud of dust rising out of the mixer onto the counter. It’s so much better!

  2. I had a kitchen scale until a few months (but it was years (maybe even decades) old) so I can’t really blame it for breaking on me. I definitely need to get a knew one soon!
    And I need to get more disciplined with my butter! I usually have it frozen when it needs to be but my patience is lacking for softened butter. Now that I know it’ll make such a big difference in my cookies, I think it’ll be easier to be patient:)

  3. Master Chefette says:

    Such helpful tips! Thanks for posting Sally! I especially loved tip number 10.

  4. I am so excited about this series Sally!! This is the best idea. One of my favourite parts of your recipes is all of the baking science ! Can’t wait for more awesome posts like this one <3

  5. I am so excited- totally looking forward to future baking basics posts!! I love your “nerdy” baking science alerts in the middle of recipe posts because they are just so entertaining to read 🙂 Thank you so much Sally!

  6. Thanks for so many helpful tips Sally!

  7. I’m so looking forward to this series Sally!! Your approach to sharing your knowledge and passion for baking/cooking by not only giving the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ is what gave me confidence to tackle baking. I know I’ll feel the same about candy making. When you tell someone ‘how’ to do something they may or may not do it that way, see the value, or remember. When you tell them them ‘why’ they can follow the importance and are far more likely to remember it the next time. For someone like me the building of knowledge builds confidence and that makes trying new and more complicated things far more approachable. You have an amazing way of doing this through your blog Sally and I know there are a lot of us who really appreciate your extra time and effort!!

  8. Thank you for these helpful tips, Sally!
    Just a few days ago, I was thinking about how I would love to get to know your baking process – what equipment du you use, how do you arrange ingredients to have them at hand etc. Maybe you could include such a post to this series? Anyway, I am looking forward to more parts of it!

  9. Thank-you so much for the tips! I knew a few of these but the oven thermometer was something I hadn’t thought of even though I need one as my oven temperatures tend to be cooler and takes longer to bake things then the recipes say. The storing bread with cookies was something I never heard of :D. Thanks for that one, I’ll remember it next time I bake cookies ^_^.

  10. I swear by the oven thermometer! After we moved into our home 3 years ago, I was having the worst luck and burning things in my oven and couldn’t understand why. I got an oven thermometer and discovered my oven was running a full 100 degrees hotter than the dial was set at! Definitely a must have for the kitchen!!

  11. I had heard of using a slice of bread to keep brown sugar moist but not for cookies. In Arizona, brown sugar seems to dry out , once opened, within a few weeks and it is then hard as concrete.

    Thank you for the great tips and I look forward to the rest of the Baking Series!!

  12. Thank you so much,Sally!
    These tips are so useful to me,although I know almost all of them,but hey,I still learn something new! And to me,I love learning new things and gaining knowledge when it comes to baking! (=
    So,thanks anyway,Sally! I’m waiting for the next class of yours,take your time,lol XD

  13. Thanks so much for sharing these tips, Sally! Super useful and helpful!

  14. Love your tips – I have really learned a lot from you over the past year and a half since I started following your blog!! BTW – the raspberry streusel bars were a HUGE hit this weekend with my in-laws and hubby. They simply disappeared!! haha! Glad you enjoyed your vacation. We are headed to Jamaica this summer – can’t wait!!

  15. This is a great idea. I’m one of those who need to be told the “why” of things. If I know why a recipe says to “soften butter to room temp”, I am more apt to do it because I know the science behind it. I’m looking forward to learning the basics of baking and I’ll be able to teach these basics to my grandchildren. Thank you for taking the time to do this. C~

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I love your lessons in baking. If I do have a fail and can understand why??? It’s a huge victory! Thanks again for teaching this novice baker how to do it right!

  17. Lynn Bradshaw says:

    Thank you Sally for starting this series. Although being a pastry chef I already knew most of these tips I’m sure a lot of people didnt. I’m looking forward to your next topic, I’m sure I will learn a lot from this series. How did you come to know all of everything you know?? Did you go to school? Family members teach you?? Or you just read books on your own???

  18. I discovered your blog this morning while I was looking for muffin recipients on Pinterest. (Your Cranberry Orange Muffin recipe officially lured me in.) Since finding that recipe I’ve printed out two other muffin recipes that I will be making this week, and followed your blog on BlogLovin. I was already loving your blog but now you’ve posted all these tips?! I’m officially smitten with it now! Thanks for helping all the non-bakers out there fool their family, friends, and co-workers into thinking we know our way around a kitchen! 😉

  19. I am super excited for this series! I’ve always been interested in the science behind food and the reasons for particular ingredients and techniques – I’ve been reading the Joy of Cooking for pleasure since I was a kid! As I start to develop my own recipes, the more I learn, the more successful I’ll be.

    I’ve heard most of these tips before but I admit that I don’t always follow them! I open the oven door way too often and I really need to get an oven thermometer. I have managed to make proper measuring a habit and I’m starting to weigh ingredients more frequently.

    Definitely looking forward to your future posts!

  20. Thanks to you Sally I’m trying soo many more baking recipes. My next venture will be an upside down cake. Love the tips and tricks which are very crucial in baking. Keep them coming! Love your blog

  21. Hi Sally! I’ve been a regular follower of your blog for the past few years and it’s amazing watching it grow so much. I thought it was perfect when I first started following so it’s been incredible watching you improve your posts/pictures even more. I also love reading your posts, I think you’re a great writer. I have a short attention span so I usually don’t read long text unless it’s for school, so it’s safe to say your blog is the only one where I consistently read all of the text.

    Your site is the first place I look when I’m in the mood to bake something. I always get compliments on whatever I bake and will send the link to your site to anyone who’s interested in baking. You’ve taught me sooo much about baking the past couple years, and it’s a bonus that we are both obsessed with sprinkles! I’ve tried about half of your recipes-the most recent being the chocolate covered pretzels brownies and the 45 calorie chocolate chip muffins last week.

    Also, thanks for taking the time to respond to a lot of your comments, you’re like a celebrity hero to me so I get excited every time you respond! 🙂

  22. Fun and informative article, Sally! Thanks

  23. Great post Sally! I was guilty of the flour error you mention for years and I’m better about my measuring now. I do, however, see many TV chefs scooping flour when they bake. I find myself saying, “no, no, no.” My new microwave has a “soften butter” button that I find is great because I always forget to put out the butter.

  24. Lisa @ Wine & Glue says:

    Admittedly, I’m horrible at reading blog posts, but whenever I read one of yours I feel like I learn something new. Thank you, Sally. This is SUCH a great idea for a series. I feel like a genius because I knew more than half of these 🙂 I can’t wait to see the next post in this series!

  25. One of the best things to happen on this site is the addition of grams as a measurement. Being from the UK and ignorant on ‘cups’ as a measurement I assumed 1 cup of everything (dry or wet) was the same. Clearly not as my baking became a disaster (albeit tasty disasters)! The addition of grams is great because it’s much easier for me to follow a receipe rather than having to convert every cup measurement into a gram before I start. Thank you for doing that!

  26. Yayyyyyyyy I love this!!!!!

  27. I am so pumped about this series. Have a convection feature on my oven that I didn’t know how to use . Can’t wait to try it now

  28. Your blog is very interisting and these tips very useful!!
    Thank you

  29. Great baking tips! Before I had a scale, I never knew how much I was missing out on. Love the sprinkles 🙂

  30. I’m not a natural baker, so these tips are soooo helpful!

    Laura x

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