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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290 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. Sally – Thank you for taking the time and energy to write these tips for us. I’m always fascinated by the little tips and tricks I learn from you.

  3. 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:)

  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. Storing cookies with BREAD?! That is a new one!
    I am SO guilty of opening the oven door a bazillion times, and also not having room temp ingredients. This is GREAT post Sally! Pinned!

  6. 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!

    1. For more traditional recipes, it’s tricky to cut back on sugar without sacrificing texture and taste. It requires some testing for sure. For large cakes and larger batches of cupcakes, I find it is easy to cut down on sugar. However, it’s hard to do so with cookies and more temperamental baked goods whose texture depends on the amount of sugar. I do have over a hundred healthier recipes on my blog and try to offer healthier alternatives as much as I can. https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/category/healthy-recipes/

  7. thanks so much! I’ve told my family, you are the reason I know how to bake!! Thanks so much for taking the time and teaching. They appreciate you also for
    All the treats they get because of it! 😉

  8. Happy Monday!! Hope you had a great vacation!! Love all of these tips. One tip I’ve learned from reading your blog is the importance of chilling cookie dough. I always do this now and it makes a HUGE difference. Thank you 🙂

  9. Yeah! I do all of these. My problem is more with how to keep crispy cookies crispy when in storage.

  10. I love this post! So much time and effort went into it, but it is extremely helpful to have as a resource. I honestly have never heard of the bread trick, but I can guarantee I’ll do it every time now! Thank you for putting all this effort into this post, it’s really great!

  11. I can’t wait for this back to basics series! I am curious about my convection oven. Should I use the convection feature for baking, or not?

    1. You certainly can use the convection feature, Lisa. See tip #7, last paragraph for what I do when I use a convection oven.

  12. Such helpful tips, Sally! Can’t wait for your series. Love the tip about the bread! For some reason I’ve known about that, but haven’t tried it myself. I NEED to get my hands on an oven thermometer!

  13. 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!!

  14. Sally, what an awesome idea for a post! A lot of research went into this post and I appreciate the time you put into it and for sharing!! Hope you had a great vaca!!

  15. 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!

  16. 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 ^_^.

  17. 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!!

  18. 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!!

    1. Patty, you may want to consider investing in glass canisters with hermetic seals. They really do a great job at keeping ingredients fresh! When I got serious about baking I bought a number of them in various sizes at the container store during a sale. Brown sugar stays moist, no more dried out marshmallows, etc. I don’t worry about the quality of my flour due to moisture fluxuation. We pay a lot for ingredients and we want them to stay fresh as long as possible! An added benefit as they are glass I can always see how much I have of each item making it less likely to either overbuy or find myself short.

  19. 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

  20. 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!!

  21. 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~

    1. You should pick up and read the book how baking works by Paula figoni. It is a whole book on the whys of everything you need to know about baking.

  22. 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!

  23. 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???

    1. Hey Lynn! I’ve taken a few basic cake decorating classes but have never had any formal training outside of that. Everything I know is from experience, mom, mom-in-law, grandma, advice from others, books, etc.

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