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. Hey Sally, these are great tips. One thing I would like to understand better is sifting flour. I never understand if you sift before or after you measure flour or why sometimes you have to sift all ingredients.

    1. Kim, if a recipe calls for “1 cup sifted flour” that means to sift before measuring. If a recipe calls for “1 cup flour, sifted” that means to measure then sift. Does this help?

  2. Love the tip about storing cookies! I had no idea and will definitely do that from now on! Swear by my oven thermometer but realized the oven needs to be on for at least 20 minutes to get an accurate reading.

  3. I found your website a couple of months ago, while looking for “the best” Chocolate Chip Cookies. I LOVE your recipes! I love how you give ingredient amounts in weight. I’ve found using my kitchen scale makes measuring so much quicker and accurate. Everything I have baked from your site has turned out fabulous! I think that’s in big part to accurate measuring. I’ve also started being exact about the temps of my ingredients. I’m so happy I found your site! Keep up the delicious work!

    Kim

  4. The emphasis on the ‘whys’ in several of the comments reminded me of this story. I used to think it was beneficial (and hopefully, it was) to explain to our kids why they needed to do something or stop doing something. I’d say, “the reason….” etc. So one day our small son needed some redirection, and when I started in on it he said ” but Mom, the WEEson…” Knowing why is useful in so many of life’s departments! Anyway, thanks so much for the first chapter in this new series. I’ve certainly learned a LOT since discovering your blog, and look forward to learning much more! 🙂

  5. Great post, Sally! Thank you! #3, I’m definitely guilty of thinking I knew a regularly baked recipe, only to realize that I had forgotten an element of it that I didn’t have after I had already started it! Also, great tip about the cookies!!

  6. 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! 😉

  7. 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!

  8. I just wanted to let you know that for a little bit now, your site runs really slow on my pc. Slows down my whole computer. Some woman is talking about how to put make up on. Etc….Not sure if this happens to others or not. It never use to do it. I’ve been following you for about 2 1/2 yrs now…
    Just letting you know….

  9. I’m actually so glad that you always include gram measurements in your recipes! 🙂 In Germany, you won’t find anything like a “cup” in cookbooks and I would have no idea which cup of mine could possibly match a “cup” in the recipe. I always find it so irritating when I read American recipes that work with such measurements 😀

  10. Thank you. I like number 10, which I didn’t know helps with keeping cookies as well as brown sugar moist. Many thanks

  11. 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

  12. 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! 🙂

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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

  17. Great article, thanks!

    Just on the temperature thing, what are your thoughts on freezing dough? I’m just thinking about parties and what it when you have a million things to bake, it’s easier to make up the dough and freeze it a few weeks beforehand. Would rolling it into a log or into sheets, freezing, then leaving on the bench to ‘defrost’ before cooking ruin them at all?

    1. Dani, are you referring to cookie dough? I always freeze cookie dough. The easiest way to freeze cookie dough is to prepare the cookie dough according to the recipe directions. If the recipe asks to chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator – do it – then roll into balls and freeze them. Bake them for an extra minute in the oven when you are ready. No need to thaw.

  18. Now I understand why we need to chill the cookie dough before baking! In all the recipes I read saying to do so , no one has explained why. Thank you for that info. 🙂

    When I was reading through the different types of butter temperature (softened, chilled, and melted and cooled), I was silently laughing at myself because I constantly made that mistake when I was new at baking! I always used chilled butter even when the recipe called for softened butter because I didn’t know that it yields different results! LOL. But I’m gladly over that phase now. =))

  19. I love this post Sally. Baking is such a science that is still largely misunderstood by so many. I can’t wait to read your later posts on this subject!

  20. Sally,

    This is a great post! A good friend of mine has just recently gotten into baking (I have been loving it for years) and I am pining this and sending it to her. It is great for veterans and newbies alike!

    We recently have purchased a new stove with a convection oven. We have used the convection for numerous things, but I have not yet for baking. I saw your tip in the post about using the convection oven and those are generally the steps that I have taken. However, I am curious to know if you use a convection oven frequently. Are there any things that you will not use it for and those that you will? Just curious to hear a bit more about your experience!

    1. I almost always use a conventional oven and prefer it for things with shorter bake times such as baked donuts, mini cupcakes, and cookies. For items that require longer time in the oven, I could go either way.

  21. I’ve been baking for years. But I wouldn’t consider myself particularly advanced. Just in this one post I’ve learned some things. Thanks! In particular the temperature of the butter thing is something I am lazy about. I do what they ask but often cheat with the microwave trick you mentioned. :/ I think I’m going to get an oven thermometer too.

  22. Thank you! Love this so much! I had an oven thermometer, but it was taken w/ the old oven when it was replaced. You just convinced me to go get a new one. Also, I bake quite a bit but have never invested in a kitchen scale. Do you have a favorite? If I’m going to buy one, I want one you would recommend. Can’t wait for the rest of this series!

  23. OBSESSED with the sprinkle photos!!!!! And that blue surface. Eeee!!!!! And love this series, so useful and interesting. So glad you started it! I always feel like I have ideas for things like this, or series in general, and it always takes so long to put that first post out there (i have no idea why!).

    1. Oh its not just me! I actually sent a screen shot to a photographer friend (I’m also a photographer, but of people not of ‘things’) saying I’d found the most amazing picture ever lol.

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