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. Love these tips! I had no idea that bread keeps cookies soft!! I’m going to have to try that out ASAP. Would you do any baking/cooking tips revolved around using lemons? I’m on a bit of a citrus kick and need some tips/facts!!

  2. Hi Sally, I am new to your website. I made your triple layer chocolate cake with the butter cream frosting. It was amazing and everyone loved it. Now I’m addicted to your website and can’t wait to bake more of your recipes. Thank you!

    1. Welcome, Janet! We have a great community of baking addicts here 🙂 That cake is a great place to start – let me know what you bake next!

  3. Hi Sally,
    Thank you so much for keeping things easy to understand! Hopefully you can come up with a suggestion for my my biggest baking problem… Almost everything I bake winds up with a sticky overly moist top. This makes frosting difficult and texture not so good! I have tried all types of fixes but none have been successful. Do you have any suggestions? I live in Michigan,so humidity is not a problem. Thank you so much !!!!

    1. How are you storing the baked goods? I find that when I store things like muffins or quick breads while still warm, the tops become sticky because of the trapped moisture. Or, if I wait until they are fully cool, I place aluminum foil directly on top THEN put into a container. This helps too.

  4. Sally, when’s a good time to start making Christmas cookies so they don’t get stale or hard?( How far ahead of time)  How do you store them? Can you just keep them in a container in a cool place or do you have to freeze them? Thank you so much. 
    Merry Christmas 
    Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy, it really depends on how many you want to make and how far in advance you can plan 🙂 I usually make at least the dough ahead of time and freeze it so all I have to do is pop things in the oven closer to the holidays. But each recipe has it’s own set of “make ahead tips” at the bottom so you can see exactly how to store it 🙂

  5. Hello Sally and Staff,

    I have frozen peeled and chopped apples. For baking, should the I thaw the apples or use them frozen?
    Thank you.
    sallysbakingaddiction is my go to for muffins and bars. Thank you for being here for an old gal.

    1. Hi Donna! Happy to help. I recommend thawing the apples before using in a recipe.

  6. Katie Coppola says:

    Excellent advice! I had a sneaking suspicion that my softened butter was too soft! I made your chocolate chip cookie recipe last week. I was very intrigued by the melted butter, egg yolk and cornstarch ingredients. They are truly fantastic!! I look forward to more recipes and tips! Thanks!

  7. Diana Meunier says:

    Super helpful tips. I have bookmarked this. I do put bread in with my cookies to store. Except I stick a piece of wax paper in between. I must have read to do that somewhere so the cookies touching the bread don’t get too mushy.

  8. Thank you for the baking tips. My mom tried to baked cookies without measuring her ingredients and the outcome is horrible. I will let my mom know about these tips that you shared. It will help her a lot

  9. I have trouble with pies. The bottom crust doesn’t get done. I leave in oven extra minutes and top is getting browned and bottom crust is still raw….help !

    1. Hi Luella! Try blind baking the pie crust prior to adding the filling. This always helps!

  10. Your tip about bread in the cookie jar reminded me of something that maybe everyone knows – you can do the same with brown sugar to keep it soft (I mean store a piece of bread with your brown sugar). Or they make small clay pieces; e.g., I have a kokopelli shaped one. You saturate it in water, let it dry out till it’s basically damp, then store it in your brown sugar container. There are a ton of them on eBay usually.

  11. Debbie Granelli says:

    2 things (off the top of my head) freak out about baking: one is rolling out pie dough to that perfect thickness and the other is making a perfectly balanced & frosted 2-layer (or more) cake! I love to bake and was introduced to Sally’s Baking by a co-worker today; I can’t wait to learn more new stuff!!

  12. Deborah J Ray says:

    Hi Sally, Oh my , I have been scooping flour for years and always wondered why each time I baked the same cupcake it was different. Thank you so much for the instructions to spoon and level. Makes perfect sense!

    1. I’m so happy you found this tip helpful, Deborah!!

  13. What is your favorite all purpose flour to use when baking cakes and cookies? ex. White Lily, King Arthur???

    1. I love King Arthur! (not sponsored, just genuinely a fan!) 🙂

  14. 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.
      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/

  15. 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!

  16. 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:-(

  17. Cheesecakes and pie crust!
    Gahhhhhh!!!

  18. Donice Gilliland says:

    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!

  19. 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).

  20. For those of us who have gas ovens, where do you suggest we place an oven thermometer for best accuracy?

    1. Elisabeth Morrissey says:

      To test my oven tempI set a rack in the center level of the oven and hang the thermometer on the center crossbar of the oven rack. Mine’s 25 degrees fast, BTW.

  21. Martha Cárdenas says:

    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!

  22. 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!

  23. My biggest baking challenge is fudge. It’s either too soft or too dry! I made a batch the other day and it turned hard and too dry quickly as I mixed the cooked ingredients w melted chocolate at the end—broke my big plastic spoon!

    1. Plastic is not the right medium for hot foods! But it sounds like you’re cooking it too long, if your candy thermometer is old it might not be reading right. I’d boil water and check my candy thermometer. The ideal fudge temp is 234. I suggest always using wood, silicone, or metal with hot foods for your safety, as plastic gives off toxins that have serious implications.

  24. Hi there Sally :>)
    We recently moved from Ohio to the Prescott, AZ area and have been told we do not set our oven temp as in Ohio due to 5000+ feet elevation. Do you know how we can do this correctly so our baked recipes work out well. Many here find it harder to acclimate to baking in such higher elevation and many times it is not successful.
    Any and all help will be much appreciated.
    Thank you. Happy holidays to all.

    1. Hi, Elish! I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

  25. Hi Sally,
    Thanks a bunch for providing the site for high-altitude baking. I will now go on to peruse the information on kingarthurflour.com site.
    Kind regards.
    Elish.

  26. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering, for the cookie freshness with bread tip, can I use homemade bread? Also, do you have any good recipes for good homemade bread? Whenever I make it, it smells good, but it tastes really bland. Hope you can help!

    1. Hi Emma, You can use homemade bread for this! This is my recipe for homemade Simple Sandwich Bread.
      You can find all of my bread recipes right here!

  27. My baking fear and struggle is strawberry cake! I feel as though it is one of the hardest recipes to perfect and really get a good strawberry cake without using a jello pack.

    1. I used to have the same difficulty and fear, Diana! Until I tested my Homemade Strawberry Cake recipe 🙂 Have you seen it? I found pureeing and reducing down fresh strawberries made a huge difference! Hope you’ll give it a try!

  28. Sally, I’m 82. Been baking Traditional Family Recipes brought over to New Orleans from
    a small island of the shores of Palermo named Ustica. I picked up your blogg when I was looking for a good Gingerbread Cookie recipe. I loved browsing through your blogg after I signed up to it with my email address. However, I am overwhelmed and would like to read through all your points, however, I’d like to know if you have a book with these items listed. I am interested in the Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and love all the ingredients you have in it. I can’t seem to pull it up. I’m not too technically astute.
    Please let me hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Joeva! I have 3 cookbooks with exclusive recipes (most of which you can’t find on my website). They are Sally’s Baking Addiction, Sally’s Candy Addiction, and Sally’s Cookie Addiction. Here is my favorite gingerbread cookies recipe. Hope this helps and thank you for following along!

  29. Lately my cakes have been dropping in the middle. What am I doing wrong?

  30. Tina Peterson says:

    Wow. A friend just recommended your website and has made 2-3 of your recipes and she says they turned out :).

    I would love to turn out a soft and tender homemade bread like my mom does. I rarely have her bread as she lives 3 hours away. She makes a great cinnamon swirl bread and mine just never tastes like hers….

    I’m hoping to learn how to make a awesome bread from you.

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