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. Sally, I love this new series! I’ve never heard of the ‘store bread with cookies’ trick before but it’s definitely one I’ll be using in the future 🙂

  2. I just recently discovered your site via search engine and I gotta say….your recipes are fantastic! Not just your recipes, but the helpful advice you offer leave me thinking, ‘Oh yeahhh I didn’t think of that’. I love baking and you just made my baking experience a whole lot brighter! Thanks Sally! .

  3. These are so helpful, Sally! I appreciate you taking the time to share tips- I often get so excited to bake that I don’t take the time to do little things, such as wait for butter to warm to room temp, etc. I now understand that it does make a big difference!

  4. Thank you very much for your 10 tips looking forward for the next 10 …
    I just recently started following your blog ,and I think its brilliant!
    Just bought your 1st book can’t wait for it to arrive already.

  5. Sally, I can’t thank you enough for this series, as a new baker I have a lot to learn! Very excited to try your recipes and this series will be a godsend. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into all your postings 🙂

  6. Thanks for all the tips, I do them all except for the last one, only because there are never any cookies left over. Great job on all your projects.

  7. Bring it on, Darlin’. I’m ready to learn. Will be paying attention and taking notes. I love, love, love baking!! Love that last picture of the cookies. This is going to be soooooooo cool!! Totally addicted to your blog! Best one out there.

  8. Sally that’s the thing I LOVE the most about your recipes- the detail on how to get it just right! Well that and the fact that everything tastes so darn good. I tell everyone that you are the gold standard for cooking making. Bought a food scale, now use only Eggland’s Best eggs and other quality ingredients, and of course bought your book when it first came out. People always rave about my cookies and I always give you credit. Thanks for the tips!! You’re the best and my fav!!

  9. Sally, you may be the Julia to my Julie…
    Wonderful recipes, photos, and anecdotes – thankyouthankyouthankyou!

    Now, for my question: In making cookies, different types of dough behave differently and require different placement methods on the cookie sheet – how do I know when it would be best to use a scoop, roll into balls, flatten, roll out and cut, etc?

    Thanks again and keep up the amazing work!

    1. Jam, it really just depends on the recipe. I usually scoop or roll drop cookie recipes. I usually flatten cookie dough balls that don’t spread much in the oven on their own (that’s known by baking a couple “test” cookies to determine if they spread). I only roll and cut when using cookie cutter specific cookie recipes. Usually those doughs are chilled. That begin said, you could probably roll and cut a drop cookie recipe provided the dough is sturdy and firm.

  10. Thank you for your great recipes,.
    Wondering if oven has to be set,at the posted temperature, before you put sponge cake in the oven, if nothing is mentioned,
    Or does it have to rise as temp. In oven reach the posted temp.
    Thank you
    Jane

  11. I stumbled upon your page when I was searching for a cupcake frosting recipe earlier this year. Your classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting popped up and reading through, I felt like you were actually there taking me through the recipe. Love your tips! I made your cupcakes and then your super moist carrot cake. Want to give your salted caramel apple pie a go. Sally, I am addicted now.

  12. These are some great tips! I’d never heard of the bread tip before but I’ll definitely use that, what a wonderful post! I definitely need to get an oven thermometer for sure!

  13. Hi Sally! I don’t have the measuring cups like the pictures above, but I do have regular cups that fit 250ml water. Can I use that for measuring (flour, milk, etc)? Thank you!

    1. You can use that to measure cups of liquid. For dry ingredients, use the gram options in recipes and weigh your ingredients.

  14. A very informative post! Thank you so much Sally!!
    I have one doubt about the oven settings. In my oven, I have heating elements on top and at the bottom. Normally when a recipe calls for ‘ bake at so and so temp’ should I heat the bottom element alone or both the elements?

  15. I love your blog. Your photos are unbelievable. Any tips on getting a softer cookie? My family seems to prefer dense, soft cookies…more flour? Thank you for your help!!!

  16. I have to thank you for the recommendation for Platinum Red Star Yeast. I used it to make your pizza dough then started using it to make bread. I had been trying to make bread using the King Arthur sandwich bread recipe with mixed results. Sometimes it didn’t rise well, sometimes it collapsed if it had risen too high in the pan before baking (the yeast was exhausted-my fault for not watching carefully). Once I started using the Platinum yeast I’ve had good bread every time. Now the dough rises so fast, I can make bread in half the time, it has great oven spring and is very forgiving of excessive rising. I’ve even cut back the amount of yeast I use in the recipe. Anyway, last night I decided to make bread and used 25% whole wheat flour. (I’ve really had problems with texture in WW bread). The first rise was beautiful. I folded the dough and put it in the pan for the second rise and FELL ASLEEP WATCHING TV. Well when I awoke hours later, the dough had risen over the sides of the pan like a lava flow and looked like an alien. I was about to throw it out but I just punched it down right in the pan and let it rise again (and this is at room temp beneath an under cabinet kitchen light, not in a warm oven). It rose an inch over the top of the pan after about 45 minutes and int he oven it went. It had not the greatest oven spring, but this morning for breakfast is delicious with excellent texture. This yeast is unbeatable. It’s all I ever use now.
    Thanks for all your excellent baking advice.
    Donna

  17. Fantastic advice Sally! I’m looking forward to this new baking series of yours! 🙂 Cookie dough chilling is one of the best tips – completely changes the outcome of cookies! I now always chill my cookies!

    Just wanted to say how much I love your photos.. I swoon over them in every post! Especially when I see the big jars of sprinkles!! Oh how I wish I had me one of those!

    Looking forward to reading the next in your baking series! 🙂

  18. Love your recipes Sally!! I was reading your tip about getting an oven thermometer for the right temperature. I agree as I often find that my cake cooks faster or slower than the recipe posted.

    But how do we ensure that oven temperatures posted on recipes/ books are measured as well by the author? They could have written as per their oven.

  19. Hi Sally! I have used some of your recipes for a while now and I have to say they have become my go to recipes. I cannot wait to read more in this series. I have been baking for a few years now but it is always nice to refresh my memories on the basics. I hope you enjoy your birthday and I cannot wait to try making that cheesecake. Which I am nervous about because I have never made one all on my own before. Wish me luck!

    Megan

    1. Also one other question when making cut out cookies how do you get them to hold their shape during transfer? Mine always seem to tear or fall apart and as a perfectionist I want them to be just right. Thanks for any advice you have.

      1. Hi Megan! Thank you for the kind comment. You will be FINE baking cheesecake. I promise! It is totally doable. Just read through the instructions before you begin and have everything ready to go. For cut-out cookies, I just make sure that my dough is solid and firm. Do you use my cookie dough for your cookies? I’ve never had issues with it. Just be very gentle with transferring to the baking sheet. Here is my recipe: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/05/27/soft-cut-out-sugar-cookies/

  20. Hi, I’m from Venezuela and I just start blogging on my own, I have found so much inspiration in your blog, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. 

  21. I LOVE YOUR SITE! I found you a few months ago after looking for a Bete way of making chocolate chip cookies,  and I have to say by far your recipes and site have ben the best. Please the post coming!

  22. Hey,
    Came across your site on a search engine and it’s really fantastic. My only ask is can you please please please put imperial measurements on your recipes? This would really come in handy for UK bakers!
    I was looking at your caramel rolo cookies and it says ‘a stick of butter’ but we normally use Stork butter here that comes in a 250g block and it seems way too much?
    Thank you,
    Vicki x

  23. YOU ARE THE BOMB.COM!!!!! I’ve baked every week since discovering your website!!! I like to bake for other people and the feedback has had everyone raving like I’m the best baker haha. Thanks for sharing your recipes and tips 🙂 Look forward to more recipes to come!

  24. hey Sally!
    I know you have a really busy schedule 😉 but if you get the urge to do another one of these “Tips” posts I would love one that includes baking soda and baking powder… the differences and what each one is actually supposed to be used for and what they do!… I find myself guessing between the two because I don’t actually fully understand those even after looking things up online … 
    thanks! 😉 

  25. Hello Sally! I really appreciate the tips. I used the tip of placing a piece of bread in the cookie container when I was taking cookies into my classroom. It worked perfectly! It kept them moist and soft. Some people say to put apple slices in with the cookies. Thanks for the tips, Sally. Have a great day!

  26. Sally, I’ve noticed your cupcakes recipes typically use all purpose flour. Other recipes I’ve tried in the past call for cake flour. The cake flour recipes tend to have a softer, larger crumb. Can you tell me why you prefer all purpose flour for cupcakes?? THANKS!! Love your blog.

    1. Michele, I use all-purpose flour for my online recipes because it is most convenient for readers. I tweak my recipes for the use of all-purpose, while still achieving a soft crumb. A few of my cake and cupcake recipes call for cake flour OR have notes about subbing cake flour.

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