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. I FINALLY got a standing mixer so I’m eager to do more recipes than just holidays, my son’s 1st bday party is this weekend so I’m excited to further showing off my skills to family. I browsed upon your website while searching for cupcake ideas & I immediately got excited. Can’t wait to use your knowledge in my cooking!

  2. Pat from Canada says:

    Hi Sally
    Could you do a blog on Substitutions. While we are all self isolating or quarantining, we have time to cook, but might not be able to get eggs or cream or butter at grocery stores. It would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Pat! I just launched a new category: Egg Free Baking
      Here are my flourless recipes: Gluten Free Recipes
      You’ll also find my Homemade Cake Flour Substitution post helpful if you need cake flour for a recipe.
      Unfortunately, I don’t have an overall guide for recipe substitutions as baking is so particular and it generally depends on the specific recipe. Typically, sour cream and yogurt can replace each other in recipes and *usually* shelf-stable nondairy milks (almond milk) can replace whole milk in recipes. Hope all of this is helpful to you!

  3. Josephine Mullane says:

    Good Day: I’m sure it is me but I cannot see where to click to view the tutorials. Where do I go and what do I do? Thank you.

    1. Hi Josephine, Do you see the bold Headline “Top 10 Baking Tips”? The video is right below that text and may take a few seconds to load. It’s a faded horizontal image of me. Click on the play button in the center to play it. Make sure any ad blockers are temporarily paused on your browser.

  4. Hi Sally! I recently made slice and bake shortbread cookies and, even after chilling the dough for about an hour, the cookies spread more than anticipated when they baked! What could I have done wrong? 🙁

    1. Happy to help! It depends on the actual recipe. Make sure your butter isn’t overly softened. Chilling longer could help, too. And use this post as your guide: 10 Guaranteed Tips to Prevent Cookies Spreading

  5. I love your website Sally and your continuous reminders in all your recipes has really transformed my baking! Softened butter, room temp dairy/eggs, and especially spoon and level flours has made a huge difference. I bake with whole grain flours a lot and recipes I didn’t think were good, turned out delicious once I was following your tips. I always look forward to your next post or recipe! Now, I just have to work on making pie crust. My mother makes a fantastic pie crust and I am always asking how she does it, but I think I just need practice. Thanks again!

  6. Thanks so much for always sharing the most helpful content, Sally! I love your blog!

  7. Adriane Dudley says:

    Started looking at bread but having perused the website, i see lots of possibilities.
    I’m going to try the yeast bread recipe as described. If all goes well, I’ll add garlic, olives and rosemary.

    1. I hope you love it, Adriane! Happy bread baking 🙂

  8. Elizabeth C says:

    My biggest problem seems to be oven inconsistency. I just made something I haven’t perfected yet. For the third time! I started at 350 when I put it in, then went down to 325 on its own. So I raised it. Walked away for 10 minutes. Well, seems I can’t because it went to 380! I hope I caught it in time. But I just wish the thing would maintain the temperature and not fluctuate. I did buy 1 of the thermometers you linked to above, thank goodness! Or I wouldn’t know this is happening. I may buy a 2nd one to put in another spot in the oven. Thank you for all of this great advice!

  9. Sally,
    I love the new hair!
    What a perfect cut for you!

  10. Susan L McGuire says:

    Hi Sally, this is the first time reading your articles and found them very helpful but I do have a question. Is there a difference in the type of butter you use? Inexpensive store brand vs more expensive butter?

    1. Hi Susan, Welcome! I’m so glad you found your way here! I do not have a preferred brand of butter but I do almost always use unsalted butter. Here’s why!

  11. Anu Srinivasa says:

    What kind of paper baking cups to you recommend?I am looking for a good quality one.

  12. Kelly Rafferty says:

    Sally, How do you roll out a sheet of dough for pie or cookies that is consistently 1/4″ thick throughout. I am not sure how to get a consistent thickness throughout.

    Thank you, Kelly

    1. Just go slowly or use one of those special rolling pins– I link to it on my sugar cookies recipe page!

  13. Hi Sally,
    Our room temperature varies from 65 degrees in winter to 80 degrees in summer. Is this in the range of acceptable room temperature for butter?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Lucia! I actually wrote a post all about proper room temperature butter 🙂 I think you’ll find it helpful!

  14. Jessica Hopsicker says:

    Why does your yellow sheet cake (which is so yummy) use whole milk but your layer cakes tend to use buttermilk?

  15. Hi Sally,

    I am trying to bake a chiffon cake but it always comes out as dense cake instead of chiffon outcomes.

    Any tip please on how to fix this?

    Thank you

  16. Hi Sally! I’m planning on making one of your layer cake recipes this week. What do you think works best for greasing the pan and parchment paper? Nonstick cooking spray? Butter? Thank you!

    1. Hi Angela, I always use nonstick cooking spray and parchment paper rounds. Spray the pan, place the parchment round inside, then spray the parchment. I swear by this! See my Cake Tips if you want a visual.

  17. Hi Sally, I was wondering how do you drizzle or pour the caramel in the cookies, I tried using a medical syringe but it keeps breaking and getting stuck. what do you recommend for the chocolate turtle cookies’ recipe? thank you!

    1. Hi Lorena, While the caramel is still a bit warm you can simply use a spoon to drizzle it over the cookies. Enjoy!

  18. Hi Sally.
    I have used the slice of bread trick to keep cookies soft many, many times. Even my daughter follows this simple advice to keeping cookies soft when she bakes cookies. I can’t quite convince the husband though, that it is OK, safe, effective and doesn’t alter the taste of the cookies at all, and that’s okay, because that means more cookies for the rest of us.

  19. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for sharing the 10 essentials tips for great baking. I’m so excited because I’m a mother and a grandmother. I just adore baking so much for my family and friends.

    I’m always looking for recipes but, when I saw your name Sally Baking Addiction. You were definitely speaking my language, lol. I read your articles and loved every minute of it and your recipes.

    I definitely agree with you about cooking is about science. I have done my share of many mistakes.

    I’m going to invest the kitchen scale and oven thermometer. There is one thing that I had discovered in baking perfection. Your oven should be clean as well due to heat can change and taste on baking elevation.

    I too save pictures of my baking creations. Looking forward to seeing more of your baking tips Sally..

  20. Cheryl Naughton says:

    Hi Sally! Thanks for this article. Keeping these 10 tips in mind is sure to help me become a better baker. As always, I appreciate your expertise!

  21. Hi,
    Are your recipes high altitude?
    I live at 6900 feet and sometimes I just don’t want to deal with recipe conversions.
    Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Madeline, I wish we could help, but we 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

  22. In one of your tips, I would find it useful to include how best to mix cocoa and water to get the highest concentration and best flavor? I understand that cocoa is hydrophobic. Thank you.

  23. Melanie Griffiths says:

    Hi Sally
    I always have problems with grainy buttercream. Sometimes I sift the confectioners sugar up to 5 times. Any suggestions

    1. Hi Melanie, it could be the brand of confectioners’ sugar you are using. I’m surprised there were still lumps after sifting so many times! I usually use Domino brand.

  24. How do I clean silpat mats?
    They’re Always greasy!

    1. Hi Donna, here’s my How to Clean Silicone Baking Mats post. I hope you find it helpful!

  25. My most intimidating thing to bake is bread. I am trying to learn how to make sourdough bread.

  26. Levi Armstrong says:

    I find it helpful to know that if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, I should leave the butter out on the counter for an hour before starting to bake. My mom and I plan to learn how to bake to make some sweets for the holidays. We’re buying ingredients this Friday and start practicing during the weekends, so thanks for these tips!

  27. Help!!! I make your delicious peppermint mocha cupcakes. Frosted them and placed them In a large plastic container and snapped on the lid. I needed to keep them for a couple days while I finished baking so I can give them to all my family and friends. When I peaked in today, only two days after I baked them, the little candy canes that I put on the top or melty and the color had run. The cream cheese frosting I used for the top is perfectly fine as well as the sprinkles I put on. What did I do wrong? I’m devastated I don’t mind starting over however they were so beautiful and tasted unbelievably delicious.

  28. I would love some tips on making cherry coconut squares. My bottom shortbread crust always gets too hard, especially around the edges.

  29. Hi, I’m crossing over from cooking to baking and have had success with your recipes! I really love your chewy cookies and about to embark upon scones. Just read the 10 tips as a foundation moving forward. Now I see the importance of butter temperature or measuring correctly for example! I’m excited to begin.

  30. Hi Sally! Is there a rule of thumb for when to use all purpose flour and when to use cake flour for cakes?

    1. Hi Anna, there really isn’t a define rule for this because it depends on the cake recipe. I usually use cake flour for vanilla and white cakes (fluffier type cakes) and all-purpose for chocolate cakes (since we usually add light cocoa powder) and heavier cakes.

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