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. Hi Sally ,  I understand the importance  of room temperature fully.  I still have problems?   I live in Arizona  and the temperature is still80 degrees in my home .  I think when a bake I should  drop the temp. Down to maybe 78. I value your thoughts and  hope you can help me out.  I read all your comments but never comes up . Can I be the only one with this problem that is so silly?   Help ???carm

    1. No no no, you aren’t the only one! 80 degrees is a bit warmish for room temperature ingredients. 78 would be ideal. What type of problems, specifically, are you facing? Is your butter too soft? If so, just leave it out for slightly less time.

  2. Thanks for your reply.  No I don’t think the butter was to soft.  I followed. Your advice and heated water in the microwave took it out  then put butter in for 10min. That was great.thanks for that tip.  The problem I.  Think was when I cut the cutouts . I think they might have gotten over heated waiting for all the cookies to be cut.I will try when our heat wave is gone. I hope it’s soon. Have a great holiday Sally. Carm

  3. I’ve never baked before but have.becime inspired watching the Grwat American Baking show. 
    I stopped by here to get some basics. Thanks much. I hope I have some success!!!

  4. Sally I have a question. I bake cookies at least a few times a week…..after my cookies are cool I leave a few out for the kiddos to munch on for an after school snack and for me to enjoy after the kids are asleep but I freeze the rest of them. The reason I don’t leave anymore out is because I have tried your trick of putting a slice of bread in with the cookies. The problem I have is that whatever cookies the slice of  bread touches the cookies get super soft some times even soggy. I was wondering how you prevent the cookies that touch the slice of bread from getting soggy? Are you supposed to wrap the bread up a little bit so it doesn’t touch the cookies? Please help me Sally I would love to be able to have cookies out every day without having to always get them out of the freezer first. Thank you so much Sally!!! You are my go to for almost all of my recipes!!! The only recipes I use that aren’t yours are the ones that you don’t have recipes for! I just got done eating your Slow Cooker Light Chicken Corn Chowder and Honey Butter Rolls for lunch!!! So so so yummy!!! Happy 5 Year Blogging Anniversary I seriously don’t know where I would be in my baking and cooking life if it wasn’t for your recipes!!! They always always always turn out amazing for me!!! 

    1. Lindsay! Thank you so much for the incredibly kind comment. I’ve never had that issue before BUT you can always layer a piece of parchment paper lightly on top of the cookies and place the bread on top. Then close the container tightly. This way it is not directly touching the cookies but still in the container. Does this make sense?

    2. I tape my bread to the top of the container and that works great for me. It never actually touches the cookies but it keeps them moist. Hope that helps. 🙂

  5. I hav electric oven .it has upper and lower grills.which grill option should i use?or is should use both of them at the same time?

  6. wow !!!!! I have just seen this site by looking for a big cookie recipe and it is totally the best site of the kitchen of the world !!!!!!! Everything is well explained and well done !! It’s just fabulous !!!

    1. When my brown sugar hardens, I put a slice of bread in a plastic bag with the sugar and the next day it is soft again… works like magic!

  7. 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!!

  8. Sally, To ensure that all ingredients are ready, do you use any kind of prep bowls? If so, let us know which you favor. Thanks

  9. Hi Sally, my Italian family loves pizzelle cookies for holidays and special occasions. Ever since I moved from the Northeast to Florida, they come off the iron properly but get too soft right away. I have tried storing them in airtight containers and with a little breathing room. No good. My house is air conditioned and humidity controlled but these cookies are SO sensitive. Any suggestions?

    1. How about a little more breathing room? That would be my suggestion– very loosely cover. Even keep them uncovered from time to time.

  10. PLEASE CAN SOMEONE HELP!

    I cannot find an INEXPENSIVE Kitchen Timer (need 2 actually) . I cannot afford to give away a bunch of money on a timer and it breaks on me; so what is the best timers. I need 2 BUT they need to be accurate!
    Pls respoond today. Thank you all
    Linda

  11. Good morning Sally, I love baking though I have not baked a thing or any recipe in a life time. Though I need the cake Bible or cake recipe books, any recommendations for me? I live in Maryland.

    1. Hello Solomon. I used to be the biggest fan of baking books when I was younger, mainly because of the mouthwatering photographs. In fact, I use to spend most of my free time flipping through them and reading the instructions over and over again. However, I soon realized that the best way to learn is to actually bake.

      I saw that you were looking for book suggestions but I rather recommend you to use the Internet. You’ll find plenty of recipes and the majority of them are free! I personally find that this is what inspired me bake more. Since you are looking for something to encourage you in your baking, I think that it could be a good start. Watching baking tutorial on YouTube is my favorite as it is more engaging and inspiring. You will also find tips, which will definitively improve your skills. I don’t know about your baking preferences but if you are like me and love cakes and eye-popping decoration you will enjoy the content of Cupcake Jemma on YouTube. Henceforth, the only issue that you will have is time because you will want to try all the recipes.

      Happy baking to you!

  12. Hi Sally,

    What is the best way to wrap up individual or groups of cookies for the freezer and fridge? I am baking your chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies today that I will not use until Saturday and I want to store them properly for the best results.

    Thanks for your reply

    1. My favorite way to store cookies and maintain freshness is to place in a Tupperware or other container with a slice of bread. The bread lets out its moisture, keeping the cookies super soft.

  13. Sally- I love all your recipes!!! I recently made your triple layer chocolate cake (just with your pb frosting instead)… but both my cakes fell in the middle. What can I do differently to prevent this?

    THANK YOU!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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 🙂

  17. Sally, thanks for your wonderful well written articles. I usually room temp my ingredients. But i would like to pipe my cookies. How can i prevent spreading? If i do chill the dough would it be hard to pipe out?

    Tks for your advise.

  18. Hi! When I started to bake when I was 8 when I have started to bake and now it’s been 6 years since and still my recipes don’t go right but now I have read this I’m going to start baking with these good tips!!! 🙂

  19. 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.

  20. If you put a slice of bread in with your cookies to keep them softer, does it matter what kind of bread it is? Will the cookies absorb any flavor from the bread? Thanks for all of the great tips, Sally!

    1. Hi Evelyn! The flavors aren’t carried over unless, of course, you had a strong flavored bread with herbs, garlic, banana etc. I always use a slice of our whole grain bread.

  21. 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!

  22. Sally: you talk about room temperature being important, which I know, as I bake a lot!! But I didn’t realize until recently that if your butter is “too soft”, it could also be a problem with the results of a cake. Could butter that is too soft (not melted) give you a greasy cake? I made a cake a few times with great results and when I made it last, it didn’t come out the same. The only thing I could think of is that the butter was too soft, as the cake wasn’t as fluffy/cake like, but actually seemed a bit greasy. I’d like to know what you think about this. Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephie! Yes yes yes! If your butter is too soft, no matter what you’re baking, the baked good will likely taste a little dense or greasy. Especially cakes and cookies. I wrote about “room temperature butter” not too long ago– it’s actually cool to touch, not warm. See step 6 in this post: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/tips-for-cookie-spreading/

  23. Thank you Sally for your response. Yes, I was aware that it should be room temp (cool), however, it was out longer than I expected, and I didn’t think it would make a huge difference, but it actually did! Thanks again!

  24. 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.

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