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.

347 Comments

  1. To answer the question in the email, the recipe that intimidates me the most is the one for FRENCH MACARONS!!! My lord, those things have caused me no end of grief. They always taste great, but they just end up as a little flat, drop cookie looking thing. No legs. No crispy outer shell and gooey interior. Flat.As.A.Pancake. If I can learn to finesse French macarons, that would be a minor miracle.

    1. stephanie bailey says:

      I agree. I made these once and I’m not ready to go back to them yet.

  2. Kathy Diedrich says:

    anything with yeast completely scares the pants off me! Help!

  3. Love your new primer for baking. I have been baking and cookie making for 50 years
    and have run into a problem I have never had before. The middle of my cakes do not
    finish baking while the rest is done. I have calibrated my oven, put in a thermometer
    to be sure the temp is right, and I have tested the oven for ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ spots and
    surprisingly there weren’t any. I test the doneness of the cake with a wooden skewer
    close to the edge and also more toward the middle and it will come out with no, or just
    a few crumbs on it. Take the cake out and soon the middle collapses and it is doughy
    inside. I have never had this problem, even as a young wife 50 years ago, and it is
    driving me crazy!! Do you have any ideas for me that I haven’t already tried?
    Thanks so much again for your baking tutorial.
    Terri

    1. So strange, Terri! My suggestions for fixing this oven issue are to (1) lower the oven rack, (2) tent the cake with a sheet of aluminum foil halfway through bake time, and (3) bake for a few extra minutes. These should help improve the texture and appearance of the cakes!

    2. Sally’s suggestions may have already solved your problem, but I wondered if you had possibly moved to a higher altitude, because that can affect baking. You didn’t mention a move, so this probably isn’t the case; but I thought I’d mention it, just in case the temperature, time and ingredient adjustments for high altitude might help.

    3. Hi Terry, is your baking all right now? I’m so new to baking but I have watched a video from YouTube regarding even baking of cakes. I haven’t tried it for myself, just incase could help you. He uses a belt (available in Amazon) which is being damp into the water and circled on the pan cake before baking. You may also do it by using tissue paper and foil – wet the tissue, wrap in the foil, then belt it on the pan. Again, haven’t tried this yet, just an FYI for you. Regards.

  4. Interesting how you talk about keeping cookies moist because at my home they always go soft in the pantry, especially banana cookies.

  5. I can never get the Italian Meringue frosting fluffy enough to spread. Adding the room temperature butter always causes problems for me. Can we get a lesson on frostings?

    1. Hi Karen! I love this suggestion and I can definitely work on something!

  6. Like lots of others, I can never make french macarons turn out the way they’re supposed to! I have tried lots of different recipes with no luck.

  7. Pie crust. I have a phobia.

  8. Macarons! Me too!

  9. I’ve made French macaroons, croissants, and eclairs, but never a pie with a homemade crust (except graham cracker).

  10. my crisp cookies always get soft in storage…then I have to put them in the oven to crisp them up again…why is that?

    1. Hi Donna! It’s simply the moisture from the cookies themselves. Loosely covering them, instead of covering them tight, will help keep them crisp.

  11. Thank you..I’ll try that…the recipes all say keep in an airtight container…

  12. Making pie crust and anything involving yeast is intimidating to me!

  13. I’d like some advice on my cantankerous oven. Last night I used my digital food thermometer which has a steel cable and probe to check the temperature. At a setting of 325 degrees, the temperature fluctuated between 320-365 degrees. My cookies came out a little too brown, but the centers were just done enough – even slightly underdone. I’m a renter, so can’t change out the oven…

    1. To know what temperature your oven really is I suggest using an actual oven thermometer. Keep the oven door closed so that it doesn’t fluctuate as much. #1 in this post is what I use: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/14-kitchen-tools-every-baker-needs/

      1. Are you saying that the manual (spring mechanism) type of oven thermometer is more accurate than digital? I’ve had oven thermometers before that become hard to read because the paint fades from the heat. I also had two at one time and put them both in the oven at the same time and got two different readings; I thought a digital thermometer would be more accurate. Have you had either of these issues with the brand/mfg that you suggest? And yes of course, I do know that there’s a fluctuation every time the oven door is opened.

  14. I haven’t come across anything that seems particularly intimidating so far, but almost always burn something. whether it is two cookies or a whole pan, it almost always happens. I don’t know how, I always watch them closely through the oven the door, and it is closed. please more tips for this!!!
    XO
    Madeleine

    1. First I would check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. Also, it’s possible your oven has hotspots. You can rotate your pans half way through the baking time to help with this!

  15. Monica Lander says:

    I love all baking…cookies and pie galore. My cakes, however, are another story. They are usually too dry and domed. Some say to add an extra egg. Some say not to mix it so much. I’d like some help with cake technique.
    thank you!

    1. There is a cake band that Wilton makes, and possibly other manufacturers. Amazon, for one, sells them. You wet it, Velcro it around your cake pan, and voila! – no doming. I bought one but haven’t yet tested it. Wilton calls them Bake Even Cake Strips.

      1. Glenna Turner says:

        The bands work really well!! The moistened cake bands work by keeping the edge of the cake pans from heating up faster and baking the perimeter of the cake sooner than the interior, allowing the batter to heat up somewhat uniformly so that the cake rises evenly all around without the “doming” that has to be sliced off of layer cakes.

  16. Lisa Oversby says:

    Flaky pasteries intimidate me the most. I know that the amount of time spent handling the dough can make or break the flakiness and it seems hard to strike the perfect balance.

  17. Vivienne Atkins says:

    Pastry is my worst enemy

  18. 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

  19. Pie crust can be easy to make. Your butter needs to be very cold and I make mine in a food processor. I tried a new recipe recently and hubby said it was the best and flakiest he has ever had. It came from a new book I recently bought and this one use a very small amount of apple cider vinegar, no taste in the crust. So bakers, never be afraid to try pie crust. It took me years to find the perfect recipe for me.

  20. 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!

  21. Dear Sally, I have a question about the most important ingredient, Sugar. Where I live, granulated sugar is sold as crystals and is not as fine as is available in the US. So I always powder it in the blender before using it. Will the texture of this affect the butter-sugar creaming and aeration process or the quality of the final product?

    1. Hi Radhika! The size of the sugar crystals makes a difference in the creaming process, which alters the final texture of the baked good. Do not grind the sugar into a fine powder; a few pulses with the blender should be sufficient.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!!

  24. Taylor Bishop says:

    I wanted to thank you for this baking advice. You mentioned that you should always measure your ingredients before you start a recipe. It also sounds important to take this time to get any ingredients you’ll need.

  25. You asked what scares me: making bread. I would love to make challah weekly for my family, but the whole process is intimidating.

  26. I am making my first 3 tier wedding cake. The bride has chosen a cake flavor but wants the cakes to be square 16″ 14″ and 10 “. The recipe calls for 3- 8” round pans. How do I calculate the the recipe and cooking time?

  27. 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!!

  28. 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!) 🙂

  29. 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/

    2. Donna Cline says:

      Me too!!!…..but Sally has said “Bake on the Bottom Shelf” so I think that’s the secret. Can’t wait to try it.

  30. 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!

1 4 5 6 7 8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×