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cake piped with pink and purple piped buttercream decoration

I’m sharing a different kind of post today. It’s not a recipe, it’s not an update on life. It’s a short post where we can all reflect on what baking means to us, either how insignificant or how profound. I encourage you to share!

What Baking Means to Me

Besides being an obvious means to an end (a baked good), the act of baking is a form of my self expression. I create what I want to create, however little or magnificent that baked good may be.

When I worked a 9-5 job in a corporate environment, coming home and baking cupcakes (even from a box mix!) helped me relax and unwind. It simply “felt like me.” In a job where I didn’t have much creative freedom, baking truly kept me fulfilled and energized.

And, not to mention, it’s a double whammy of awesomeness– baking makes me happy and baked goods make everyone happy. Spreading joy is immensely powerful.

I was able to make a career out of this passion. 8 years later, baking still provides the same amount of joy and creative freedom. But on a more serious note, baking also helps manage my anxiety. A chronic worrier since my teen years, I find the structure and focus that baking requires to be soothing. I’m in control of the outcome (well, mostly!) and that control is important during times that my anxiety feels debilitating. Baking is my work, my “me time,” and, well, my medicine. I’m really grateful I’m able to do it.

It’s not just about baking cookies, it’s about the joy and calm that come with it. What baking is to me may be knitting, painting, reading, running, yoga, or music to someone else. How profound that a hobby can be a form of therapy.

So what does baking mean to you?

Bowl of cream cheese buttercream frosting

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Baking is an act of resistance. I have struggled with an eating disorder for many years. When I bake, I reclaim the joy of creating, sharing, and indulging in food so often deemed as “bad” or as “guilty pleasures” by our diet-obsessed culture.

    Thanks for the conversation, Sally, and for your recipes that have so often helped me reclaim this joy! Your chocolate cakes are some particularly delicious forms of resistance.

    1. I absolutely loved reading what baking means to you, Christy. Thank you so much for sharing- and for baking my recipes. I’m thrilled you have found joy!

  2. Baking has been my personal therapy since my senior year of high school. Whenever I had a bad day, had deadlines to fill or was stressed out about something, I baked. When I was recovering my from eating disorder, creating baked goods in the kitchen always put me in a better mood and allowed me to realize that I shouldn’t be afraid of sugar. Baking is the reason I have a whisk and spatula tattoo on my forearm! I literally cannot go to bed without some sort of dessert and I’m the type of person who will bake cookies at 9pm just so I can be at peace before bed. 🙂

    1. Love reading this, Marina! Thank you so much for sharing what baking means to you 🙂

  3. Baking to me is a wonderful way to be able to share food and joy with other people. My grandmother always shared her love through cooking and baking and I found that I feel the same way when I can share food I have baked with others.

    I work 12 hour days at the lab and on my few days off I barely have energy to exist. But then I go to your website and I think I would love to make this and share it with my family and coworkers, and I then I have the motivation to do something productive with my day.

    Every single recipe from your website that I have made and taken to my work has always been devoured in less than 24 hours and in some cases less than 6 hours. I can’t even count the amount of times I have made your chocolate cookies cookies for work. Everytime there is a special occasion for work I try to make a different cake recipe from your site.

    Thank you so much for your time and effort on these recipes. You have no idea how many smiles it brings to an understaffed lab.

    1. I loved reading this- thank you so much for sharing what baking means to you! I truly appreciate you baking and trusting my recipes 🙂 What fortunate coworkers you have!

  4. I have been baking since I was little with my Mom making shortbread, through school , etc – basically my whole life. I have spent most of my working life in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs assisting top pharmaceutical companies, and during that time I always baked to unwind from deadlines, stress and corporate politics.
    Now I have started my second career, doing what I have always loved – baking. Not only does it bring me pleasure to see reactions to celebration cakes I create, but also knowing that I am making quality baked goods that are not filled with junk (technical terminolgy LOL). And my experience with formulations now allows me to experiment with recipes and make them truly my own, to share with others. I could not imagine myself anywhere else but in the kitchen, reading recipes and loving cook books like yours. Thank you sharing your inspiration.

  5. I look to baking as my future. I too, have anxiety that I inherited from my papah. I want to work as a baker here in Mexico and am looking for a culinary school after I graduate high school. I was born and raised in the U.S for the longest time, and have only lived in my dad’s hometown for almost two years now. Even if I’m from completely mexican descent and even live in Mexico, I feel disconnected from my culture. I know Spanish well enough, but I have an American accent that really bothers me when I say “salud” (bless you), I know more English than Spanish even if Spanish was my first language, and I’m an introvert.
    For me, baking is a way say to something. Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you, etc. when I can’t find the words to say. It’s something I want to make a reality when I grow up. I want to learn to bake conchas and polvorones and all the other wonderful Mexican pastries. I want to live a simple, comfortable life.
    Baking helps me feel normal. I’m at the stage of puberty right now in my life, and I always feel weird and out of place if I’m not at home, especially when I’m with other people my age. When I bake, it’s usually when I’m home; where I’m safe and where no strangers are, my age or otherwise. Thank you.

  6. I have PTSD and for so long, anxiety and depression kept me from doing anything including leaving the house. Someone asked me to bake cupcakes and while I was decorating them, I noticed the calming affect it had on me. Baking brought me back to life and now I’m pursuing it as a business.

  7. Thank you for sharing your recipes with me! You have simplified baking to me in such a way that I can understand!

    My mother passed away when I was 15 years old so I never really had anyone teach me how to cook. Reading you’re blog has encouraged me to venture out of my comfort zone. The older I get the more therapeutic cooking has become. It is a way I show love to family and friends!

  8. Wow, baking for me means a lot of things! It’s also therapeutic, I love sharing my baking, and the warmth it brings to my soul. There’s nothing better than whipping up a loaf of banana bread and the aroma it scents the home with. Baking to me is nostalgic. It reminds me to slow down and plan out recipes. Now that I’m a grandma, I am so excited to share my baking knowledge with my grandchildren. What children can learn in the kitchen is obviously another topic but I especially love the quality time spent baking with them. Sometimes we will bake cookies from store bought freezer dough and they think it’s the greatest thing! I am loving creating seasonal favorites and hope to create many memories sharing baking in the kitchen with my grandchildren! Love all your books and recipes!

  9. Hi- If I try to make this short it would be an injustice to my Grandmother, Mother and Sally. I am 66, of Italian heritage and my Nonni lived with us. Along with my mother they prepared some fantastic meals. My mother would also bake. I came home one afternoon from school and the scents of my Grandmother’s cooking that particular day were overwhelming, I was 12. I asked my Grandmother if she would teach me how to cook. Each day after school she spent about 90 minutes teaching me how to make spaghetti sauce, brown sauce, season leg of lamb, antipasto, ravioli stuffed with spinach, cheese, etc braised beef and venison. My mother though would always make the dough for the ravioli and did all the holiday baking. These lessons went on till my Grandmother’s passing 5 years later. I have been cooking ever since and find it to be my best way to forget problems and relieve stress. I tried to bake like my Mother but after many failed attempts at cakes, pies, cookies, even pre mixed popovers, I gave up trying to baker . That was 39 years ago. I started reading email that appeared from Sally’s Baking Addiction a few years ago. I was intrigued by the simplicity of her approach and tried my hand at one of her pie recipes at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. It was ok but I just did not feel comfortable with the precise measurements and baking times etc.. A few months ago I began to experience financial pressures as well as other issues causing me sleepless nights and a great deal of anxiety. I am not sure what clicked but I decided to try a recipe for Lemon Squares, then Single Layer Strawberry Shortcake and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies. I began to feel more confidant, enjoyed the challenge and with each of Sally’s recipes realized I was less stressed and my friends who were the recipients of my baking (since I now live alone) began to tell me the cookies were pretty good, strawberry layer cake not bad etc. I now own my first Kitchen Aid standing mixer and try to bake at least once a week. I still cook for myself and occasionally for a guest or two but the days of preparing meals for a dozen or more people are behind me. Baking, especially Sally’s Baking Addiction recipes are what hooked me. The stress and anxiety are unfortunately still with me but not when shopping for my baking ingredients and prepping, then baking! Thank you Nonnie and Mom for showing me around the world of cooking and a very special thanks to Sally for the confidence to bake, the enjoyment of the end product and for a couple of hours a week of no stress or anxiety! Laurance

    1. Isn’t it wonderfully incredible the amount of comfort and joy the simple act of baking brings us? Even if it’s just baking something small for ourselves. Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspired words. I can’t thank you enough for trusting my recipes! Thank you for trying them and I’m so glad that they bring you so much delight and happiness. I loved reading this!

  10. My 22 year old daughter is anaphylactic to peanuts and allergic to all other nuts, soy protein, lentils and a few other foods. Baking (and cooking, for that matter) means that I can watch my daughter enjoy the foods that she loves without playing “allergy roulette” as can happen when eating out. I know the food that I make will meet her dietary requirements and is healthier than store bought because there are no added preservatives and I try to use pure ingredients. Definitely more effort and time consuming, but certainly worth it. Thank you, Sally, for sharing recipes that I can use at home.

  11. Sally, I love that you described baking as therapy. I feel like that too. When I was young and my family was going through stressful transitions, baking was a way to create something positive that united people. My first job at 14 years old was in a bakery in the summer where I learned baking was also about technique and work ethic. I realized how much others valued the skills involved. Now that I’m a “grown up” with two daughters, baking is still therapeutic but also a wonderful hobby to share with them. My 10 year old’s teacher gave them the prompt “I feel confident when..” and my daughter answered “I’m baking.” Nothing could make me happier that baking also provides her a way to feel good about herself and what she can create. Baking with them is creating such amazing memories for all of us- what could be better?! And I have to say, many times it’s your recipes that we are making- that’s an amazing gift you are sharing with so many people!

    1. Hi Casey! I loved reading about what baking means to you 🙂 How amazing to learn so much about baking in your early teenage years- and what sweet memories you are making with your daughters! Thanks for contributing to the conversation! xo

  12. I love measuring and being precise to have a great bread, cake or cookie to put smiles on everyone’s face. Homemade brings out the best in people.

  13. To me, baking is a way of expressing myself and creating a beautiful work (or works) of art. I love creating something of my own in my own unique way.

  14. Baking started as a creative outlet at first. Actually, it still is. I love to make something that doesn’t just taste good, but looks pretty too. But now, more than ever, baking is a way I say “I love you” to friends and family. Often it’s how I thank people for their kindness and support. Sometimes, it’s a way I show my support for others- a neighbor with a new baby, or a cousin going through chemotherapy. I often let my kids bake with me, and I’ve taught them that in everything we bake together, we must put in love. Before anything goes into the oven, my kids and I blow kisses at the dough or batter to make sure it’s extra good!
    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. Your thorough recipes helped me gain confidence when I first began baking, and you are now my go-to whenever I want to bake something new.

    1. Kelsey, this is so sweet. I agree, baking is such a thoughtful way to show others our love and support. There’s nothing like a homemade treat that’s (as silly as this sounds) made with love. 🙂

  15. Thank you Sally for the privilege to say why I enjoy baking. As a teacher for 36 years, I did not have much time to bake. I would bake for my students for Christmas and for some of my friends at school. When I retired, I jumped into baking full force. However, I had 4 surgeries and then I started again. I try new recipes all the time. I cook for my Worship Care team when we care for the children. I bake for my pastors. I was going to try dough but my husband had another surgery so I had to postpone that. Baking is my relief from taking care of him and other times of stress but I forge on. Thank you for posting your recipes. I have baked most of them and I will keep on baking!

  16. Hi Sally, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents worth. I didn’t bake much until I retired about five years. Prior to that, it was just birthday cakes for family. What really got me going was a family request for a grad cake. I researched recipes, the grad’s activities and put a lot of love into it. It was so well received for the TASTE and led to other requests. My husband of 35 years passed away shortly after and I took up his love of vegetable gardening. With my bounty of zucchini, I tried several different sweet treats. A new friend enjoyed my zucchini bread so much, he convinced me to bake several and he could sell them at work, which he did! Each oven success boosted my confidence and with very little experience behind me, I made my best friend’s three-tier wedding cake. Facebook thank you’s and pics soon had me fielding requests for banana pudding cakes, strawberry cakes and various cheesecakes, my three most popular. To get to your original topic, I’m now living alone in in sunny Florida, loving my life for the most part, but with health issues and missing the support of family and friends. I found a church I love and before long, I was added to their “go-to-list” of cake bakers for funerals and special occasions. I have gotten involved with other community groups which means more opportunities to spread my love. I have a few customers but I bake just for the sheer joy of making others happy. In times of pain or stress, which come far too often, baking takes me to my happy place of no worries. Of course I crave sweets myself that I’m not supposed to eat, but I identify with your other “midnight bakers”. I’m always looking for the best version of my tried and true recipes and your pages are the first ones I turn to. Thank you for all your tips. I’m going to try your version of Monkey Bread very soon for a group that I’m currently working with.

    1. Hi Rhonda! I absolutely loved reading about what baking means to you 🙂 It sounds like baking has brought you immense happiness and I am simply thrilled! Thank you for sharing your story and contributing to the conversation! xo

  17. Hi Sally,
    Baking brings great joy to my life for several reasons. My purpose to baking is to bring joy to family, friends and neighbors. I love the look on others faces when I bring them an unexpected and yummy treats. Replicating favorite family recipes brings back memories of my childhood. Experimenting with new recipes gives me a sense of encomplishment when they are sucessful and a sense of determination to make them better when they come out “not so right”. Also love trying out the recipes on your blog. Thank you.

    1. Loved reading about what baking means to you, Melissa! Thanks for joining in the conversation 🙂

  18. Love this post. I would love to make the cake pictured in the post? Is the recipe posted?

  19. How wonderful it must feel to read all of these beautiful stories, and how much finding your site has created joy in our lives! It is the absolute truth. I found you in 2010, looking for a new peanut butter recipe and man, oh man did I ever hit the jackpot. Your recipes aren’t scary, your pictures are fantastic, and your joyful spirit bursts through your posts.

    I bake now as much as I can, and finding you is the reason! Sure, the precision and rules of baking appeal to my nature, but sharing the joy that comes with tasting something yummy and homemade is the ultimate satisfaction. Thank you, Sally. If we ever meet in-person, I have a crushing hug with your name on it!

  20. Baking is just my release from life. I absolutely love reading so reading is my escape from reality and baking is just my happy place. I love opening the oven and smelling baked goods and feeling the heat on my face. Baking is my therapy and my happy place overall. I have really bad anxiety and baking just lets me release everything. It reminds me that everything is going to be okay

  21. I know this is an older post but…can’t help feeling moved to add to it. Everyone has (often very personal) reasons they connect with creating beautiful baking from scratch, often linked with cherished memories and values. In our family, love was shown more often with preparing food than with words. It was the first reaction when a loved one required comfort, was ill, bereaved, or celebrating. It is as satisfying to the giver as it is to the receiver (as all meaningful things are). An elementally simple human connection.
    Recently, my beloved grandfather – a legendary cook – began losing his battle with lengthy illness. As he was in palliative care and I was thousands of miles away, I baked every day from Sally’s site. It comforted my heart to keep my hands busy with something that had always been a part of our relationship. The highlight of my days, waiting for updates and inevitable news, was choosing a new Sally recipe to try – bagels, cornbread, scones, cakes, pudding, pie. Having something I could choose and control and enjoy and share, quieted my mind when many things were out of control.
    Sorry for the lengthy post – but Sally, you and your network of happy baking commenters helped me get through a very emotional time. I hope you are able to continue inspiring others through your joyful kitchen – at any given moment, someone may be baking their way to a measure of peace with help from you.

  22. I so share what all of you have expressed. Taming anxiety and depression while sharing something you’ve made has been “cheap therapy” for me! Our Community Center has reaped the rewards of my baking
    Thank you for the vulnerability to share these thoughts with us, Sally. You know you always have us!
    Best wishes for continued health and happiness with your pregnancy.

  23. To me baking is many things. It’s amazing, crazy science. How is it that you can put a bowl of liquid into an oven and have a delicious cake come out?! Baking is creativity for me. Although I’m not an accomplished decorator I still enjoy doing what I can, as well as changing up a recipe to fit my own tastes. Baking is also a way for me to share. I know everyone here knows that look someone gets when you’ve handed them a plate of cookies, a cake, or some fresh baked bread, and how good that look makes you feel. I didn’t grow up in a house where we sat down to dinner every night (any family dinner other then holidays and birthdays was unheard of) or where my mother or grandmother baked. But food brings people together and I love being the one who creates the baked goods that make people stop what they’re doing, gather around for awhile, chit chat and talk about their day. And I simply just love being the “lady who baked really good stuff”.

  24. Baking is a way to show my family what they mean to me, in a way I can be proud of. It also allows me to express myself, and help me deal with my emotions.

  25. Hi Sally!

    Baking is something special. My stepmom introduced me to baking (and to your blog!), so It’s something special I have with her. I tend to get really stressed out about things; baking and making people happy is something that always makes ME happy. Pre-COVID times I would bring a basket filled with all kinds of goodies with me to school and give them to my friends and classmates. I hope as I go to college that I can still find some time to bake every now and then. I love the feeling of creating something, and the structure of baking helps me to focus and relax about the billion things on my mind.

    Also, when you bake you get to “sample” your creations… more than once of course. 😉

    I hope you have a wonderful day (to WHOEVER is reading this!—whether that be Sally, her assistants, or someone browsing through the comments), and I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.

    Best regards,

    1. We love to read what baking means to you, Veronica! Thank you so much for this sweet comment.

  26. Hi, my name is Abigail. I’m writing this under my mom’s email. Baking for me is my way of learning how to enjoy sweets for what they are; a treat. A year ago, I was struggling with fearing all the sugar and butter and white flour in cakes and cookies and pies, but after seeing all your yummy things, I learned how to eat them again and not be afraid of them, because a little something now and then won’t hurt a thing. For me, baking is also a way to release stress. Last week I was stressed out and upset, and I made some pumpkin bars and nothing could’ve been more relaxing then stirring the batter and dropping it into the baking pan. Also, the goodies I make are really good. So thank you for helping me to learn how to enjoy treats again with all your tasty cakes, cookies, and brownies, I truly appreciate it. Abigail 🙂

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