Baking can be a blast — but it can also be messy, time-consuming and, on occasion, aggravating (like when step 5 says to add the buttermilk and you think, Oh, was I supposed to buy buttermilk?).
Make life simpler with these totally legit baking short-cuts, swap-outs and insider tricks. You'll look and feel like the best pastry chef in town.
1. Cut Cheesecake with Floss
If you ever wondered how restaurants achieve that perfect slice of cheesecake, grab a piece of unflavored dental floss. Position it above the cake; then, holding it taut, press down through the cake with a gentle sawing motion. You'll get a clean slice every time.
2. Turn Regular Sugar into Confectioner's Sugar
Sometimes you need powdered sugar and all you've got is granulated. You could be bummed ... or you could pour your regular sugar into the blender or food processor. Blend at high speed until the sugar reaches the consistency of a fine powder. Bam, you've got confectioner's sugar !
3. Make Your Own Brown Sugar
It's a fundamental law of baking that you will be out of brown sugar when you need it. Not worries: Just combine 1 cup of granulated sugar with a little molasses (1 tablespoon for light brown sugar; 2 tablespoons for dark brown sugar).
4. Nuke a Lemon to Make It Juicy
If you want to get the most from your citrus fruit (without getting a hand cramp), pop it in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds to get the juices flowing.
5. Use Cooking Spray When Measuring Sticky Stuff
When using ingredients like honey or molasses, coat the measuring cup or spoon with nonstick spray first. Everything will come right off.
6. Pre-Heat Your Knife for Perfect Brownies and Bars
To get clean, crumb-free slices of brownie bars and other baked goods, run your knife under hot water for several seconds, then dry it before you slice. The cake won't clump up on a warm knife. (You may need to re-heat as you go.)
7. Make Instant Buttermilk
Who keeps buttermilk in the fridge? Um, not us. That's why we love this easy work-around: Place 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill it up the rest of the way with plain milk. Let it sit for five minutes and you've got a buttermilk stunt double.
8. Keep Cake Fresh by Storing it in the Microwave
The microwave will protect your beautiful confection from dirt, dust and pet hair, not to mention hungry housemates.
9. Remove Eggshell with a Finger
We've all been there: You crack an egg and a speck of broken shell gets in the bowl. To get it out, simply wet your finger, then place it near the broken bit. The shard will instantly gravitate to your finger. Don't ask why.
10. Soften Brown Sugar with an Apple Slice
So you've actually got brown sugar in the cupboard — yaaas! But, wait, it's hard as a brick! Here's an easy fix: Put the hard sugar and a slice of apple into an airtight container. After a few hours that sugar will be usable again.
11. Skin Hazelnuts the Lazy Way
Homemade Nutella is a dream. Getting the skins off the hazelnuts: total nightmare. To make it easier, roast the nuts in the oven; then, while they're still hot, place them inside a slightly damp, folded kitchen towel, and rub. The combo of moisture and heat loosens those stubborn skins.
12. Use a Peeler to Save Scorched Cakes and Muffins
Lightly shave off the blackened bits, saving as much of the goodness underneath as possible.
13. Stabilize Whipped Cream with Marshmallow Fluff
You can whip cream ahead of time. To keep it from weeping while it sits in the fridge, add a little Fluff near the end of the whipping process. The marshmallow cream not only adds structure to your whipped cream, but some extra yumminess as well.
14. Avoid Batter Spatter with a Paper-Plate Guard
How's this for a neat trick: Poke the ends of your mixer's beaters through the middle of a paper plate before attaching them to the mixer. The plate will act as a splatter guard, simplifying clean-up.
15. Use Warm Water to Instantly Bring Eggs to Room Temp
There is nothing more maddening than getting halfway through a recipe only to realize that your refrigerated eggs are supposed to be room temperature. If you didn't remember to take the eggs out an hour beforehand (no judgments), put them in a bowl of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes and you're good to go.
16. Use Sprinkles and a Cookie Cutter to Decorate a Cake like a Pro
Here's how: Place a cookie cutter on top of your frosted cake. Gently fill it with sprinkles then carefully lift it away. This trick works best with simple shapes, like numbers, letters, hearts or stars. Try it on your next birthday cake !
17. Speed-Ripen Bananas for Baking
What to do if you're ready to make banana bread , but your bananas aren't? Easy: Put those too-green bananas on a foil- or parchment-lined pan and roast them in a 300 F oven until they're dark brown and squishy. Let 'em cool and get mashing!
18. Use a Veggie Steamer to Save a Stale Muffin
Don't give up on that days-old muffin or cupcake. You can bring it back to its original goodness in a few minutes by placing it in a steamer basket suspended over (but not touching) simmering water.
19. Use Leftover Yogurt to Make More Yogurt
Don't toss that container! Those last bits of yogurt in the bottom of the cup can serve as the culture or "starter" for a DIY batch. Homemade yogurt is ridiculously easy to make, plus it costs less and tastes better than store-bought.
20. Use Bubble Wrap to Make an Insta-Ready Cake
All you need for your feed is melting chocolate and a clean piece of bubble wrap (sized to wrap around the sides of your cake). Place the wrap bubble side up, spread the melted chocolate over it and let it partially set. Then wrap it around the cake (chocolate side against the cake). Chill 10 minutes, remove the wrap and let the Likes begin.