Baking is a science, which means there's a clear set of rules that can guide you to success. If you have a good recipe, you're already halfway there. These 15 baking tips will answer common questions, and help push you over the finish line.
15 baking tips you need to know
1. Read the whole recipe before you start
This may not seem like much of a "tip," but knowing exactly what the steps of a recipe are in advance will make your baking quicker and more accurate. You never know when a recipe might include an unexpected step.
2. Measure out all of your ingredients before you start
Measuring out every ingredient — also called mise en place — ensures that you won't forget anything when you're putting your recipe together. I like to save myself a little time and do this while my oven is preheating.
3. Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise specified
Butter creams more easily at room temperature and room temperature eggs incorporate more quickly into a batter. Having all of your ingredients at room temperature — including the flour —will ensure that your recipe comes together smoothly.
4. If you have to separate eggs, do it while they're cold
While it is easier to whip egg whites when they're at room temperature, eggs are easier to separate when they're cold. This will reduce the risk of breaking a yolk in your whites.
5. Use an oven thermometer
Despite the fact that all ovens have a temperature dial on them, they're not always accurate. Some ovens run hot and others run cold. Using an oven thermometer will allow you to find out what temperature your oven really is.
But remember, oven thermometers don't last forever. If you find that your cookies are getting overly browned, it might be time to replace yours — or time to call an appliance repairman.
6. Use portion scoops for perfect cookies and muffins every time
When you use a portion scoop to shape your dough, your cookies will look better and bake more evenly. These scoops will also ensure that your muffins are perfectly portioned, and batter won't spill out the side of the cups.
Use a large scoop for muffin batter or two smaller cookie scoops. If you don't have portion scoops, you can also use an ice cream scoop.
7. Use parchment paper to line every pan
Parchment paper is a heat-resistant nonstick paper that is one of the best tools you can use in baking. A nonstick liner will allow you to lift a cake easily out of a pan after it cools and makes cleanup much easier.
A single sheet of parchment can be used for repeat batches of cookie dough, but you'll only be able to line one cake pan with each piece.
8. Freeze butter and grate it with a cheese grater for easier pie dough
Pie dough is intimidating for many bakers — and rubbing butter into flour with your fingertips takes a little practice to get right. You can use a food processor to break down cold butter, but it's even easier to grate butter right into your flour mixture.
Once the butter is grated, simply stir in ice water while stirring until the dough comes together.
9. Crumb coat layer cakes
A crumb coat is a very thin layer of frosting that is meant to trap all the crumbs from freshly baked cake before the final, thicker layer of icing is applied.
Spread a very thin layer of icing all over your filled layer cake and chill for at least 30 minutes to set the icing. When you're ready to frost, all the crumbs from the cake will be stuck in the chilled icing — and your frosting will be perfect. ( Here's a more detailed tutorial .)
10. Spray your measuring cups with cooking spray
If your recipe calls for peanut butter or honey, it can be hard to get all of it out of the measuring cup and into the bowl.
By spraying your measuring cups with cooking spray, those sticky ingredients will release cleanly and easily. And don't worry, that small amount of cooking spray won't have an impact on your recipe.
11. For crispier cookies, lower the baking temperature and extend the baking time
There isn't one easy way to turn every cookie recipe into a crispy cookie recipe, but turning down the temperature by 25 degrees and extending the baking time will help. The lower temperature prevents the cookie from over-browning, while the longer baking time helps it dry out and crisp up.
You'll have to do a test batch with any recipe you're working with, but this trick works particularly well with peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie doughs.
12. You don't need a flour sifter to sift flour
Flour sifters look neat, but they can be messy to use and store. Instead, run a whisk through your dry ingredients to combine and aerate them, or put them through a mesh sieve.
Unlike a sifter, the sieve is also useful for other things like removing lumps from a just-cooked pudding or custard.
13. Use gel food coloring for more vivid colors
Not every recipe calls for food coloring, but when you want to bump up the color on a red velvet cake or make a vibrant frosting, use gel food coloring instead of the liquid sold at the grocery store.
Gel food colorings are more intense, so you need to use much less to get the color you want. Plus, they usually come in a lot more color options, even though you might need to pick them up at a store with a large cake decorating section.
14. The top of a cake will spring back when baked
A toothpick is a good way to test baked goods for doneness, but it is even easier to use your fingertip. When a cake is baked, the top will spring back when lightly pressed. If the cake is not done, the impression of your fingertip will hold its shape.
Use a light touch and the imprint will disappear as the cake finishes baking.
15. Write down how long favorite recipes take to bake in your oven
Just about every recipe gives a range of times because not every oven is the same. Write down how long your cookies take to reach perfection, or how long your favorite brownie recipe needs for ideal fudginess.
Need some recipes to test these tips on? Take a look at our free holiday recipe guide !