These are my Best Baking Tips from decades of making sweet treats in my kitchen. Make sure to share this baking for a beginner’s resource with any friends who are new to baking! Plus check out some of my most used easy baking substitutes below.
Baking Basics: General Baking Tips
These are baking basics, things you may have learned along the way if you like to play around in the kitchen. But hopefully, I’ll have some new baking tips and tricks for you.
- Have your eggs at room temperature. You can hurry this along by setting them in a bowl of very hot tap water. Not too hot, though, as you don’t want to cook the eggs.
- Have your butter at room temperature unless your recipe calls for cold butter. Your stick of butter should bend slightly when you hold it up. You don’t want it so warm that it looks greasy.
- For cheesecakes, both cream cheese and sour cream should be at room temperature as well.
- Read through your recipe thoroughly before you begin. Some doughs may require some chilling time in the fridge, and if you want cookies immediately, you may want to select another recipe.
- Set out all your ingredients before you start. This will ensure you don’t forget a necessary ingredient.
- Salt may seem odd in a dessert recipe, but don’t leave it out. Baked goods will taste flat without a bit of salt.
- Use quality ingredients for the best results.
- Make sure your baking soda, baking powder, yeast, etc. are not expired.
- Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is calibrated properly. When a recipe says to bake for an hour at 350º, you’ll want your oven to actually be at 350º. Many newer ovens will allow you to calibrate the temperature. Read your manual for your specific model’s instructions.
- If you notice that your oven has hot spots (for example, if the cookies at the back of the baking sheet brown before the cookies at the front), make sure to rotate your pans at the halfway point.
- Make sure you have a set of dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. Baking is a science and measurements need to be accurate. These are not interchangeable.
- Spray your measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray, like Pam, when measuring out sticky ingredients such as peanut butter, molasses, syrup, and honey.
- To measure flour, gently scoop out a generous cupful with your measuring cup, then use a flat utensil to level off the top.
- Most recipes that call for brown sugar will want you to pack the ingredient into the measuring cup.
- When baking, the BEST way to measure is with a Digital Kitchen Scale. It’s also a wonderful tool to divide bread dough into equal halves, to make sure your three cake pans contain the same amount of batter and more. It’s worth the investment.
More Baking Basics: Prepping Pans
- If you don’t want a cake or quick bread to stick to the pan, use a cooking spray that combines oil and flour, like Baker’s Joy.
- Line cookie sheets with Parchment Paper Baking Sheets to prevent sticking and make for easy cleanup.
- Line bottoms of loaf pans and cake pans with greased parchment cut to size to prevent chunks from sticking to the pan during removal.
- Line baking pans with Non-StickFoil when baking cookie bars for easy removal. Parchment paper works well, too.
Testing Baked Goods
- For most cakes and quick bread, inserting a toothpick or long wooden skewer is a good way to test for doneness. Insert it into the center of the baked good and when it’s clean when removed, the baked good is done. Follow recipe instructions, though, as some recipes call for a few moist crumbs to be left on the toothpick for proper consistency.
- When I bake cakes and muffins, I often use the touch technique. Carefully push down on the baked item with your finger. It the item is done, the indented area will bounce back. If it is not finished baking, the indentation will remain.
- When baking bread, use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. For yeast bread, a 200º internal temperature means the loaf is done baking. You can also use your knuckles to knock on the loaf. A loaf that’s done will sound hollow.
- Brownies are tougher to judge, but they will often pull away slightly from the sides of the pan when done. Again, check the recipe for tips on what works for that particular baked good.
- For cookies, check them after the minimum baking time. They should look just set in the centers unless the recipe states otherwise. Under-baking slightly will give you a chewier cookie while over-baking slightly will give a crisper cookie.
- Let cakes and quick bread cool for 10-15 minutes before removing them from their pan to finish cooling. Let cookies cool a few minutes on their baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. Sometimes with more delicate cookies, they will need a longer cooling period before the transfer. As always, if the recipe states otherwise, follow those instructions.
- And, last but not least, I’m always asked how I cut my bars so evenly. First, I chill my brownies or cookie bars thoroughly. Then I use a sharp, hot, dry knife to cut them into squares. If eyeballing doesn’t work for you, break out a ruler to make sure your cuts are evenly dispersed. I find cutting an 8 x 8 pan into 16 bars so that each is 2 x 2 inches works best. For a 9 x 9 pan, divide the pan into nine 3 x 3-inch bars (or 36 1 1/2 inch bars if that works better), and so on.
- Check out this post on How to Cut Perfect Cookie Bars for details.
Easy Baking Substitutions
There are two baking substitutions I’ve used over and over, for buttermilk and cake flour. I’ll add a few more that could help if you’re in a pinch.
- Buttermilk: Put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or neutral-flavored vinegar like white or cider vinegar into a one-cup liquid measuring cup. Add milk to the one cup mark, stir and let rest for a few minutes. Measure and use as directed.
- Cake Flour: Measure out a cup of all-purpose flour, then remove two tablespoons. Measure out 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and add to the cup of flour. Sift two or three times to evenly disperse the cornstarch. Repeat for each cup of cake flour needed and use as directed in your recipe.
- Baking Powder: Mix together ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon cream of tartar, ¼ teaspoon cornstarch for 1 teaspoon baking powder.
- Baking Soda: Use 2 teaspoons baking powder for 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Butter: Use an equal amount of margarine
- Brown Sugar: Add one tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of granulated (white) sugar. Mix and use.
- Dark Brown Sugar: Add one tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of light brown sugar. Mix and use.
- One Large Egg: Mix 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water. Let rest until the mixture thickens.
- One Large Egg: 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
More Best Baking Tips and Tricks You’ll Love:
- 100 Best Baking Tips from Sommer of A Spicy Perspective!
- Bon Appetit’s 11 Baking Tips
- Baking Tips and Techniques from King Arthur Flour
- Baking Tips for Layer Cakes from Barbara Bakes
Disclaimer: I am not a trained pastry chef. These baking tips and tricks come from years of home baking experience, but not every tip may work for you. If you have any other suggestions for baking tips I didn’t mention, please share them in the comments.