Below are some tips and tricks that I have collected from a variety of sources or figured out on my own through trial and error. Hopefully the points below encompass some best practices that work at all altitudes and will help you get the best results for the recipes posted in this blog and all other recipes in general.
General Tips for All Baked Goods
- This will sound extraordinarily simple, but unless you know what you are doing, please follow recipes exactly as written! Baking is a chemical reaction, and, as you can see from my blog, any experimentation with recipe amounts can potentially cause a recipe to fail. If you change an ingredient, a method, or an amount — no matter how small — this will change the recipe from the way it was intended to turn out.
- Take the time to read the recipe in full so that you won’t be blindsided by an unexpected step or ingredient. Some recipes, for instance, require you to freeze dough overnight — I’m always blindsided by such a step because when I bake baked goods, I bake them with the expectation that I’ll be eating them an hour from now.
- Do not skimp and try and substitute milk, cream cheese, butter, cream for skim and low-fat versions, unless specified in the recipe. If you want to consume less calories, simply eat less of the good! Most recipes depend on full fat products to really bring out the richness of the flavor and, more importantly, help structure the final product. For instance, if you try and make the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe for cream cheese frosting with low-fat cream cheese, the frosting will turn out too runny.
- All spoon measurements are level and unsifted, unless otherwise specified. To level the ingredients, take the back of a knife and run it across the top of the measuring cup until the excess ingredients are scraped off.
- Liquid and dry measuring cups are different; please make sure you use the appropriate measuring cup for each ingredient.
- When creaming butter and sugar together, always make sure you keep creaming until the mixture is light and fluffy. This will usually take around 5 minutes on med-high speed on your mixer. During the creaming process, sugar crystals open tiny pockets of air in the butter as it is being whipped, creating a lighter and fluffier finished batter.
- Do the same for eggs and sugar — whisk for at least 5 minutes until you get a nice, light, airy mixture.
- After adding flour to the mixture, don’t overbeat as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense — simply beat or stir until the flour is just incorporated.
- Don’t open your oven until at least the minimum time recommended has passed. Too much air coming from a frequently opened oven door causes irregular oven temperatures that affect the baking process.
Tips for Baking Cupcakes and Making Frostings
- For buttercream frostings: the longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
- Add your extra decorations (e.g. sprinkles, nonpareils) immediately after you have frosted the cupcake; if you wait to decorate the cupcake, the frosting will harden/crust and the decorations will not stay on the cake.
Tips for Baking Cookies
- Do not bake your cookies for a longer time than the recipe’s suggested range. Doing so will result in cookies that will be too dry and crisp when cooled. It is actually better to underbake the cookies slightly so that the centers will be a little chewy.