If you’ve been interested in baking for any amount of time, it may feel super overwhelming learning how to start creating delicious and amazing desserts. But don’t worry, here are 20+ baking tips especially for beginners to help you get started and make some bomb ass baked goods.
Note: I know this post is long, but I promise it’s also super helpful for you. If you make it all the way through make sure you leave a comment letting us know your favorite tip and treat yourself to a cookie because you will have gained a lot knowledge.
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Best Baking Tips for Beginners
Baking Tips for Beginners: Mindset Matters
1. Don’t overcomplicate if you don’t need to
I am putting this as number one because if there’s anything you need to take away from this list, it’s this. YOU DO NOT NEED TO MAKE EVERYTHING FROM SCRATCH TO BE AN AMAZING BAKER!
Sure, plenty of people say you do…but those people are typically pretentious a**holes.
Baking at the end of the day is something enjoyable to do (and to eat). You don’t and shouldn’t have to feel like every creation needs to be fancy as can be.
Mary Berry has said that she mainly uses store bought pie crusts because they taste just as good and it makes her life easier. Mary freaking Berry! And if anyone is going to say that she’s not a great baker, they’re crazy.
Life is busy and baking is something fun to do. Don’t make it overly complicated on yourself. You can use cake mix and make an amazing cake. You can create award winning pies with store bought crust. Your simple chocolate chip cookies can be someone’s favorite treat in the world. No bake desserts are amazing.
Don’t worry about complicating baking, life is already hard enough.
2. Check Your Mood
For some people baking is the thing that will help take them out of a bad mood and it’s very cathartic and relaxing to do.
For others, baking in a bad mood is going to make your mood worse. Why? Idk. You might be too heavy handed with ingredients or distracted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a bad mood before baking and then forgot the simplest steps…like adding flour.
If you find yourself getting super frustrated while baking (like if your struggling decorating or your baked goods aren’t turning out correctly), here’s my advice.
Take a moment to breathe.
And the slow tf down.
Doing these things will re-center you a bit and allow you to move on with a clearer head. Plus, by calming down, you’ll probably figure out what’s going wrong and fix it.
3. Don’t Rush Perfection
Rushing will almost always result in mistakes (and/or a lopsided cake). Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to be able to create your beautiful masterpieces.
4. know your stuff: Be confident
Any new hobby requires a certain amount of research.
Know your baking terms. Do you know what folding is? What about tempering? Knowing your baking terms will help reduce the overwhelm and make you more confident in your baking.
Make sure you read our Baking Glossary post to learn all those important terms.
Know your kitchen essentials. Don’t get overwhelmed by all of those “kitchen must haves” or “coolest gadgets for beginner bakers” posts. They’re honestly overrated and very excessive normally. I promise you don’t need much to do a great job baking.
Check out this post to see what I think are actually kitchen essentials, I promise, it’s a kitchen built for a true minimalist.
5. Failure is Okay
This is an important one. Failed baked goods are okay and can often be deliciously repurposed.
I once tried to make flourless brownie cookies…didn’t work. They turned out delicious and crunchy with a good snap. So they became brownie brittle.
Some of the best things in life are the results of a mistake! Repurpose dry cakes into cake balls. Crumble mediocre cookies and turn them into ice cream toppings.
And if something truly cannot be saved because it’s burnt to a crisp…well, you learned.
Baking Tips for Beginners: Beginner Science Tips
6. Baking is a Science, Cooking is an Art
Like we mentioned above, baking is all delicious chemistry. And as with chemistry, you need to make sure that things are measured correctly, temperatures are correct, and that you follow the steps of the recipe accurately.
If you don’t your cookies may overspread, your cakes will be dry, your brownies burnt, and your day a disappointment.
Cooking on the other hand your can just throw out the recipe and YOLO the heck out of it and still end up with a delicious meal.
Baking is not a YOLO activity.
7. Don’t let the science discourage you
I am not good at chemistry. When I first started baking I ruined desserts constantly.
But with practice, now I can easily tell what ingredients are going to do and my recipes turn out perfectly 97.9% of the time. Baking is so fun, plus it’s an amazing skill to have around the holidays when you’re in need of affordable gift ideas that everyone will love!
So don’t let the science scare you away. It’s not complicated science, it just takes a moment and some patience to get used to.
8. DO NOT Substitute Ingredients
Do NOT substitute ingredients ESPECIALLY if it’s your first time making a recipe.
You know what drives food bloggers crazy? Those really mean comments where someone goes “I followed this recipe exactly except I substituted the flour for gf flour, used honey instead of sugar, and left out the butter. IT WAS HORRIBLE”.
Well, yeah….of course it was horrible.
Baking at the end of the day is all chemistry. Those recipes you find online, in cookbooks, or on the backs of your chocolate chip packages have been tested and tweaked multiple times to ensure that they come out delicious every time.
If you start substituting ingredients (especially the first time trying the recipe), it’s unlikely to come out exactly as intended and more likely it’s going to come out all wrong.
And if you’re a beginner baker, nothing is more discouraging than all your baked goods coming out horrible every time while you’re learning. So substitute ingredients at your own risk.
9. Ingredient Quality Matters
I’m not going to lie to you, there are some things that the quality isn’t huge deal for. I typically use imitation vanilla for a lot of my baking. It’s $.69 for a big bottle at Target and it tastes pretty good in most recipes. But if I’m making vanilla ice cream or vanilla cake, yeah, I’m going to opt for the real stuff.
HOWEVER! You will probably never catch me using Wilton’s candy melts for a recipe because frankly, they taste gross. I will always go for the Ghirardelli melting wafers instead – and honestly they’re almost the same price.
As a general rule the higher quality your ingredients, the better tasting your baked goods will be. When you use low quality and super cheap ingredients, normally they’re lower quality and cheap because they have been cut with other things that are cheaper, aren’t processed well, or are just the leftover scraps of the higher quality ingredients.
Better quality normally means better taste.
Then of course there’s the ingredients bought based on morality, but that’s a whole other blog post.
10. Measure Flour by Weight
Flour more often than not is going to be the thing that makes or breaks your recipes. It is responsible for most of the structure in your cakes, cookies, and pastries.
(Actually, I have a full post on flour that you may want to check out for the full scoop on flour).
Americans typically use cups to measure dry ingredients…which is fine for most things. But not for flour!
Flour gets compacted in the measuring cups which means you could be adding up to 150% of the required amount of flour to a recipe.
Invest the $10 into getting yourself a digital kitchen scale and start measuring your flour. Your baked goods are going to turn out a million times better every time!
(Note: 1 cup of all purpose flour is 125g).
11. Different Flours Make a Huge Difference
Flour was not all created equally.
Remember what we said about substitutions? That rule still applies to the different types of flour.
Of course, sometimes we have to substitute, especially if you can’t have a lot of gluten. But just know that your dessert may still turn out different than intended by changing the type of flour.
For instance, if a recipe calls for cake flour, using all purpose flour will result in a denser cake with a less soft crumb.
If a recipe calls for all purpose flour and you use rice flour, your dessert is going to a have very loose structure and a really effed up texture.
Flour matters. Use the right kind and measure it by weight.
12. Cornstarch Keeps Cookies Softer
This is a pro baking hack! Adding 1-2 tsp of cornstarch to your cookie dough will keep them soft for weeks. It is a great life hack if you’re trying to mail cookies to friends and family that don’t live near by.
Don’t add more than 1-2 tsp though or your cookie dough will begin to get chalky.
13. Spray Your Measuring Spoons with Non Stick Spray
Before measuring sticky things like honey, spray your measuring spoons with non stick spray or grease them with just a touch of butter.
This just makes your life so much easier. Making molasses cookies or some honey lavender cupcakes is annoying when half the sticky stuff just sticks to the measuring cups.
So instead spray it and watch the stickiness just slide right off.
14. Baking Soda vs Powder
Baking soda and baking powder are both leveners, aka they are things that help your baked goods rise. Actually they do more than that but if you want to know more about that check out the science of leveners.
Baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate. It is a basic substance that when it reacts with an acid (like cocoa powder, cream of tartar, or vinegar) it releases carbon dioxide. That gas fizzles in your baked goods releasing air causing lift.
Baking powder is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and an acid that is stable until it gets wet. So once added to a batter it will begin to react…again causing things to rise.
Without an acid to work with it baking soda will actually make things spread. Baking powder will puff. Which is why most cookie recipes actually use baking soda more often than powder.
Remember: Soda spreads, powder puffs.
15. Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Unless the recipe specifically calls for cold, melted, warm, whatever ingredients, room temperature is the way to go. Room temperature ingredients will typically bind together creating better structure and evenly distributed ingredients.
16. Separate Eggs Cold
If a recipe calls for separated eggs, separate the eggs cold and then allow the whites/yolks to come to room temperature.
Cold eggs have a more rigid structure so the yolk is less likely to pop when separating it.
Also get yourself and egg separator….I’m obsessed with mine!
17. Chilling Matters
When recipes say to chill cookie dough, batter, dough for a certain amount of time, they are doing so just for funsies. That chill time is important to solidify fats, increase the amount of rise you’ll get from leaveners, or to help prevent shrinkage from pie crusts.
It can also improve the over all recipe. For example, when you chill muffin batter overnight you will end up with a pretty domed muffin top that makes your muffins look like they just came out of a fairytale.
When you choose not to chill cookie dough, you’ll end up with cookies that spread too much and are hard and crunchy rather than soft and chewy. They’re also likely to burn.
18. Your pans matter too!
Dark pans (like those black pretty non stick pans) will bake things faster because the dark coating will actually conduct more heat.
You may want to lower your oven temperature a bit and check your recipe more often if you find your baked goods burning often.
Thin, flimsy, low quality pans will create weird hot and cold spots and won’t necessarily bake your desserts evenly.
Yeah…if you really enjoy baking, you should replace those.
Typically I think it’s best to opt for light colored, heavy duty aluminum pans because they bake consistently and you don’t have to worry about things heating up too much or too fast.
19. Baking Mats and Parchment Paper are Your Best Friend
Nothing is more disappointing that a batch of cookies being ruined simply because of bottoms burnt to the bottom of the pan and are now stuck like glue. Or having brownies rip even though your greased the pan.
To ensure that the bottoms of your baked goods are as pretty as your tops, silicone baking mats are your friend. Parchment paper is great too, but I will always recommend using If You Care’s parchment paper because it is recycled and compostable, making it much more eco friendly.
After all, we’re here to make the world a sweeter place, so don’t f*ck it up with unnecessary trash, bro.
20. Don’t Crowd or Overfill Your Pans
Overfilling your cupcake and cake pans will result in your cakes flowing all over your oven and the cake itself will sink and be a weird lopsided mess when it comes out of the oven.
Crowding your cookie sheets will result in more of a cookie cake (not a bad thing, but not great if that’s not what you’re wanting). They meld together and become a giant, probably weirdly shaped, cookie and also still won’t bake evenly.
21. An Oven Thermometer is Your BFF
Ovens get uncalibrated over time. So that means that when you preheat your oven for 350F/180C you can be 50F/10C off which makes a massive difference in how your baked goods turn out!
Temperature is one of the biggest reasons for failed baked goods (besides improperly measured flour).
Avoid over or underbaking by getting yourself this oven thermometer. It’s the exact same one I have only several years newer (yeah, they last a long time). Plus they’re cheap! So worth it!
22. Bake One Pan at a Time
Patience will always create superior baked goods!
Don’t get impatient and bake multiple cake layers, cookie sheets, etc at once. This will cause them to bake unevenly.
Also set up your oven rack so that it is smack dab in the middle of the oven and bake one pan at a time there. You will get a much more even bake.
23. Underbake Cookies Slightly
For that amazing soft and chewy cookie, it’s important to underbake. You want to pull them out of the oven before they look fully finished.
Residual heat from the pan will continue to bake them slightly and as they cool they will solidify. If you continue to bake them until they look completely finished (meaning not looking slightly doughy in the centers) they will harden as they cool.
24. High altitude baking
Baking at different altitudes actually has a big effect on your results.
Because there’s less oxygen at higher altitudes, things heat up and react faster than they would at sea level. It’s true. Here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, water boils faster and cakes rise faster. This can be a problem because if your leveners (the things that make your baked goods rise like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, etc) they might work too well or too quickly causing your desserts to come out sunken, thin, or hard.
This is because they rise too quickly for the structure of the flour to keep up and all that air ends up being released when it cools, collapsing the cakes. To combat this, you may need to add 2 tablespoons more of flour to your recipes if you are about 5000ft.
Baking Tips for Beginners: Aesthetically Pleasing Baked Goods
25. Food Coloring Types
Gel food coloring will create much more vibrant colors with less product. Personally, I think it is much better than liquid food coloring for super pretty aesthetically pleasing desserts.
Like, seriously. Look at how this frosting looks with gel food coloring!
26. Use a Cookie Scoop or Scale
For uniform sized cookies use a cookie scoop. Or if you’re like me and don’t have one, use your kitchen scale that YOU’RE ALREADY USING FOR MEASURING FLOUR, RIGHT?!
It makes cookies better, knowing there cannot be any arguments on who got the bigger cookie.
27. Allow Everything Cool Before Decorating Anything
If you aren’t patient enough to wait before decorating, you will accidentally create a dessert of someone’s nightmares.
For instance, the non-horrifying photo is what baby Yoda looked like when I waited for my cake to cool before decorating. The brown slop of misery is what happened my first attempt when I rushed and didn’t wait for the cake to cool…
(Obviously, I started taking this tip much more seriously after this mishap).
Let things cool! Or suffer with your cake nightmares in silence.
28. Upgrade Your Desserts
It requires very little to upgrade your desserts with these fancy hacks. Trick all your friends into thinking you’ve been baking for years with these simple hacks. (Sorry, there’s wayyy to many ideas just to put them all here).
29. Do the Cookie Swoop
Those gorgeous bakery style cookies that are perfectly round and beautiful? Yeah, they use the cookie swoop.
Like all the best skills, baking just takes a little time, practice, and patience to get good at. Knowing some simple tricks to improve your baking easily can never be a bad thing.
And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, why not check out some of our other baking tips posts and start becoming the master baker you were born to be! (Also, don’t forget to treat yourself to a cookie after all this reading)!
Know someone who could use some of these baking tips for beginners? Make sure you share this post with them! Because sharing….is caring!