Food Tips

Baking tips that'll take you to expert status

Baking tips that'll take you to expert status

Recipe: Mini Raspberry Trifles / Image: Maya Visnyei / Food styling: Claire Stubbs / Prop styling: Ann Marie Favot

Food Tips

Baking tips that'll take you to expert status

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just getting started, there’s always room for a little extra help in the kitchen. These handy tips will have you whipping up delectable desserts in no time.

Keep reading for seven helpful tricks that'll make your cakes, cookies, pies and more taste and look better than ever.


1. Buy the right bakeware.

No one wants their cake to stick to the pan, but you’re better off using parchment paper or greasing your pans properly (more on that in tip No. 2) than you are using non-stick bakeware. Non-stick coatings scratch and flake over time, which can lead to chemicals leaching into your food, and to boot, the dark colour of these pans actually absorbs more heat, increasing the odds that your baked goods are going to get scorched. Your best bet is to invest in heavy-duty bakeware that’s made from a light-coloured material like aluminized steel.


2. Give it some (elbow) grease.

Properly greasing your pans takes a little extra time, but it's worth it when your cakes come out of their pans without a struggle. Using softened butter (or your favourite butter substitute if you’re making a dairy-free recipe), grease your pans so that the bottom and sides are generously coated. Then sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the base of the pan; lift the pan and gently tap it to distribute the flour in a thin, even layer all across the bottom and sides, until the butter is completely dusted in flour. Tap out and discard any excess flour.  


3. Keep it fresh.

Lots of baking ingredients sit in our pantries for far too long, and unfortunately, many of them do go stale or rancid. Make sure to check them for freshness, and if they’re past their prime, don’t be tempted to use them anyway; discard them and start over with new products—your taste buds will thank you for it.

Here's what happens to your most-used ingredients when they're past their due date and how to tell it's time to chuck them out:

  • Baking powder loses its leavening power once it’s past its prime. Check it for freshness by pouring just-boiled water over a small quantity. If it bubbles, it’s good to go.
  • To see if your yeast is still active, whisk together 1 packet (or 2 ½ tsp) of yeast, ½ cup of warm (but not hot) water, and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. In 5-10 minutes, the yeast should form a creamy, bubbly foam on top of the water. If nothing happens, your yeast isn’t lively enough to help your bread rise.
  • Most spices in people’s cupboards are way past their prime; they lose potency after about 6 months. After that, they won’t be adding much flavour to your treats. In the future, buy your spices from a bulk food store, and only as much as you think you’ll use for the next half of the year.
  • Over time, fats—vegetable oils in particular—will start to go rancid. If your oil has a bitter, metallic or soapy aroma, or just smells "off," you're probably dealing with rancidity. In addition to being unhealthy to consume, rancid oils taste terrible, so start with a new bottle before attempting that cake.


4. Slow it down.

Plenty of baked goods can be whipped together in a hurry (banana bread is a great example), but some recipes actually benefit from time to rest. One of the best-kept baking secrets is that many cookie doughs (especially chocolate chip) taste better if they’ve rested overnight in the fridge. Chilling them ensures that your cookies will spread less in the oven, but also gives more time for the moisture in the dough to evaporate, resulting in a more rich, concentrated flavour.


5. Go for the gold.

Browning and caramelization are common practices for adding flavour when cooking meat, but the same principles can also apply to your baked goods. This won’t work well on a delicate cake or on cookies you want to keep soft and fluffy, but it’s perfect for treats like pies, crispy cookies and caramel sauce. It can be tempting to take these goods out of the oven (or off the stove) the moment they turn a pale gold, but for the most flavour, you want them to be a deep golden-brown before you take them out.


6. Recipe flopped? Repurpose it.

There’s nothing worse than throwing away a dessert that you worked hard on just because it didn’t turn out perfectly. If your pie or cheesecake cracked, cover it in whipped cream! If you’ve been whipping egg whites for ages but your meringue just isn’t stiffening up, turn it into buttercream! If your cake didn’t rise as much as you’d hoped or broke apart in the pan, cut it up into cubes, toss it with some jam and whipped cream, and you’ve got an instant trifle. Overcooked brownies and cookies are great if you chop them up into bits and swirl them into homemade ice cream or can be used to top the store-bought kind.


7. Bonus tip! Run a bubble bath...for your dishes.

Instead of instructions for preheating the oven, every recipe should begin with the step: “Plug your sink and fill it with hot, soapy water.” That way, you can drop your dirty dishes into the sink as you go, making them easier to clean by the time your treats are out of the oven. It’s a small, simple gesture, but it will save you loads of time when it comes to washing up, leaving you more time to have your cake and eat it too.


Looking for more baking tips? Check out our piece on Bake Sales 101, or how to bake gluten-free recipes, plus essential tips for baking your first loaf of bread.


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Food Tips

Baking tips that'll take you to expert status