Top 10 Baking tips

Don’t over mix the batter or mix on too high speed.

Both over mixing and mixing on a high speed add more air to a batter. Too much air in a cheesecake can cause cracks a few ways. One – big air bubbles can rise to the surface and create cracks or little craters. Two – adding air causes things to rise and too much rise in a cheesecake isn’t a good thing. It can rise too much or too quickly and then fall and crack. This also goes back to number one about room temperature cream cheese. If your cream cheese isn’t soft enough, you’ll have to mix things more to get out the lumps. So again, be sure it’s nice and soft. Also, more air tends to be added during the process of adding eggs to batter, so be sure to use a lower speed.

Follow the Recipe

This sounds obvious, right? Following the recipe is the most important cake baking tip you’ll ever hear/read. It’s also the most ignored. We often substitute ingredients in recipes based on what we have. Subbing out eggs, reducing sugar, using liquid sweetener instead of dry, all-purpose instead of cake flour, baking soda for powder, egg whites instead of whole eggs, etc. I do not recommend doing this unless the recipe suggests alternatives. Don’t sabotage your time, effort, and money. I’m guilty of this, too! Sometimes I’m in a rush and just not paying attention or I’m making a substitution because I ran out of an ingredient. But ingredients are needed for a reason and, more often than not, a cake fail is because the recipe wasn’t properly followed. I always recommend following a recipe the first time you try it, then making changes as you see fit the next time. Likewise, make sure you’re using the appropriate size pan. Unless otherwise noted, don’t substitute a 6-inch cake pan for a 9-inch cake pan or a 9-inch round pan for a 9-inch square pan. You can usually get away with swapping 8-inch round cake pans for 9-inch round cake pans (and vice versa). 8-inch cakes will take longer since they’ll likely be thicker. But to prevent dense cakes, sunken cakes, overflowing cakes, and flimsy cakes, use the correct size pan.

Use marshmallows as an easy icing alternative.

Icing can be a bit of a hassle to make and dirties one more bowl. If you’re looking for a quick alternative or are making a S’more cupcake, use a marshmallow instead! Simply top each cupcake with a marshmallow 5 minutes before they are finished baking. (via Toni Spilsbury)

Use a water bath.

This is a step that most people want desperately to avoid, but trust me – the extra few minutes it takes are totally worth it. The benefits are many. First, the water bath generates steam that helps keep the cheesecake from drying out and cracking. Second, the water bath keeps the sides of the cheesecake from baking more quickly than the middle. It helps bake more evenly, also helping prevent cracks. If you forgo the water bath, you are often left with a cheesecake that falls in the middle, browns too much around the edges and cracks. All are some of the worst culprits to a perfect cheesecake. Make the time for the extra step and you won’t regret it!

Leak-proof your water bath.

It’s such a bummer to go through all the trouble of baking a cheesecake and then have a soggy crust. As much as a springform pan is important to a great cheesecake, they are also the most unreliable pan ever. I’ve used many a springform pan and only ever found one that didn’t leak (and the other 4 of the exact same pan did leak, this was just a lucky one). To leak-proof your water bath, check out my tutorial for how to set up your pan for a leak-proof water bath. Hint: I use a crock pot liner bag.

Room Temperature

This tip could get a little long so let me direct you to my entire post on the subject. “Room temperature” isn’t listed next to ingredients for fun. There’s science and legitimate reason behind it. If a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients like eggs, sour cream, butter, and milk. To paint you a picture, let’s focus on room temperature butter in particular. Most cake recipes begin with creaming butter and sugar together. Butter is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy cake. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together easier and quicker since they’re warmer– thus reducing over-mixing. Simply put, cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. Room temperature butter is about 65°F (18°C), which might be colder than your kitchen. It’s cool to touch, not warm. If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. Allow the butter to sit out on the counter for about 1-2 hours before beginning your recipe. To test it, poke the butter with your finger. Your finger should make an indent without sinking or sliding down into the butter. The butter should not be shiny or greasy. It will be cool to touch, not warm. Sometimes our schedules don’t allow 1-2 hours for softening butter prior to beginning a cake recipe. Don’t take a shortcut and microwave the butter because it will not heat evenly. But guess what? I have a foolproof trick for softening butter quickly. 🙂

Don’t Go Overboard With Toppings

This will make the pizza harder to transfer to the oven, and could make the top soggy. Less is more with pizza toppings – just make sure you get really quality ingredients and you won’t have to drown it. Freshly made dough with good tomatoes should be the focus. Then cheese and a few toppings is a great added bonus. I find it’s often a hallmark of bad pizza when it has a million toppings on it. When the pizza needs this, it’s often hiding the fact that the dough wasn’t well made, or the cheese is like rubber.

Use a springform pan.

Ok, so now that I’ve just said how unreliable springform pans are, I’m going to tell you that you still need one. To get that perfect looking cheesecake, you need a pan with removable sides. It’s just the way it is. And if you’re a lover of cheesecake, you’ll use it plenty so it’ll be a good investment.

Oven Temperature

Always follow the recipe temperature and timing precisely and bake on middle shelf of oven. Usually 325-400 F is recommended. I prefer 355 F. Now, you can't trust oven temperatures. It's always less or more than what you set. So, for best results use a thermometer. If you really care about cookies and baking invest in an oven thermometer. It's worth every penny and very cheap for the job it does.

Keep all your chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom by coating them in flour first.

If you are baking with chocolate chips, you may notice that they all seem to sink to the bottom. Well, to keep them from sinking, you can coat them in flour first. This hack also works for chopped up nuts and other baking add-ins. (via Cake Whiz)