While writing my previous recipe about last minute Christmas cupcakes, I came out with the thought about baking mistakes I can’t stop making. And I thought that would be a great subject to mention around Christmas time, when we all spend more time in the kitchen and sometimes struggling with all these Christmas cakes, pies and cupcakes. At least I do struggle sometimes. I’m a guesstimator, and when it comes to cooking it doesn’t matter as much, but with baking the exact amounts and specific instructions makes a difference. So skipping or swapping an ingredient or adding inaccurate amount of something, can have, or for sure, will have an impact on your final product. For last couple years I’ve learnt that baking recipes are quite different than the rest, and I should stick with them if I don’t want to be disappointed.
The proportions, temperature and procedure are important. Any neglect can take revenge on you. We all make mistakes, especially in the beginning. But there’s a few I keep doing God knows why. Below are the ten most common mistakes I make when baking. Maybe you make them as well without even realizing.
I don’t read the entire recipe beforehand
Oh, this one was happening to me very often at the beginning of my baking journey. You start baking, follow the instructions in the recipe, and suddenly you are halfway through at the point where you have to let the dough stand for two hours. You already know that you will not finish baking as it was planned. Or you’re in the middle of mixing ingredients and you notice that you’re missing an ingredient or two…Or (this ones happens to me all the time) you start all the preparations and you don’t have eggs or butter in room temperature, because you haven’t read the recipe earlier to know that you have to take it from the fridge couple hours earlier… For this reason, it’s always a good idea to read the entire recipe before you start working to avoid these kinds of surprises.
I’m not measuring ingredients accurately
“A little bit of this, and a little bit of that” – you know like in this song… I really struggle with this. Each time recipe requires 125g of something or 125ml of something else, my guesstimator wakes up and say: lets make it half a cup. That’s why very often in my recipes I use cups (I use always the same measuring cup for all my cakes, which is regular 250ml glass) and spoons instead of exact measurements. But sometimes these 5 grams makes a difference, and then I’m always surprised (really?) why something went wrong…
Substituting or adding extra ingredients
I’m a master of that! Which annoys my partner sometimes, but I can’t help it. Less when baking, but still. Sometimes I dig in my cupboards looking for a substitution (because number one – I haven’t read the recipe beforehand) or I have a whim to add something more than in the recipe. It’s good and bad habit, depending of the outcome.
I pour the flour straight from the bag
You pour the flour into a bowl and start baking. OK, I do this all the time. I don’t even have sifter. Shame on me. Sifting makes flour more loose, and cake more fluffy. But I just can’t be bothered…And you?
I replace baking powder with baking soda or vice versa
I never remember which one I should use: baking soda or baking powder, usually I use according to the recipe, but happened couple time to swap one with the other. And they are two different raising agents. So decided to finally make my research and hopefully now I will remember which raising agent I should use and when. If you have the same problem click here to read full instruction.
I use butter straight from the fridge
Many recipes require room temperature butter. First mistake already showed us that I have a problem with reading the recipe beforehand. So often I’m surprised that I have stone cold butter, while I need soft one. Do not try to replace it with cold or melted fat. Do not make the same mistake that happened that I made. Just read the recipe before you roll up your sleeves 😉
I prepare a baking tray for the last minute
The dough is ready and waiting for the baking tray to be greased or covered with baking paper. Meanwhile, the chemical reactions had already started, especially if you were using baking soda. Put the dough into the preheated oven as soon as it is ready. It’s not a big thing but can help the cake rising properly.
I’m not following the method properly
If the recipe requires a specific method. then there’s generally a scientific reason why, and doing otherwise it may result with a fail. I know it. Everyone knows it. In spite f all I keep on doing it. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered waiting for butter to cool before adding it to a mixture…
I don’t preheat the oven and/or often open it while baking
The baking temperature is very important. In a slightly preheated oven, cake will not rise, in an overheated oven it will quickly starts burning on the top, but in the middle it will be underbaked. Frequent and too early opening the oven affects how the dough will look and taste. Recipes often state how long it takes to lower the baking temperature. This is also the time when you should not open the oven door. Don’t forget that each time you open the oven, the temperature drops. With some cakes slight difference in temperature might not make a harm, but with others can contribute to a big fail. Cheesecakes and meringues hates if you open the oven during baking or too early after baking process finishes (try and you’ll see). Others, like shortbread or some kind of biscuits, doesn’t really mind, but you need to know how to treat them 😉
Hold your horses, let it cool down
You can’t wait to try your cake or to finally decorate it? Hold your horses! Lack of patience can ruin everything, believe me. Risen cake may deflate, cream may melt during decoration, or everything will fall apart because cake needs to set slightly. Do not waste your efforts at the end and let the cake cool down. Only then can you proceed to making layers or portions. Tip: If you need to cut the hot cake, use a very sharp knife and soak it in water beforehand.