These are my top 7 tips on how to bake from scratch successfully
There seems to be a lot of confusion out there on how to bake from scratch. Some seem to think that they don't have the talent for it or that scratch recipes never work for them. I'm here to tell you that anyone can bake from scratch. If you follow my 7 simple tips on how to bake from scratch, you too can have a baking win!
Nothing compares to a vanilla cake or chocolate cake baked from scratch. I love to bake from scratch but even with all my experience in baking, I can easily have a fail if I don't prepare properly.
I recently got a copy of Baking Basics from one of my favorite authors Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of the Baking Bible. One of my most trusted sources of cake recipes. I wanted to try out her brownie recipe and thought this would be a great time to share my process for testing out new recipes.
How to bake from scratch tip #1 - Get your recipes from a trusted source
I know it's tempting to just go to pinterest when you want to try a new recipe but literally ANYONE can write a recipe and say it's the best. You never know if this person can really bake or not or what their idea of "best" is.
I once tried a banana cream pie recipe that was ranked #2 on google. I thought wow, it's ranked so high, it MUST be good. The photo looked amazing, the reviews seemed like it would be good.
Well... it might be considered tasty to others but for me, it just gave me a stomach ache. WAY WAY WAY too sweet. I couldn't even taste any banana. I should have searched my cook books first.
Try asking in a cake or baking group if anyone has a trusted recipe that they love and could recommend. Look for recipes from highly rated cook books. Try a recipe from a well-known baking source like Sugar Geek Show.
How to bake from scratch tip #2 - Read the WHOLE recipe before you start
I can't tell you how many times I have had people leave comments under my own recipes stating that the recipe did not turn out. I ask, did you read the recipe. "well... sorta.... I skimmed it". *facepalm*
I get it, I hate reading recipes too. But you know what I hate more? Wasting ingredients. Usually recipes contain a lot of helpful info that will help you find success the first time you try it out.
There might be tips for trouble-shooting problems or even things to make sure you don't do to avoid failure. Whomever wrote the recipe has most-likely spent a lot of time testing and re-testing the recipe for success so make sure you take advantage of that experience and read the recipe!
When you read the recipe it also gives you a chance to look up any techniques that you may not understand like whipping to soft peaks or folding.
How to bake from scratch tip #3 - Check your ingredients
Make sure you have all the ingredients the recipe calls for before you even start mixing. If you have to run to the store then it's better to do it now then in the middle of mixing.
Some recipes will actually not turn out right if you stop in the middle of mixing.
How to bake from scratch tip #4 - Weigh your ingredients ahead of time
If your recipe calls for a scale, use a scale. If it says to use cups, use cups. Trying to convert recipes often results in disaster. Almost all my recipes call for ingredients by weight so that you get accurate measurements. Measuring by volume (cups) leaves a lot of room for mistakes. Maybe your flour is too packed, you aren't exact with your measuring or you're doubling the recipe. All these things can lead to disaster.
I measure all my ingredients before I start mixing. Sometimes I don't realize I don't have enough of a certain ingredient until I start measuring. Or I think I had an ingredient but I actually don't. That happens to me ALL THE TIME. Just ask my husband, poor guy is always being sent to the store last minute.
Measuring out your ingredients ahead of time also ensures you don't forget any ingredients. I will read through the ingredients one by one and tap the bowl to the corresponding ingredient. Better safe to double check then waste all those ingredients because you forgot the sugar.
How to bake from scratch tip #5 - Ingredients need to be room temperature or slightly warm
Some things do not like to mix. Oil and water or ingredients that are warm/cold. Things like butter that are oil based will not mix with eggs if the butter is warm and soft and the eggs are cold. Same thing with milk, cream cheese, sour cream etc. This is the second most common mistake people make when making a recipe from scratch.
This is how I warm various ingredients before baking so they are all the same temp.
- Eggs - While still in the shell, place into a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes
- Milk - Warm in the microwave until it feels body temperature
- Butter - I microwave mine in 10 second increments until soft enough to impress my finger into the surface but it still holds it's shape.
- Cream cheese - Cut into small chunks and place onto a plate. Place a hot glass bowl over the top of the cream cheese for 5 minutes. I warm my bowl by heating it with hot tap water.
- Sour cream or mayonnaise - Microwave for 10 seconds and stir
How to bake from scratch tip #6 - Don't make any changes the first time you try it
I love to make adjustments to recipes after I have tried them so they are more to my preference but I always follow the recipe as is the first time. You never know if you're totally ruining the recipe by making a slight adjustment.
Sometimes the author will put some notes at the bottom of the recipe for known acceptable substitutions.
How to bake from scratch tip #7 - Read through the directions as you are making the recipe
It can be difficult to remember everything a recipe says to do so I have the recipe nearby as I am mixing to make sure I don't miss a step. Even as an experienced baker, I know it can be very easy to accidentally make a mistake.
Baking from scratch can seem very intimidating when you're first learning and I totally get it. No one explains these simple techniques for testing out new recipes. Often times the recipe does not turn out and you're left feeling like maybe you can't bake at all and it's pointless to try again!
I hope these tips have given you the confidence to try your hand at baking from scratch and if you're looking for inspiration, check out the full list of free, tried-and-true recipes on our blog.
Liz you are so right in there's nothing worse than wasting ingredients. I was so excited to make one of your recipes for my husband's birthday. I drove all over God's green acres to get ingredients needed only to have 10/11 dislike the cake..sigh. Doesn't mean your recipe is a dud or that I can't bake. Simply means that wasn't a cake liked at my house. I have tried several of your recipes and love them. I enjoy learning from you ( I don't always agree) and watching you interact with your family. Thank you for sharing your time, talent and knowledge.
Good advice. I scratch bake all the time it's how I was taught. I leave some of my ingredients out overnight (butter, egg's) if I forget I pull all out of fridge early morning & enjoy my morning tea & check emails so that about an hour goes by & now I'm ready to bake, ingredients are all now at room temperature. I ALWAYS read my receipes twice & at times even overlooked one esp if I've made it a dozen or more times I feel "I know it all" now & I screw up. But one MAJOR thing I do is after mixing my batters I let them REST in the mixing bowl for 3-4 minutes then hand stir for a second or two before pouring into my prepared pans. Then I lift up my pans & let them drop, this helps to release air bubbles or air pockets. Then into the oven they go. I was fortunate as I had a Konditor Meister start me out with basics of baking. You have made some good points so thanks for sharing your tricks of the trade, they are most appreciated!
The Sugar Geek Show says
Great tips! Yes I do that same. Just the other day I realized I almost left out the vanilla extract even though I had made the recipe a billion times but by habit I always re-read the ingredients after I measure them out. Nothing I hate more than wasting good ingredients!
Liz you are absolutely right. It's not ok to waste.
Thank you for sharing with us selflessly
I am learning so much.
Shelly George says
Thank you for your selflessness. Always willi g to share your knowledge.
Thanks, Liz. You rock! Can I ask what cookbook it is that you are looking at? Gotta have it! 🙂
The Sugar Geek Show says
Its called baking basics by rose levy beranbaum
Thanks, Liz. I ordered the book and love it!
Lorie Parker says
Hey Liz I am following you trying to learn all I can and hope to one day elevate my skills as you have and doing this all while self taught but I am so intrigued by as you say in this tutorial making everything to your liking by changing things around and looking at trusted recipe sources. I am very interested in cake recipe developing but feel as though I would need help in that area and things you look for in a recipe to ensure they will bake out correctly or how can you tell if what your looking at is a good recipe like following the baker formula. Do you have any of these tuts anywhere in your elite program somewhere that I could potentially learn things of this nature by joining your elite program? Also very interested in learning about carving as well. Thanks for your time for reading my comment!!!! ❤️❤️❤️
The Sugar Geek Show says
There's no way to know just by looking if a recipe is going to turn out, that's why I suggest using recipes from a source that you already know and trust. Recipe developing is a separate thing altogether and takes much experience in baking from scratch before you can start making your own recipes. Cake carving is something we cover extensively in our cake school. Check out the introduction to cake sculpting video