How To: 47 Baking Hacks That You Shouldn't Live Without

47 Baking Hacks That You Shouldn't Live Without

Right now is that magical time of year when the general public decides to embrace their inner fattie and get baking in the kitchen. Hello, pies and cakes and cookies and everything carbs. Goodbye, diets—see you in the next year, when you cripple us with unbridled guilt and longing.

However, a lot of aspiring home bakers, armed with Pinterest recipe in hand, tend to prematurely jump into the kitchen and end up with nothing to show for their work. Flour everywhere, an acrid, burning smell coming from the oven, and an unmentionable flat and burned something in the trash, never to be spoken of again (at the risk of becoming a Pinterest Fail meme, that is).

Don't let this be your story. We've got a ton of baking hacks that will keep your buttery, carb-laden goods from looking (and tasting) like hot garbage.

1. Test Your Baking Soda & Powder for Freshness

If your baking soda is still fresh, it will bubble in vinegar; the same goes for baking powder in hot water. See how.

Image by Gabrielle Taylor/Food Hacks Daily

2. Use the Right Bakeware

If you're baking anything with fruit, stay away from metal pans and stick to glass and ceramic bakeware instead. Learn more.

3. Don't Have a Cupcake Pan? You Don't Need One

Mason jar rings do a bang-up job of filling in for cupcake pans. Just place them on the sheet, then plop a cupcake liner in the middle. Check it out.

Image by Emily Ho/The Kitchn

4. Don't Have Pans Either? No Worries!

You can bake pies without pie pans (these are called freeform pies, or galettes). Instructions here.

Image by Laura Holman/Food Hacks Daily

5. You Can Even Use Orange Peels

Orange peels are an ingenious way to bake individual servings, from cinnamon buns (pictured below) to brownies or even soufflés. More details.

Image by Naomi Imatome-Yun/Food Hacks Daily

6. And You Can Bake in Eggshells, Too

It's a bit more effort, but you can bake cakes in eggshells. It just might take a few tries. Try it out for yourself.

Image by Naomi Imatome-Yun/Food Hacks Daily

7. Use Aluminum Foil to Make Custom Cookie Cutter Shapes

Just fold the aluminum foil to a 1 mm thickness, then create the shape you want and staple the ends together. Here's the full guide.

8. Make Your Baking Extracts—It's Cheaper & More Flavorful

Stick whatever you'd like the extract of (vanilla, cinnamon, etc.) in a mason jar with 80 proof liquor, then let it steep for a few months. It's really that easy.

9. Want Next-Level Flavor? Use Real Vanilla Beans Instead of Extract

Or, you could just use real vanilla beans—cut open the pod, scrape out the beans, and use in any recipe that calls for extract. Get the full scoop.

Image by Jessica Bose/Food Hacks Daily

10. Don't Wait for Eggs & Butter to Warm Up Anymore

Warm your eggs and milk by placing them in a warm bowl of water for 5-7 minutes (the milk goes in another glass first, obviously). As for the butter, giving it a few good whacks will get it to room temperature in a jiffy—put the butter in a plastic bag, then smash it with a rolling pin for a minute or two. See it in action.

11. Make Pie with the Best Seasonal Ingredients

This awesome chart even tells you the best kind of pie crust for the seasonal pie as well! There's even instructions for how to make them.

Image via The Modern Farmer

12. If You Use Frozen Fruit, Coat It in Flour Before Baking into Pies or Cake

The flour will absorb some of the liquid from the frozen fruit and keep it from making the cake soggy. (It also prevents the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the pan during baking.) Here's the fruity details.

Image by Raquel Lynn/Food Hacks Daily

13. Make Sure You're Whisking the Right Way

Move your whisk in a side-to-side motion; it's the most efficient way to emulsify vinaigrettes or whip peaks into egg whites. See how it's done.

14. Drop Your Egg in a Glass of Water... If It Sinks, It's Still Good

If the egg floats, then you've got a stinker. Here's the mind-boggling details, along with more ways to check eggs for freshness.

Image by Yumi Sakugawa/WonderHowTo

15. Missing an Ingredient? No Problem

This mega infographic of substitutes can tell you what to sub out for eggs if you find yourself without them (or just want to make something vegan-friendly).

16. Don't Buy Powdered or Baker's Sugar—Just Make Your Own from White Sugar

Use a blender or food processor to make finer sugar from regular ol' sugar. See the magic.

17. You Can Make Brown Sugar from White Sugar, Too

Just add 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of white sugar to make brown sugar. More info.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

18. Need Ripe Bananas ASAP? We Got You

You can speed up ripening by putting bananas in a brown paper bag or by baking or microwaving them (although those last two hacks are only for baking purposes). See how it works.

19. Know What Kind of Flour Works Best for You

Unbleached all-purpose flour can actually differ in density from one brand to the next, so if you've found a brand that works for you—stick with it. See why here.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

20. Like Pillowy, Soft Cookies? Use Cake Flour Instead of All-Purpose Flour

The lower content of gluten in cake flour is responsible for the very visible difference in fluffiness. Cake flour can easily be substituted for the regular stuff—just be sure to add an extra tablespoon of cake flour for every ½ cup of all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. Here are the floury details.

All-purpose flour on the left, cake flour on the right. Image by Julia Kitlinski-Hong/Food Hacks Daily

21. If You Need Self-Rising Flour, Don't Buy It—Just Make It

To make self-rising flour at home, just add 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt for every 1 cup of all-purpose flour used. It's that easy.

Image by Nick & Bay Nigro/Food Hacks Daily

22. Make Sure You're Measuring Your Flour Correctly

When you scoop and dump flour with a measuring cup, you're using more flour than the recipe calls for. Instead, you should be spooning flour into the measuring cup—your baked goods will be less dense (not to mention correctly-made). Get your spoon on.

Image by Denise Brinkmeyer/Spaghetti Towers

23. Know Your Oven Like You Know Yourself

Learn where the hot spots in your oven are, so you can figure out where to place your cookie tray (and the rack of the oven itself as well): just place a tray full of white bread into the oven at 350°F until they toast, and see which slices are toasted the darkest. Full process here.

Image via The Joy Kitchen

24. If You Like Flaky Pie Crust, You Should Be Blind-Baking (Pre-Baking) It

Pre-baking pie crust sounds intimidating, but it's worth it, especially if you hate soggy crusts. And it's not just for custard pies like pumpkin; any kind of pie can benefit from pre-baking. Get flaky.

25. Use a Cheese Grater to Cut Butter for a Flakier Pie Crust

Using a grater on frozen butter breaks the butter up into small pieces without having to use a pie cutter. Mix the butter shavings into the flour and your pie dough will come together with much less fuss. Here ya go.

Image via Linzers in London

26. A Traditional Pie Crust Is Bomb, but a Vodka Pie Crust Is Better

No, it's not for drinking (unless you want a little to top you off afterward): vodka moistens the dough and makes it workable. And it mostly evaporates during the baking process, leaving behind a flaky, perfect crust. Here's the full vodka/crust lesson.

Image by Cleo Coyle/Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

27. Keep Your Fruit Pies from Running with Tapioca Starch

Add 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch (or flour, same deal) to your pie filling before baking to keep your pie from getting runny. Don't believe me? Go here.

28. Don't Settle for Weepy Meringue Pies—Whip the Egg Whites with Less Sugar

Start whipping your egg whites with only half the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, then add the rest of the sugar at the end. It actually works.

Image by Julia Kitlinski-Hong/Food Hacks Daily

29. You Can Use Aquafaba, or Chickpea Liquid, to Make Meringues as Well

It'll take about 15 minutes of whipping via a stand mixer (or hand mixer), but you can make airy meringues out of just chickpea/garbanzo bean liquid! Yes. REALLY.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

30. Rest Your Cookie Batter (Butter, Sugar & Eggs) Before Adding Dry Ingredients

When you let your wet ingredients rest for 10 minutes before adding the dry ingredients, you give the sugar time to fully dissolve into the batter. This creates cookies with chewier centers, crisper edges, and better flavor. Yum! Here's the lowdown.

Image by Jamison Judd/Flickr

31. Refrigerate Your Cookie Dough Before Baking

Drop cookies like chocolate chip or snickerdoodle taste way better if you let them rest in the fridge overnight prior to baking. More info.

Image via Shutterstock

32. Once You've Gotten the Hang of Things, Use Ratios, Not Recipes

You can get endlessly creative with ratios and create new recipes of your own. Check out the instructions.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

33. This Awesome Cake Only Uses Ratios for Its Ingredients

A pound cake has an even 1:1:1:1 weight ratio (flour, sugar, eggs, and butter). Never forget this.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

34. You Can Make Icing That Looks Like Fondant with a Paper Towel

You can use a soft, smooth paper towel on frosting made with shortening to achieve a flawless fondant look. Easy as cake.

Image by Jessica Bose/Food Hacks Daily

35. Or, Make Frosting with Jell-O!

Got a favorite Jell-O flavor? Then turn it into frosting with a few extra ingredients! Here are the colorful details.

Image via Joy of Jello

36. If You Can't Bake All Your Cookies at Once, Store Extras in an Egg Carton

Put your cookie-loaded egg carton in the freezer, then transfer the frozen balls to a freezer-safe bag afterward. Cool?

Image by Wendy Schapiro/Food Hacks Daily

37. Turn Your Leftover Cookie Dough into Sprinkles, Waffles & More

Just bake the cookie dough into one giant cookie, then crumble onto your ice cream—or take your leftover cookie dough and bake it in your waffle iron. Here's even more cookie dough hacks.

38. Slice Your Cake the Right Way to Keep Those Hard-Earned Slices Fresh

Cut your cake slices from the center and press the cut edges together in order to prevent the cake from becoming stale. It's like magic!

Image by Alex Bellos/Numberphile

39. Send Your Holiday Cookies with a Tortilla in the Package to Keep Them Soft

Separate layers of cookies with tortillas before mailing them out—the moisture from the tortillas will keep the cookies from drying up en route. More info.

40. You Can Fix the Cracks in Your Cheesecake with Cream Cheese 'Botox'

This formula includes cream cheese, water, gelatin, and sugar—and makes your cheesecake look flawless, even if it's got more cracks than the San Andreas Fault. Check out the recipe.

Image by Valerie Lam/Flickr

41. Rescue Burnt Cookies by Throwing Them into the Freezer Right Away

Freezing the cookies halts the cooking process and can potentially save them. See it in action.

42. If the Bottom of Your Cookies Are Burnt, Just Grate Them Off

If the rest of your cookies are fine, then a grater will take care of the bottoms—and no one will know any better. Proof.

Image by slgckgc/Flickr

43. Turn Burnt Cake into Bread Pudding or Biscotti

Burnt cake makes a great bread pudding—just lop off the burnt parts and bake (1/3 cup milk and 1 egg per 1 cup of cake crumbs). Here's the full magic.

Image by Taylor Friedlander/Food Hacks Daily

44. If Your Cookies Are Stale After 1-2 Days, Freshen Them with a Slice of Bread

The simple infographic below says it all. But here more info just in case.

Image via Megnut

45. When All Else Fails, Puff Pastry Will Save You

Puff pastry dough is super easy to work with and can be bought ready-to-bake from the freezer aisle. Puff pastry is a superhero.

Image by Laura Holman/Food Hacks Daily

46. Don't Be Ashamed to Turn to Boxed Cake Mix—It Can Still Taste Homemade

Simple additions like an extra egg , mayo, or vanilla extract can totally change the boxed cake mix game. See what else you can do.

Image by Brady Klopfer/Food Hacks Daily

47. Boxed Cake Mix Can Be Made into Cookies When You're in a Pinch, Too

Just add 2 eggs and ½ cup vegetable oil to your favorite cake mix to make cookies. Yes, cookies!

Image by Kris Wu/Food Hacks Daily

Got any other cool baking must-know tricks to add to the list? Let us know below!

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