Ever wondered what kind of cooking magic happens in the back of bakeshops and chocolatiers to make all the delicious goodies look and smell amazing? Now you don’t have to wonder. And in fact, you can replicate some of that goodness right in your very own kitchen with these easy to follow hacks.
With the help of Master Chocolatier, Chef Jacque Torres and a few tips from Pastry Sous Chef Bartone at Eataly, New York, we’ve put together a list of genius baking tips you’ll want to steal. So bookmark and pin this page for when you want to make your baking just that little bit tastier (and cheaper too!).
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclaimer for more information*
1. Invest in an oven thermometer.
“Ovens are almost never accurate and they can seriously mess up your baked goods,” shares Bartone, a professional pastry chef at Eataly, New York City. An oven that runs hot can make your cakes rise too quickly and fall, while an oven that is too cold can result in inadequate browning.
A lot of ovens aren’t calibrated properly, meaning that just because you set yours to 375°F doesn’t mean that’s what it’s actually running at. Invest in an oven thermometer (as cheap as $14) and go by what it reads, not by what your temperature dial is set to.
2. Sift dry ingredients together, instead of just mixing to remove lumps.
Quick and simple tip that can make all the difference. Sift dry ingredients such as flour, baking powder, sugar and salt before adding them to any mix. This removes any lumps that may have formed and help to keep the texture smooth.
3. A perfectly baked cake will spring back when pressed in the middle.
When your cake has baked for the specified amount of time, take it out of the oven and press the center down slightly. If it springs back instead of sinking in, it’s cooked! If not, give it another couple of minutes in the oven.
4. The secret to perfectly shaped cookies? A cookie scoop.
Take the hassle out of weighing each ball of dough separately and instead use a cookie scoop to achieve that even look. Plus, it saves a lot of sticky mess on your scales and counter. You can get a set of three different size cookie scoops here.
5. For super moist cakes, use a squeezy bottle.
“For large sheet cakes and rounds,” says Bartone, “we give them a quick showering of simple syrup or alcohol to keep them moist.” This makes sure the cakes stay super moist and don’t dry out after being cut. Bakeshops tend to use special squeezy bottles that have multiple nozzles to evenly soak their cakes, and now you can too. Only $6 on Amazon.
6. Leave cookie dough to rest for at least 24 hours. Yes, really.
This might sound excessive, especially if you’re baking at home, but this method dried the dough out slightly, and yields a cookie that tastes so much better in flavor and texture.
“We let our cookie dough hang out in the fridge for a day or two, before moulding into shape” says Bartone. Did you know the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie let her dough rest for a whopping 36 hours?!
7. Use your weighing scales…properly.
Forget diamonds, food scales are a baker’s best friend (approx. $13 on Amazon). Professional baker’s weigh their ingredients by weight not volume. Bartone explains he ‘’doesn’t measure anything by volume, it’s very inaccurate and leads to inconsistent results’’. Not sure how to use your scales properly? Check out this post here.
8. Before you whip cream, measure it out in a large bowl, then put the bowl in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Baking something that needs whipped cream? Chef Torres, professional pastry chef & chocolatier says that cream is much easier to whip when it’s very cold. Even better if the bowl is cold because it will keep the cream colder for longer.
Just don’t keep it in the freezer for too long (no more than 10 minutes), otherwise it will start to freeze and you don’t want that.
9. Speaking of whipped cream, it’s easier to whip with three whisks!
Okay, so this might not apply to everyone (especially if you don’t have three whisks handy), but according to Chef Torres, using three small whisks shaves a lot of time off the tedious task of traditional whipping!
10. Make sure your ‘room temperature’ ingredients are actually at room temperature.
Chefs and bakers don’t add the ‘room temperature’ label to the recipe for nothing. And they’re not trying to be mean either. Baking is a science! When at room temperature, ingredients such as butter, eggs and milk form an emulsion which traps air. This leads to fluffier, softer bakes with lots of airy holes.
Cold ingredients, on the other hand, lead to a dense mixture, which leads to a denser bake. If your recipe calls for it, make sure your ingredients are room temp!
11. For chocolate doughs and batters, use cocoa powder instead of flour to keep the mixture from sticking to the tin.
Simple, but effective, lightly dust your baking tins and moulds with cocoa powder instead of flour when making dough or batter that is chocolate flavored. Not only will this deepen the chocolate flavour (which is never a bad thing), and prevent the mix from sticking, but it will also prevent that dry mouthfeel and ‘caky’ appearance that flour will give. Bartone prefers to use unsweetened cocoa powder when prepping his cake pans.
12. Tired of paying for cake tins? Use ring moulds instead.
Cake tins can get expensive, especially for speciality bakes. Professional bakers and pastry sous chefs use ring moulds instead. Simply place them onto a baking tray and pour the batter or mixture into them and bake. Just make sure your baking tray is completely flat otherwise you risk batter seeping out.
13. After you pour your cake batter into a pan, give it a few good taps and quickly spin it.
“After you pour cake batter into a pan,” says Bartone, “tap it down several times and then quickly spin it so the batter rises up the sides slightly.” This helps to elimate those pesky air bubbles and encourages the sides of the cake to climb upwards – no more dome shaped cakes!
14. Frugal baker? Save money by making piping bags out of parchment paper.
Surprisingly, a lot of professionals prefer to use these DIY pastry bags, also know as cornets, for piping (Bartone included!). “For customers that request writing on their cake,” shares Bartone, “I just make a cornet and use it to easily write on them without having to use a pastry bag.”
Want to use this hack yourself? Simply fold up a quick cornet to make piping and frosting a breeze. See the DIY tutorial on how to do it here.
15. Use acetate paper to make perfectly layered cakes and shiny chocolate garnishes.
You might already know this one, especially if you’re a baking whizz, but acetate paper (like this stack of five for $) help you, the baker, to assemble layered cakes and make chocolate work look more professional.
As a general rule of thumb, the shinier the surface (you pipe the chocolate on), the shinier the chocolate will turn out. It’s also easier to peel off! Win-win.
16. When using buttercream on a cake, heat your tools for a super smooth finish.
Heating up your spatula with a blow torch for a few seconds, says Bartone, helps it to glide over the frosting and create that super smooth finish’’. Don’t worry about your creation becoming a soggy mess, Bartone says a few seconds under heat just allows for smooth texture, not complete melting.
Don’t have a blowtorch? Just dip your spatula into a mug of hot water for a few seconds. Check out even more secret professional cake decorating tips here.
17. Want to use vanilla bean, but don’t like the price? Use vanilla bean powder instead.
So, the last time we checked (today) a single vanilla bean can cost up to $8! Yes, really. On the hunt for a cheaper alternative? Vanilla bean powder tastes great as its made from dehydrated vanilla beans and grinding the pod, and costs around $24.99 for 3 ounces.
Tastes just as amazing, and whilst you might put on pounds on the scale, you won’t lose any pennies this way. “We use it anytime we want a strong vanilla flavor but can’t justify the cost of paste or beans,” shares Bartone.
You Might Also Like:
Know someone who could benefit from this post? We would be SO happy if you shared it! Thank you.