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March 17, 2022

Sponge cakes that have not risen. Muffins that sunk in the middle. Burnt cookies.

Have any of these disastrous episodes happened to you without you knowing why?

Well, as we often hear from Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood - or other baking gurus, baking is more of a science than an art. One wrong move- and you could end up with any of these failures.

Want to avoid another failed baked goods in your kitchen? Here are 7 things to watch out for.

Not checking to make sure you have all the ingredients

Imagine, after mixing the sugar and butter, you realize you are out of cocoa powder. Or your vegan milk is only half of what the recipe calls. To avoid this, always read the recipe (don’t skim it) carefully and make sure you have everything. Yes, it’s no fun to go out to a store just for one item.

baking ingredients

Not measuring the ingredients correctly

Make sure your scale is working properly. Go over each ingredient carefully. Once again, baking is like math. If you measure too much or too little of your ingredients, it can mess up the end result of your baking. A spoonful more flour can make your bread too chewy. Too much baking powder can make your cake bitter.

Use cold ingredients

Read the recipe, see what you need - and take the ingredients out of the fridge before you start. Give the ingredients enough time to come to room temperature before you start baking. This will give you a smoother dough with more air trapped in it.

food in fridge

Forgetting to preheat the oven

You have prepared your ingredients, greased and lined your baking pan, finished your cake batter, but when you’re ready to bake it, the oven is not ready. Therefore, your cake batter has to sit around. This is not good because once the baking powder and baking soda are mixed, they react and form air bubbles. If your cake mix has to wait a long time, it may not rise as well and have a heavy or dense consistency. Preheat your oven before baking.


Opening the oven too early (or too often)

Besides eating it, another exciting part of baking is seeing how your cake does in the oven. No wonder many of us are tempted to open the oven door to see how the cake is doing. Try not to open it too soon (or too often) or your cake may slump in the middle as the cold airflow interrupts the rising process. Keep the oven closed for at least ¾ of the baking time.

muffins baking in an oven

Not sifting your dry ingredients

Imagine tasting a lump of dry, flavorless flour in the middle of an indulgent bite of your vanilla sponge cake? That’s not fun. You want a smooth, seamless mixture in your cake mix. To achieve this, sift your dry ingredients carefully before adding them to the overall cake mix.

sifting flour

Substituting ingredients without checking

Does 100 grams of regular flour equal 100 grams of almond flour? Can you substitute one cup of sugar for one cup of maple syrup? Will it still work if you substitute vegan for regular butter or milk? Whether it's a food intolerance, diet, or personal preference, you just have to be careful when substituting ingredients in baking. Too many substitutions can lead to problems and the results may be different than you expect. For example, if you want to bake a vegan cheesecake, it may be wise to find and follow an original vegan cheesecake recipe instead of modifying a traditional recipe for the cake. Instead of guessing, search the Internet for appropriate instructions about baking substitutions.

cookies on baking form

Final thoughts

Mistakes in baking can happen to anyone. But if you take enough time to understand the recipe, prepare the ingredients, and use the tools, you can optimize your results. What baking mistakes have you made before - and what have you learned from them? Share your experiences with us here.

Text: Kathy Münster, Zürich-based content designer 

Photo: Unsplash

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