Black/Red Ninja and Link

5 Baking Mistakes

Notagic kitchen 

    As you all know, I love food. Really, all food, well, except processed food (I can taste all the artificial stuff they put in it). But real, homemade food, love it. I have learned over time to say I do not like something. Because what I usually mean is do not like how this dish was prepared, which is usually poorly. Often times I have had people say to me, I thought I hated this but I never had it this way. Now this I love. (I had a friend say this about roasted pumpkin, she hates pumpkin pie but loved my pasta w/ balsamic roasted pumpkin)

    So I am always up for trying what other people prepare (although everyone is terrified to cook for me ;-)  Do NOT be, by the way). I have to say I know lots of amazing cooks, even though they do not think they are amazing. But I do see a trend in the same mistakes when it comes to baking. BUT let me say something before I list my 5 baking mistakes. First this list is just my opinion, you may disagree with me and that is just fine. And second as I ALWAYS say, suit your palette. Cook food the way you like it, not the way I like it.


5 Baking Mistakes

   1. Trusting recipe times of baking (another words overcooking)

Over-baked items I would say is the biggest mistake I see. When I chat with the person who baked, lets us say cookies, I always get, well the recipes said 15 minutes. I ask if they check the cookies at 10 minutes and I always get, no. Again the recipe said. Yes baking is a science but there are too many variables to be able to write an exact recipe. NO cook can tell you it will cook exactly in so many minutes. So use the time they tell you as a gauge but start checking sooner than the recipe say and pull it out the minute it is cooked!! When I can smell what I am baking, is when I start checking. This is why you will see in my recipes a span of time, to give you an idea of about how long it will take. If I ever write a true cookbook, it will probably be titled something like why I cannot give an exact recipe   :-P


    2. Salt

Salt is a really important component to baking. If left out, you will have a flat, boring tasting cake or whatever you bake. Salt makes sweet things taste sweeter. It adds complexity and is very important. So use salt!  I even dare to say use a generous amount of salt. A pinch of salt in a cookie recipe is not enough. Now I have a reader of this blog (I will not say who she is) who cannot stand salt in her baked items and feels it makes them taste bitter. I do not think that this is the norm for most people but again I tell her to suit her own palette.


     3. Oven temp

This sort of goes back to rule 1. You need to know if your oven runs hotter or colder or right on temp. I think most people’s ovens run hotter. So again if they are baking cookies and the oven is really baking at 365°F, instead of 350°F, it is already cooking faster than the recipe had called for. I have two ovens, one bakes way hotter. I turn down the heat by at lest 25 degrees, when I use that oven. An inexpensive oven thermometer will tell you the temp of your oven. So know your oven and feel free to adjust the heat. Play with it, until you know exactly how your oven temps work.


    4. The oil/butter combo

This is actually sort of not a mistake but more of a trick I have learned over time. Because another issue I see in things like muffins and quick breads is they are too dry. If you are baking items such as muffin, quick breads, cookies or cakes that use melted butter, using a combo of melted butter and oil will give you much more of a moist crumb. Butter gives you the flavor and richness (I adore butter. Just had to say it) but oil will give you moisture.Try using 2/3 butter and 1/3 oil and see what you think. I think you will be happy with the results.


   5. Fearlessly playing with a recipe

Lastly the second biggest mistake (well maybe it is the biggest) is not being fearless. Since I love talking food, I have had lots of conversations with people about cooking. Most people I meet are intimated and afraid to veer from a recipe. Usually they do not understand what they are cooking and worry too much about doing something different. Well I hate to say this but to be a good cook, you have to be fearless, you have to be willing to make mistakes, to ruin dishes that only your dog is willing eat, to think out of the box and to play. Cooking should be fun. I know we are all on tight budgets and do not want to waste money or food. But think of it as investment, like college. It is in your mistakes you will learn (you should see alllllll the mistakes and awful food I have made over the years). Really it is in your mistakes you learn to be a better cook, not your successes. Try learning one idea and then think of how you can add that to what you are already cooking. For example I learned last month all garbanzo bean flour in the cookies I was making was terrible. Really bitter, I can only use a in small amount with other flours. I have found most recipes for cakes, muffins, cookies, etc are actually pretty forgiving. You can adjust the fat, sugar, spices, etc. Now you may not get exactly what the person who wrote the recipe planned but it does not mean you will not get something delicious in the end. Plus the more you bake and play, the more you will understand a recipe when you read it and be able to change it to suit you and that is the whole point of cooking!!

A thank you to Niki for letting me use her a photo of her kitchen. I have been a long time reader and adore her house and kitchen!!



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

terri aka pennyannpoundwise

Well dearest, You've written a real gem here. Not as gourmet a cook as you by any means, but I have a LOT of years of experience under my belt (cooking alone since age 8 so that puts me at the 44 year mark EEK)...Anyway, I didn't know the trick of melted butter with a bit of oil. The others are too true. I HATE when these cooking shows say "Oh baking is an EXACT science..." It so is NOT! Even if followed exactly by ten cooks, a baking recipe will vary greatly.

For all their assurances that one must be scientific when baking, I finally broke free of the fear and will say that some of my BEST baking comes about when I fail to follow the recipe to the letter, or GASP I make up my own recipe, using basic proportions and baking times to creat soemthing new.

I can tell by smell when a cake or cookies are almost done. This used to nut my Kay up, as she wanted to follow the recipe to the letter and I'm telling her "But it SMELLS done now even if there are ten minutes more to go!" Perhaps someone with less experience cannot smell the doneness of a cake but I'd certainly follow your caution to check ten minutes before the recipe says it will be ready.


Oh I really enjoyed reading are the only other person I know who judges when something is done (baking) when you smell it. My husband already knows this trick. I'll come running downstairs saying "I smell it, I smell it". Heat rises so I smell it upstairs first! And my latest credo is to do what I want....I'm tired of listening to recipes..not having all the ingredients etc... I want to make things my way. If you know enough about how and why things work...or even if you don't... make it your way! How freeing this all is!!!

Gumbo Lily

I especially dislike over-baking and work hard not to do it. I need to buy an oven thermometer so I know exactly what temp I'm baking at. Still, it doesn't give me permission to quit peeking in on the baked goods.

I'm going to try the butter/oil mixture in my next batch of baking.

I've always felt a wee bit *naughty* for always changing up recipes, but I do.


The Pleasures of Homemaking

Thanks for the tips Clarice! I made a banana bread last week with a new recipe that used just butter and the bread was so dry. I thought the banana would add moistness but not the case. I will use your oil/butter suggestion and try it again. Any tips for using honey etc instead of sugar?

Love Niki's kitchen!



great tips...Love that kitchen...How pretty... Hugs, Mica


Great tips! I love food too....and I love to cook when I'm hungry, lol. my grandpa in an amazing cook, and I keep trying to get him to teach me his secret! He was one of 5 boys and the one his mother chose to teach to cook, and boy does it pay off! I think I learned a bit of fearlessness in cooking from him, its good to play around, even with old favorite recipes.

Children of Eve

I completely agree with your 5 points here. People are nervous to cook for me also. They just need more confidence in themselves and more of your #5!


Clarice, these are AWESOME tips! Thanks very very much. I especially like tip #4. I think I will try that. xoxo Theresa


I love the tips!You know I would be happy to cook for you anytime, just bring your cute self (& your sweet side-kicks) over here to Texas. I'll whip you up a muffin or pie. Also, Love LOve Niki's kitchen. I'll have to go stalk her blog & see if there is more to see. Lisa


Great post Clarice. I believe I am a fearless cook myself, no way I can ever give anyone a recipe...just a bit of this, some inspiration and maybe a dash of science.



Love Niki's kitchen! Your list is great especially number 5. I wouldn't enjoy cooking nearly as much if I felt like I had to follow every recipe to the letter.


Great tips Clarice!
I do usually go less with the salt as well as the baking soda, but think the rest of your tips are great!
Love that kitchen!


Great baking tips. Being fearless is key. Play, enjoy - that's the fun of the kitchen!

Bumpkin Bears

It's been lovely to visit your blog today. I was reading your profile and thinking how much I love the same, teacups, pink.... :) A great list for cooking, I'll take note of these points. Hugs, Catherine x

Jennifer Hagon-LaFountain

Before reading all the way through I wa going to ask "who's kitchen is that"? LOVE IT!!!!!!

I couldn't agree more with all that you wrote. And the Oil/butter suggestion is wonderful. It works particularly well for me because we are always running low on butter! =)

The balsamic pumpkin pasta sounds amazing! I adore all things pumpkin!





Thank you for the baking tips.
Happy you voted and love that kitchen!

The comments to this entry are closed.