Top Baking Questions Answered
If you’ve ever had flat cookies, you were not able to hold the bread dough when kneading, or you have experienced a sunken cake, burnt the edges of the cake, or you are confused about ingredients. We are here today to discuss all the queries on baking. Top Baking Questions are Answered here in this post.
You are not alone, we’ve all have our share of baking issues and we all run into unfamiliar ingredients or problems that have left us scratching our heads. Over the period of 2 years, I have answered many queries over phone calls, on the email, and even on the Facebook. I have been noticing that there are some common baking questions and problems that tend to pop up quite frequently. I have collected them all here, along with answers and tips to help you have the enjoyable baking experience!
I hope that this post serves as a remedy to some of the most common baking questions and problems that most people run across.
- If you are thinking about buying a new oven or a microwave; and you are still confused; link below will answer all your queries.
1 . Q: Is it possible to freeze a cake after baking and then defrost for later use?
A: You can freeze a baked cake. You would just need to wrap it well before freezing and defrost it naturally at room temperature and do not microwave it.
2 . Q: I cannot beat egg whites. What am I doing wrong?
A: Make sure the eggs whites are at room temperature.
Before you put the egg whites in the bowl, make sure it is clean and dry.
You can add a pinch of salt to the egg whites, this should make them stiffer when whisked
3. Q: How do I know if my baking powder is still fresh?
A: To test if baking powder is still good, combine 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles, it’s still good!
4. Q: How do I know if my baking soda is still fresh?
A: To test baking soda, put 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. If it fizzes immediately, it’s still good!
5. Q: My cakes always stick to the tin and I can’t get it out. How do I prevent this?
A: Grease your tins and line them with baking paper.
When you remove the cake from the oven let it sit for about 5 TO 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. They should slide out easily.
6. Q: Do I need to line my silicone cake moulds with parchment before baking?
A: When using silicone moulds grease them as usual but it is not necessary to line them. Leave the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack before removing them from the moulds.
7. Q: How long can I keep cookie dough in the refrigerator?
A: Most cookie dough can be refrigerated, well-wrapped, for three to five days before baking. If you want to store it farther in advance, freeze the dough.
8. Q: When the recipes call for unsalted butter. Can I use regular salted butter instead?
A: Yes! You can use – when to use your salted butter, don’t forget to omit the salt mentioned in the recipe. At the same time, I definitely recommend using unsalted butter in baked goods, because that way you have much control on the total amount of salt in the recipe.
9. Q: My cake sinks in the middle, what do I do wrong?
A: This can happen if you open the oven before the cake is ready. Try not to open the oven to check on the cake while it is baking as it is important to keep a consistent temperature.
If you remove the cake too early from the oven this can also cause it to sink in the middle.
10. Q: What is the difference between Baking powder and Baking soda?
A: Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents used in baking, but they are chemically different.
Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and a dry acid, such as cream of tartar, and perhaps some cornstarch to help keep the two separate and dry.
Baking soda is also known as Bicarbonate of soda is an alkaline raising agent often used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk or lemon juice. It will also help to lighten the colour of most cakes.
11. Q: My baked goods are burning on the edges while remaining uncooked in the centre. What’s going wrong?
A: Cake, like any other item in the oven, cooks faster on the outside, just because heat needs more time to reach the interior.
One way is by lowering the oven temperature by 25* and cooking a bit longer. This slows down the edge/pan cooking and gives the centre more time to catch up.
Another method is to use convection heat source if you have one. Commercial baking ovens are convection, and the heat is very evenly distributed.
12. Q: Whenever I use metal pan it overcooks the bottom/sides before the top/middle can get cooked? Help.
A: The metal pans are very effective at transmitting heat, so any part in contact with the pan cooks even faster. One thing you can do to moderate this heat imbalance is to place a large aluminium cookie sheet one rack below your cake.
13. Q: I often skip the step of sifting my ingredients. Why is this important?
A: Sifting your ingredients is important because you incorporate air into them, which is important in baking because you want things to be as light and fluffy as possible.
Sifting your dry ingredients together also means you get everything to a nice similar texture and consistency.
14. Q: Why shouldn’t I handle pastry dough too much when working with it?
A: Handling pastry dough too much generates a lot of energy which will develop gluten and therefore create a tougher texture rather than a light short pastry.
15. Q: Why is it important to keep the fat cold when making pastry dough?
A: caramelisationThe chilled fat in the pastry dough keeps the layers of flour/water separated; so long as that fat is cold, the layers stay separate. When the pastry finally goes into the oven the fat melts; but space where the fat, yielding layers of flakes and results into flakiness.
16. Q: What is fine chocolate?
A: Fine chocolate does not have to mean a bar made with 70% plus cocoa solids. Fine is a quality that depends on factors like the variety of beans, where they are grown, fermentation process, drying process, and the manufacturer’s recipe & methods.
17. Q: Where and how do I store fine chocolate?
A: Store your fine chocolate at room temperature, not in the fridge. Keep it away from direct sunlight and from changes in temperature or it will turn white-grey (this is known as blooming). White chocolate is especially vulnerable to picking up foreign flavours, so keep it away from pungent foods.
18. Q: What does the % figure mean in regards to chocolate?
A: The “percentage” listed on the wrapper indicates the fraction (by weight) of the product that comes from the cacao bean. When a one-ounce chocolate bar is marked 75 % cacao content, 3/4 of the bar actually comes from the cacao bean.
Therefore, the higher percentage listed, the higher amount of the natural cacao products in the chocolate bar.
19. Q: Can I use white sugar when making cakes or do I need to use caster sugar?
A: Caster sugar is ideal for baking as it dissolves easier, plus the smaller sugar crystals caramelise evenly to produce a consistent golden colour in the finished baked product. If you do not have caster sugar you can put granulated white sugar into a food processor.
20. Q: What is white chocolate made out of?
A: White chocolate is chocolate which does not contain the dark-coloured cocoa solids derived from cocoa beans. It only contains cocoa butter (the fatty substance derived from cocoa beans), milk and sugar. White chocolate is sweet, with a slight vanilla taste, and has a light flavour which isn’t too heavy or intense, making it perfect for mousses and cheesecakes.
21. Q: My sponges have a hard, brown top. What has gone wrong?
A: The exposed top of the sponge will naturally be more dry and caramelised than the centre. If you feel it’s getting more colour than the required shade, Sugar can be a cause for excessive caramelization. Do ensure you measure the ingredients accurately. Also make sure you mix all the dry ingredients fully before you combine the wet ingredients into the mixture.
22. Q: My sponges are too thin and aren’t rising properly. What has happened?
A: Check your raising agents are within their use by date and that the oven is at the correct temperature for the duration of baking. Do remember to follow the steps like creaming and folding as mentioned in the recipe.
23. Q: Why do I need to cream the butter and sugar, can I skip this step?
A: A common mistake is failing to cream butter and sugar together adequately when baking cakes. This is an important stage and getting them well beaten so they’re light and airy will help to incorporate lots more air into your cake helping it to rise correctly.
24. Q: Can I make my cake mixture in advance?
A: Preferably not, unless the recipe asks for mixtures to rest. Some recipes you can make the cake mixture in advance and store it in the fridge overnight before baking the next day.
25. Q: My loaf has split down the middle. Is this to be expected?
A: Yes, loaf cakes often have that split running down the centre. So long as your loaf cake isn’t dry it will be fine. In some recipes, such as the Lemon Loaf, this extra split is great as it allows the lemon syrup to collect and makes the loaf extra moist. The split is the beauty of loaf cakes, it’s kind of classic.
26. Q: What happens if I over beat my cake mixture?
A: Overbeating your cake mixture will overwork the gluten in the flour and this can alter the structure of the cake, making it dense. Use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into wet.
27. Q: How can I tell if my cake is cooked through?
A: Run a clean metal skewer through the centre and if it comes out cleanly, it’s ready. Another way to help test whether the cake is done is to press the top of the baked cake lightly with your finger, it should bounce back immediately and not leave an indentation.
28. Q: My cupcakes have cracked across the top. Should I be worried?
A: No, some cake does get crack under the pressure of a hot oven! So long as they taste good and aren’t burnt, they’re fine. The frosting is a fantastic cupcake cover-up and will mask a multitude of imperfections!
29. Q: My cupcakes have risen into volcano-like peaks, WHY?
A: Some cakes can rise into peaks and this is absolutely normal. This can happen sometimes if your oven is too hot, but if the sponges are light and moist then they’re fine.
You can use a sharp serrated knife or bread knife to cut off the peaks if you find it easier to frost them flat.
29. Q: Can I make the pie crust dough in advance?
Yes, you can make it the day before and refrigerate. This also allows the dough to relax before rolling. Always ensure everything is cold when you come to roll out your pie crust. Don’t overwork the pie dough.
This is something you will want to know, whether you are baking an apple pie or some other pie – Do’s and don’t’s of pie making
30. Q: What can I do with leftover egg yolks after using the whites in recipes?
Leftover egg yolks can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and used when making mayonnaise or custards from scratch, or for binding patties.
31. Q: What is the difference between compound and pure chocolate?
A: Compound chocolate is made with vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter. Compound chocolate is easier to work with, but the flavour and the texture are not as good.
32. Q: Why does my chocolate look white? Can I still use it?
A: The whitening on the surface of chocolate is called bloom. This is due to exposure to varying temperatures and humidity during distribution and storage. Bloomed chocolate can still be melted or used in cooking as the cooking process helps reincorporate the crystals.
33. Q: When baking, can I double or triple the recipe?
34. Q: What is the difference when I bake in a glass instead of metal pan?
A: Baking in a glass pan takes longer than baking in metal. The heat distribution in a glass pan is very uniform, but metal conducts heat better.
If you are looking to substitute some ingredients in your recipe and you are not sure; link below will help you.
35.Q: How can I keep berries and raisins from sinking to the bottom of cakes and muffins?
A: Toss the fruits with just enough flour to coat it well before you add it to the batter. Also, the lighter the pieces are, the less likely they are to sink through the batter, so cutting them into smaller pieces helps.
36. Q: How can I prevent chocolate from burning when I melt it?
A: The secret is to take it away from the heat before it’s completely melted, and keep stirring until it is. Use a double boiler or microwave on low.
37. Q: What is the best way to store a loaf of bread?
Crusty bread: paper. Soft bread: air tight plastic. It is that simple.
38. Q: What size are 500g/lb and 1kg/2lb bread tins?
A: 500g/1lb bread tins are 16cm x 10.5cm (6.25in x 4.25in). 1kg/2lb bread tins are 23cm x 13cm (9in x 5in).
39. Q: How to get Whoopie Pies to be a uniform size?
A: Use a food portioning scoop/ ice-cream scoop to get the right size.
40. Q: What should I look for when purchasing a baking tin?
A: Good quality tins offer a better value for money as they will often last longer and provide more durable bakeware. Non-stick tins allow your cakes to be released much more easily and will also be easier to clean.
41. Q: The sugar and egg didn’t fluff up as the recipe suggests. What have I done wrong?
A: Make sure you beat it for long enough to incorporate lots of air into the mixture. It takes at least five minutes on a moderately high speed to thicken the texture and lighten the colour. Also, use the eggs which are kept at room temperature.
42. Q: How much should I fill cupcake/muffin cases?
A: We suggest cupcakes should be two-thirds full and muffins three-quarters full before baking.
43. Q: Why should I use an ice cream scoop to divide up cookie mixture?
A: Food Portioners and it ensure they are the same size.
44. Q: What is the correct thickness for cookies?
A; Less than half a centimetre is very thin, So always be beyond that. I like to be generous. The cookie dough should be sticky and firm or it spreads too thin when baked. You must chill the shaped cookies for some time before baking.
45. Q: Can I convert the recipe to cups?
A: Yes, you can but be sure to do so with accuracy or it can result in undesirable results.
46. Q: Should I use digital or mechanical scales?
A: You can use both types but accurate digital scales are always preferable as they give precise figures to the last gram. Always place your scales on an even surface and zero them before weighing.
47. Q: What happens if I take the sponge out of the oven too early?
A: Please don’t do that. Only take your sponges out of the oven when they are ready and the baking time mentioned in the recipe is over. An undercooked sponge doesn’t have the structure to support the weight of itself and will probably sink.
48. Q: What is the ideal depth of cake tins?
A: Cake tins should be approximately 2 inches deep.
49. Q: I don’t have an electric mixer. Can I still make your recipes?
A: Yes, you can. Use a whisk, make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. But remember it will require longer time and stronger arm muscles.
50. Q: How full should my baking tins be?
A: As a rule, fill any tins to around two-thirds full. This allows space for the sponge to expand and should help to prevent the mixture from overflowing.
51. Q: What happens if I use the wrong sized baking tin?
A: Overflowing mixture, uneven baking and sponges with uncooked middles can all be a sign that the tin size is incorrect.
52. Q: What can I do with leftover cake mixture?
A: If you have leftover cake batter after filling your cases or tins, you can fill some extra cases. Please don’t overload your cases.
53. Q: Can I store my cakes in an airtight container after baking?
A: Yes, it is best to keep cakes at room temperature in a suitable airtight container so that the sponge doesn’t go hard. However, allow cakes to cool fully before storing as moisture from the steam can cause them to go soggy.
54. Q: What is the difference between fermenting and proofing?
A: Fermenting is where the flavours are created and take much longer than the proofing stage. Fermentation begins when yeast is added to flour and water.
Proofing is the final gas production that aerates the dough so it is not dense. Proofing is also called the final ferment.
55. Q: What is a pre-ferment?
The French call it a Leavan, Italians call pre-ferment a Biga, also known as Poolish. When you take a small portion of dough and pre-ferment it before mixing the final dough. Using a very small amount of yeast, the pre-ferment rests for a lengthy period of time, often overnight, at a warm temperature and develops a heavenly aroma.
56. Q: What is “hydration” of dough?
The term “Hydration,” means the ratio of the water weight to the flour weight, expressed as a percentage.
57. Q: How should I store yeast?
A: Store unopened yeast in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry (or refrigerator). After opening, store in an airtight container in the back of the refrigerator, away from drafts.
58. Q: How do I proof the yeast and test the activity?
A: To proof yeast, add 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water (100°–110°F). Stir in 1 packet of yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons); let stand 10 minutes. If the yeast foams to the ½-cup mark, it is active and you may use it in your recipe.
59. Q: How do I create steam in my oven and why is it important?
A: When you pre-heat your oven, place a metal/ Cast iron (never glass) pan on the lowest shelf towards the front of the oven. After placing dough in the hot oven, immediately add 5-6 ice cubes to the pan just before you close the hot oven door.
60. Q: How can I make pizza crusts and store for future use?
A: Par-bake and freeze your homemade sourdough pizza crusts so they are ready in advance. Bake quickly 4 to 5 minutes in a hot oven, cool. Stack with parchment, and freeze in an airtight container. When you are ready for pizza just add toppings and bake.
61. Q: What is Whipping?
A: Whipping is beating ingredients until aerated. This can be achieved by using a whisk, a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
62. Q: Why is salt added to baking cookies and cakes?
A: Salt enhances all flavors—savory and sweet!
63. Q: Do I follow the same temperature setting for convection oven?
A: Convection baking requires some minor adjustments to either the baking time or oven temperature. The heat from the internal fan of a convection oven creates an evenly heated atmosphere that bakes more efficiently.
64. Q: How do I convert conventional oven recipe for a convection oven?
A: To convert a conventional oven recipe for a convection oven, either drop the baking time by 15 minutes or decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
65. Q: What type of baking tray is best for cookies?
A: Medium-weight aluminium baking trays are best. The dark ones tend to brown the bottoms of your cookies too much.
66. Q: My chocolate chip cookies always seem to get hard after baking?
A: To keep chocolate chip cookies soft after baking, do not overmix the dough or use too much flour (stick to the measurements). The centre might look a bit softer, but let the cookies cool completely and you will have a soft centre! Be sure to store them in an airtight container.
67. Q: Why do recipes sometimes call for room temperature eggs? I forgot to take my eggs out beforehand, is it a big deal?
A: Room-temperature eggs are considered ideal because they aerate better. The protein strands are more relaxed and flexible in room-temperature eggs, and aeration (fluffiness and tenderness). Tip: You can bring eggs to room temperature in less than a minute. Just submerge them in a bowl of warm water.
68. Q: Can I put two baking trays of cookies in the oven at one time?
A: Yes, of course. Use the convection mode oven and make sure to rotate them top to bottom and front to back.
69. Q: Why we can’t open the oven door for some recipes and we can open the door of the oven for some when baking?
A: Some recipes are more sensitive to heat, steam, and air current. Opening the oven door will cause the temperature to drop. Which will slow down your baking time, and could interfere with rising? When your batter starts to bake and the air and gasses expand and start to form the structure, any interference with the temperature will result in a fall.
70. Q: Can I make buttercream in advance?
A: Yes, but I suggest don’t do that. Buttercream will have the best taste and consistency on the same day it’s made.
If it is necessary to make buttercream in advance, you’ll need to refrigerate or freeze it. Give the buttercream a stir before using, to slightly fluff it up a bit.
71. Q: Can I use shortening instead of butter for buttercream?
A: Butter is butter – for its rich flavour. It will differ in final results if you use shortening. However, shortening is a little sturdier, especially in the heat. I suggest using part instead of all shortening in a buttercream.
72. Q: My cream cheese frosting isn’t turning out right. What am I doing wrong?
A: I recommend using full-fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese. No other substitutes will give the same results. Also, make sure the cream cheese is cold before use as this will keep it firm for mixing.
73. Q: Can I frost a cake the night before?
A: I recommend you frost the cakes to eat on the day wherever possible – it always tastes better fresh. But if you frost it the night before, it should keep well.
74. Q: What is the difference between heavy cream and heavy WHIPPING cream?
A: Heavy Cream is a special dairy product that is made out of the top most layer of milk which is rich in fat. On the other hand, the very term “whipping cream” refers to such cream that is subjected to a process of continuous beating till it gets fluffy and light.”
75. Q: When a recipe calls for softened butter, do I need to melt the butter completely?
A: Softened butter is the butter kept at room temperature which has a spreadable consistency. If the recipe calls for softened, you just want it SOFT not MELTED.