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    Updated on Jul 20, 2019. Posted on Aug 17, 2018

    I Started Baking A Year Ago — Here's All The Things I've Learned So Far

    Loaf cakes and drop cookies are every novice baker's friend!

    Hi, I'm Jasmin! I've always loved the idea of baking, but every time something went wrong I would give up on the hobby for a few months before restarting. But last summer I decided to really commit to making more stuff, and I learned a few useful things to bear in mind along the way.

    But nonetheless v proud of the beauties I’ve made despite being unable to even make cookies three months ago

    1. Loaf cakes and drop cookies are hard to mess up.

    Jasmin Nahar / BuzzFeed

    I LOVE loaf cakes — they were an easy win that kick-started me feeling confident in my baking after several screw-ups that made me want to throw my mixing bowl in the bin. And bar them becoming raw, or burnt on the outside, they’re surprisingly hard to screw up! What you’re generally making is a quick bread and most recipes are as simple as mixing together your wet ingredients, mixing your dry ingredients, and then lightly combining the two, taking care to not overmix. They’re versatile, easy to change up, and in my experience are the easiest to make "healthy" (by which I mean using a mashed banana or some grated zucchini, which is healthy enough for me, to be honest). When I first got into baking, I tried a ton of different variations and some went wrong. But unless you accidentally forget half the ingredients, you’ll probably be fine.

    Much like loaf cakes, drop cookies are your best bet if you’re starting out. Some of my first attempts were these Christmas crinkle cookies last year, and they turned out great! They feel a lot more low-pressure than a cut-out or sliced one because they’re not really expected to turn out perfect. It’s perfectly fine to estimate with these, as you just roll them into a little ball and make sure they are appropriately spaced out, and if you’re a little sad like me, you can peer through the oven and watch them "collapse" into cookies in real time!

    2. A lot of really great bakes don’t look like anything special.

    Jasmin Nahar / BuzzFeed

    Unless you are competing on The Great British Bake Off, don’t immediately worry about them ~looking~ the part. Sometimes very beautiful, well-frosted cupcakes taste like cardboard, and often a brownie made haphazardly with more than a few cracks on the top is the best brownie you’ve ever tasted! Decorating is a skill set that’s part of baking and truly not the be-all and end-all.

    While my Instagram feed has cakes that look like actual works of art that should be in the MOMA, you don’t NEED to get good at that stuff straightaway. And if you want to make a cake look pretty but don’t think you’re quite capable of a mirror glaze — get familiar with naked cakes. Roughly coat the cake, sprinkle some edible flowers on top and you’re done; no need to worry about perfection. Or when making cookies, get some nicely shaped cookie cutters that will make them look ~interesting~ even with nothing but a dusting of icing sugar or edible glitter on them.

    3. The initial upfront cost can be intimidating, but after that, it’s mostly plain sailing.

    Flickr: ebarney / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: ebarney

    The thing that put me off for the longest time was the cost. Each time I endeavoured to make something like cupcakes, I would be horrified at the price of buying cocoa powder, icing sugar, butter, large eggs, all the different leavening agents, decorations and cupcake holders! But here’s an exhaustive, but basic, guide to the stuff I think you need:

    To be stocked in your pantry at all times:

    all-purpose flour

    baking powder and baking soda

    cocoa powder

    vanilla extract

    granulated sugar

    soft light or dark brown sugar

    icing sugar

    Equipment:

    weighing scales

    measuring cups

    measuring spoons

    a loaf tin, round tin, brownie pan, and muffin tray

    greaseproof paper

    rubber spatulas

    In terms of ingredients, the supermarket brand and bigger names are pretty much the same in quality for me. The only thing I would suggest going ~fancy~ for is vanilla extract because you can really tell the difference. Of course, you can adjust the list accordingly — if you’re on a mission to make Instaworthy unicorn cakes from the get-go, you’ll need more decorating stuff, but if you’re planning on making Victoria sponges, the stuff above should definitely suffice.

    4. Don’t feel obliged to spend lots of money on a stand mixer when you’re starting out.

    Flickr: yodster / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: yodster

    Stand mixers are amazing, and mine — a Christmas gift — has been a godsend. But by and large, you'll find that many recipes don't need one and many can be done by hand. In fact, getting an inexpensive hand whisk for creaming butter and sugar together should be okay to start with. Definitely spend some time with recipes that don't require one before deciding whether to commit — and once you know how to make stuff without a stand mixer you’ll pretty much always be set! You'll probably come across the odd recipe that needs egg whites fluffed up or something, but you’re best off without one to start off with.

    5. The odd shortcut isn’t the end of the world.

    6. Recipes say "be careful not to overmix" for a reason.

    Getty Images

    Lots of recipes will tell you to mix until the ingredients are "just incorporated". Unfortunately for me, I initially had a big worry that none of my batters were mixed well enough, so I would incorporate and THEN some. Learn to have a lighter hand when finally bringing all your ingredients together; you’ve gone through all the hassle of weighing and sifting and stirring, but if in that final bit you do a frenzied whisking to bring it all together, you’ll end up with something dry or stringy.

    I recommend using a rubber spatula — and remember that while you can get most lumps out, practically injuring your wrist to get the smoothest batter possible won’t result in the tastiest cake. So when something says "be careful not to overmix", the moment it looks like a cake batter rather than a floury/eggy mess is the moment to call it a day and decant it into the tin.

    7. Turn off your phone's auto-lock while you’re baking.

    Jasmin Nahar / BuzzFeed

    I know you might be thinking, "Well, that’s highly specific", but trust me on this! Unless you are using a book or handwritten recipe, you’re most likely looking at it on your phone. And nothing is as annoying as constantly having to lock and unlock your phone to scroll and check the recipe, or clicking out of it and then going back in because you can’t for the life of you remember the order you’re meant to do things in.

    On iPhones you can set your phone to not lock at all, meaning that you can refer back to it without wiping flour/batter/little bits of raw egg ( I’m not judging) on your trousers before reading it. This is an incredibly boring but very useful small step that will make the experience a teeny tiny bit less stressful than it already is.

    8. Weighing scales, as opposed to measuring cups, are your friend.

    9. Unless something says it can be substituted, if you're starting out do NOT substitute it.

    BBC One

    I know people who have been baking for much longer than me who just know how to adjust recipes for them — how to change ratios depending on what liquids they are using, how different flours or leavening agents will react with ingredients, and what will lend a cookie the perfect texture.

    But to start with, I would really leave substitutions at the door. If you’re thinking of making a recipe but you know you'd have to do some swaps (fairly big textural ones, not swapping full-fat yoghurt for low-fat yoghurt or pecans for walnuts), you’re honestly better off just finding another recipe to start off with.

    10. Remember that most things taste okay when heated through in the microwave and drunk with a cup of tea.

    Flickr: h_is_for_home / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: h_is_for_home

    I remember making some chocolate and pumpkin swirl muffins that were, to be polite, a bit of a mess. The recipe called for too much cocoa powder resulting in a dry, thick batter that didn’t want to marble nicely with the pumpkin one; the muffins were lumpy and a little misshapen, and, despite storing them in kitchen-roll-lined containers, they tasted stale the evening after.

    It turns out that even in disasters like that, it will probably be fine once you heat it up in the microwave or smother some peanut butter or a hazelnut spread on top and have it with a hot chocolate or tea. Unless you’ve royally screwed up, it’s probably not going to be disgusting, and the great thing about baking is that even if you make a disaster of it, you still end up with a reasonably edible cake, which 9 times out of 10 is better than no cake at all.