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12 Baking Mistakes Everyone Makes (And How To Avoid Them)

For the perfect pie crust, just remember 3-2-1.

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1. To bake perfectly flat cakes, wrap the outside of the pan in a damp towel or reusable cake strip.

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Question: "How do I prevent my cakes from having domed tops?" ―Natalie Brown, DIY Writer

Answer: Actually, there's a clever trick for this! Just wrap your cake pan in a damp towel while baking or invest in a special reusable strip ($16.39 on Amazon) to easily prevent your tops from doming. The moisture in the towel helps the cake bake evenly and prevents the top from rising up.

Read more about baking perfectly flat cakes here.

2. Bringing eggs to room temperature before baking is useless ― unless you're planning to whip them.

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Question: "Do my eggs really have to be at room temperature when I bake with them?" ―Emily Shwake, Nifty Writer

Answer: Nope, not always! "In professional bakeries, the only time we bring eggs to room temperature is if we're whipping them," says Bartone. America's Test Kitchen actually did a side-by-side comparison of cake made with cold eggs versus room temperature ones and found that it doesn't really make a difference.


3. For perfectly shaped cookies, bring your dough to room temperature before baking.

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Question: "How do I make my cookies come out flat when I bake them instead of a round, half circle shape?" ―Becky Gillis, Facebook

Your dough might be too cold, or your oven might not be hot enough. For cookies to flatten, the fat has to get hot enough to melt and cause the dough to sink. Another problem could be baking on a cold sheet tray. Did you chill your dough on the sheet tray and go directly into the oven with it? Make sure everything is at room temperature and your cookies should come out nice and flat.

Check out even more cookie troubleshooting here.

4. To make cakey cookies, add baking powder or whip more air into the batter.

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Question: "How do you make your cookies fluffy when baked?"―Jessica Pruett, Facebook

Answer: Cakey (or fluffy) cookies simply have more air incorporated into them compared to standard cookies. This can be done either physically (by beating air into them) or chemically (by increasing the amount of leavening agent you use). "Most cookie recipes only call for baking soda," shares Bartone, "but if you add a bit of baking powder it will give your cookies a lighter texture."

Get BuzzFeed's recipe for cakey chocolate chip cookies here.

5. When using gluten-free flour, read the ingredients to make sure it contains a binding agent.

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Question: "How can I take recipes I love that have flour in them and make them gluten-free? Is it as simple as just swapping in gluten-free flour?"ginah3

Answer: Usually, but not always. "For cookies, muffins, and quick breads," says Bartone, "this simple swap is usually fine ― but for breads and cakes, you should make sure your gluten-free flour includes a binding agent." Look for ingredients that end in gum (such as xanthan or guar gum). According to King Arthur Flour, if a binding agent is NOT listed as an ingredient, add 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum for every cup of gluten-free flour to make sure your baked goods come out right.

Still having trouble? Check out this handy guide for how to use gluten-free flour.

6. Use the 3-2-1 method for perfectly tender pie crusts.

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Question: Every pie crust I make turns out awful. I have tried at least three different recipes. What am I doing wrong?Sarahandneil

Answer: There are a ton of ways to make pie crust, but one method that almost never fails is 3-2-1 pie dough ― pastry chefs and old-school bakers swear by it. The trick is to use three parts flour, two parts fat, and one part (very cold) water. For example, if you're using 12 ounces of flour, use eight ounces of butter, and four ounces of cold water.

Get the recipe for 3-2-1 pie dough here.


7. When baking vegan cakes, ditch the egg replacers and use a recipe designed to be baked without 'em.

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Question: "Why do all of my vegan cakes always turn out stodgy? Even with a vegan egg replacer, they always have a stodgy, baked oatmeal-like consistency. Flavor is always good, but I can never get the texture right."jaswickhamyh

Answer: For vegan baking, a store-bought egg replacer isn't always the answer. According to the Vegan Baking website, "These types of compounds make batters and doughs excessively gummy so they clump together and often result in a more dense, chewier baked item." Instead, find a recipe that is specifically designed to be made without eggs and don't attempt to veganize one yourself.

Need some ideas? Check out 24 vegan dessert recipes here.

8. To avoid hard or dried out brown sugar, store it an air-tight container or microwave it.

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Question: "Is it actually possible to keep brown sugar soft for more than a month? I've tried bread, I've tried a wet terra cotta stone ― nothing works!"whitneymikells

Answer: The only way to prevent your brown sugar from drying out is to store it in an air-tight container with as little airspace as possible (such as Cambros, Ziploc bags, or mason jars). If your brown sugar does dry out, simply microwave it in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to bring it back to life.

9. Yes, the wet vs. dry divide really does matter.

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Question: "Does the order in which you put the ingredients in actually matter in terms of baking? Do I really need to separate dry and wet ingredients before combining them?" ―cynthiaz492d2d0aa

Answer: Yep. For most baked goods, order does matter. Think of it this way ― if you add your eggs directly to your flour as the first step of a recipe, you're creating a dough that will be very difficult to add other ingredients to. If you mix your eggs with your other wet ingredients, you'll make sure that everything has the chance to distribute evenly. This is especially important when working with leavening agents that help cakes rise.

10. When making crème brûlée, always temper your eggs and use a water bath to prevent them from scrambling.

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Question: "I'm a very good home cook if I do say so myself ― but crème brûlée always curdles for me! I follow the recipe but it still curdles. Any advice?"stinecharlotteh

Answer: It sounds like you overheated your eggs. When you added the hot cream to the eggs, did you temper it? This is just a fancy word for slowly adding hot cream to heat up the eggs without cooking them. Also, make sure you bake them in a water bath (aka a bain-marie). If you put them directly in a hot oven, they will get too hot and turn into scrambled eggs.

Check out even more tips for making crème brûlée here.


11. To frost a perfectly crumb-free coat, chill your first layer of frosting overnight.

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Question: "How do you frost a cake? No matter how long I wait for the cake to cool, or how much time I take to chill a crumb coat ― I still end up with crumbs in my final layer." ―gramlanglands

Answer: When creating that first layer — also known as the "crumb coat" — make sure your frosting is very stiff. You want it to hold its shape and be slightly chilled. Another trick is to use a bench scraper ($9.87 on Amazon). This will help you create perfectly smooth sides that will be easy to cover with the final layer. "To make sure your crumb coat really holds the crumbs," shares Bartone, "chill it until the frosting feels hard, cover it, then chill it overnight."

See a step-by-step guide here.

12. To cool down an overly hot oven, simply leave the door open (but give it plenty of time to heat back up).

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Question: "What should you do if you're baking and realize you overheated your oven? What’s the best way to cool it down/how long should you give it to cool once you’ve lowered the temp?" ―Rachel Miller, Senior Lifestyle Editor

Answer: Ovens take a long time to cool down. If you realize your oven is too hot, turn it off, open the door and let the heat out. Once it feels like it has lost most of its heat (which can take up to five minutes), close it and give it another 10–15 minutes to reheat. Be patient and you'll be good to go!

See even more preheating tips here.

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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