- Invest in a standing mixer (or ask for one as a gift.) My mum sent me this KitchenAid mixer for my birthday two years ago and it was one of the best presents I've ever received. Yes, they're expensive, but if you really love baking, they will be so worth the cost! You'll be able to use both of your hands to do things around the kitchen instead of always one on your handheld mixer, and it'll greatly reduce the time it takes to get your prep done.
- Splurge on your cupcake pans. Don't buy cheapie ones because your cupcakes could stick to the pan (even with the paper liners!) and totally ruin all of your hard work. I use these Farberware muffin tins and they always work well for me! Look for those or similar quality non-stick pans for your regular size and mini cupcakes.
- Don't over-mix your batter. This is really easy to do once you have the stand mixer because you're hands free and able to multitask! Over-mixing your cake batter can make the cupcakes sink and fall flat, even if you bake them for the correct amount of time. Take care to only mix in the ingredients until just incorporated after each addition.
- You don't always need to follow a recipe exactly. Have fun playing around with a recipe and tweaking little things like the flavors or toppings. Mix and match different cake recipes with different frosting recipes, and add fun fillings when you can. If it doesn't come out great, then try a new one next time! Trial and error is the best and most fun way to learn what works.
- And when you do make a mistake...don't beat yourself up over it. I have a really hard time with this because I'm a total perfectionist, but it's the truth! We had a holiday cookie swap in my office this past December, and I was planning to make mini brownies with peppermint buttercream. When I pulled the pans out of the oven, every single one of the brownies was burned and stuck to the mini cupcake pan. (Remember my tip #2? Yeah, I learned the hard way.) I was so upset because my office only has 20 people and I am *the baker* in the group, so I felt like everyone was counting on me to have the best baked treat. I called my boyfriend crying about my failure because I didn't have time to go back to the grocery store and start all over, and you know what he said to me? "Amy, tomorrow night at this exact time, no one will even remember that you didn't bring anything into the cookie swap. They will have all moved on and totally forgotten! So you shouldn't let it get you so down." And he was right.
- Always always always store your finished treats in airtight containers. And I mean always. Normally I bake during the evenings and bring my treats into the office the next day, so I need to make sure they stay fresh overnight and taste just as good the next day as they did when they came out of the oven. Once air hits frosting, it becomes hardened and crusty which is totally gross. And cookies can become hard too, even if they were perfectly moist when they came out of the oven. My "secret" to freshness is ALWAYS storing baked treats immediately in airtight containers (after I've taken my glamour shots of them for the blog, of course.) I don't splurge on expensive ones because they always magically disappear, but I use these great deep dish containers for cupcakes because I can fit 4 of them side by side in each container. The containers also stack nicely inside one of those reusable grocery bags so you can carry them all upright and not ruin the frosting! Win.
- Always refrigerate cupcakes with dairy in the frosting. For cupcakes with regular buttercream, it's okay to leave them out on the counter (in their containers) overnight as long as your house isn't too warm. (I never leave them out in the summer because it can get really humid in my apartment, but if you have central AC you should be fine.) Anything that has cream cheese, whipping cream, etc in the frosting should definitely be refrigerated until about 1 hour prior to eating. I also stick to my 48 hour rule: even if the cupcakes were stored in their containers and the fridge, I always throw them out if they haven't been eaten 48 hours after I baked them. Why eat something that isn't fresh?
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
A Few Baking Tips...
While I'm nowhere near professional when it comes to baking, I have learned a few things through my trials in the kitchen! I wanted to put together a list of my baking tips in case they help any of you out along your baking journey. :)
I really hope this was helpful for you! Please share any and all of your baking tips in the comments below. :)