Top Baking Questions Answered

Our resident how-to culinary expert, Marge Perry answers the most-asked questions about baking cakes, cookies, pies and breads.

  • Top Baking Questions Answered: Marge Perry

    Top Baking Questions Answered

    Marge Perry, the voice of culinary wisdom behind our "Ask the Expert" franchise, is an award-winning food writer and instructor at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City.  Read on for her expert advice on the most common questions about baking substitutions, freezing cookie dough, and how to prevent a cake from sinking in the middle.

  • How Do I Double (or Triple) a Recipe?
    Oxmoor House

    Adjusting Recipe Yield

    When you want to increase yield in recipes for cakes, muffins, cookies and other baked goods, you should be mathematically precise when you double (or triple) the ingredients, but not the cooking times. When you double the batter....

  • What's the Difference Between Baking in a Glass Versus Metal Pan?

    Type of Pan

    Baking in a glass is different than baking in metal. The heat distribution in a glass pan is very uniform, but metal conducts heat better, so...

  • Can I Use a Layer Cake Recipe to Make a Sheet Cake?
    Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Karen Shinto

    Layer Cakes and Sheet Cakes

    A 13 x 9-inch baking ban is just about equal to two 9-inch round cake pans in volume, so the amount of batter should be about right for a sheet cake pan. If you double your recipe you will have enough batter for two 13 x 9-inch sheet cakes.

    The depth of both size pans is about the same (2 inches) so the baking times will be fairly similar...

  • What's the Difference Between Baking Powder and Baking Soda?
    Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr

    Leavening Agents

    Baking powder and baking soda are both leaveners: that is, both help baked goods rise.

    Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is four times as strong as baking powder and is actually...

  • Top Baking Questions: What Causes My Cake to Sink?
    Photo: John Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr  

    Sinking Cakes

    A cake that puffs up as it bakes and deflates as it cools has usually had air beaten into the batter too quickly or vigorously. Here are a few tips to prevent sinking cakes...

  • Top Baking Questions: Keep Berries and Raisins from Sinking
    Hornick/Rivlin

    Sinking Berries

    For cakes, muffins and other quick breads, and tarts that have fruit, toss the fruit 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...

  • Top Baking Questions: Gray Coating on Baking Chocolate

    Chocolate Bloom

    Don't be worried about that gray–white cloudy covering on your chocolate called "bloom." It's simply the result of being stored for a while at a somewhat warm temperature...

  • Top Baking Questions: How to Prevent Chocolate from Burning
    Photo: Evan Sklar

    Melting Chocolate

    To keep chocolate from burning, take it away from the heat before it's completely melted, and keep stirring until it is. When you melt chocolate on the stovetop, place it...

  • Top Baking Questions: Melted Chocolate Turning Solid in Cream
    Photo: Ellen Silverman; Styling: Toni Brogan

    Chocolate and Cream

    When you add warm melted chocolate to cold cream, it instantly hardens. Either melt the chocolate with the liquid...

  • Top Baking Questions: Substitute Unsweetened Chocolate for Bittersweet Chocolate
    Photo: Beau Gustafson; Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine

    Substituting Chocolate

    Unsweetened chocolate, as its name indicates, contains absolutely no added sugar, while bittersweet chocolate has anywhere from about 10% to 50% sugar. Because of the difference in sugar content, these two types of chocolate are not interchangeable in recipes...

  • Top Baking Questions: Does All Cookie Dough Freeze Well?
    Photo: Ryan Benyi; Styling: Lynn Miller

    Freezing Cookie Dough

    Nearly all kinds of cookie doughs freeze well for up to three months. Form the dough into a log, wrap it tightly in plastic...

  • Top Baking Questions: How Long Can I Keep Cookie Dough in the Fridge
    Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr

    Chilling Cookie Dough

    Most cookie dough can be refrigerated, well-wrapped, for three to five days before baking. If you want to make it farther in advance, freeze the dough...

  • Top Baking Questions: Can You Substitute Oil for Butter

    Oil, Butter, and Margarine

    Before substituting oil for butter in a cake, cookie, or pie recipe, it's important to understand what each does and does not contribute to the outcome.

  • Top Baking Questions: What Can I Substitute for Self-Rising Flour?

    Self-Rising Flour

    Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt added. To make your own, combine 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt...

  • Top Baking Questions: What Can I Substitute for Eggs When Baking?

    Eggs

    When you're making quick breads and muffins you can use frozen egg substitute: one-fourth cup of egg substitute is equal to...

  • Top Baking Questions: What Can I Substitute for Eggs When Baking?

    Honey and Sugar

    To use honey in place of 1 cup of sugar, use 2 tablespoons less honey, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and reduce another liquid in the recipe by...

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