Recently, I had some feedback from a reader who was making my Best Chocolate Cake Recipe. In an email exchange with her, I realized that I was perhaps not always giving as many instructions as I could or should for baked goods. There are some things that I have come to take for granted after many episodes of trial and error, a few small kitchen fires, some ruined cakes and a shed tear or two. Although I am no expert and recognize I still have a lot to learn, below are a few things that will help beginning bakers make the best of each recipe. BAKERS – please add your own tips and tricks in the comments!

1. Baking is more like chemistry than regular cooking. A little extra pinch of this and a little less of that is much more dangerous. Substitute ingredients at your own risk.

2. Measure very carefully. It DOES make a difference if you take the time to pack the brown sugar and level off the flour with the back edge of a knife.

3. Maybe I am just suspicious but I truly think that eggs and other ingredients at room temperature make better cakes and cookies than cold ones.

4. Changing cake pan sizes will definitely result in different cooking times. The smaller and less deep, the faster they will cook.

5. Cutting circles of parchment paper and putting them on the bottom of your round cake pans will always make for easy and clean removal from the pans.

6. Wax paper does NOT replace parchment paper. When put in the oven, it may result in smoke or fire. (I wish I did not speak from experience.)

7. Invest in a good oven thermometer. Many ovens are not consistent with the dial. Proper cooking temperature is important.

8. When a recipe requires that you mix dry ingredients together separately, it usually refers to flour, baking soda/powder and salt. Sugar is most often mixed in with the butter or oil.

9. Let cakes cool in their pans for at least 5 minutes before turning them out.

10. Let baked goods cool completely before covering or wrapping. The trapped steam will make the outside sticky.

Happy Baking!