Baking FAQ: Answers to Common Baking Questions

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had flat cookies, were out of cake flour and didn’t want to go to the store, or experienced a sunken-in cake? I know I’m waving both of my hands frantically.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all had our share of baking issues and run into unfamiliar ingredients or problems that have left us scratching our heads. I hope that this post serves as a remedy of sorts to some of the most common baking questions and problems that most people run across. Throughout the course of reading comments on recipes, and responding to emails and Facebook/Twitter questions about specific recipes and baking techniques, I have found that there are some common baking questions and problems that tend to pop up quite frequently. I have collected them all here, along with answers and tips to help you  have the most successful baking experience possible! Read on for the questions and answers…

Q: All of your recipes call for unsalted butter. Can I use regular salted butter instead?
A: I definitely recommend using unsalted butter in baked goods, because you can control the total amount of salt in the recipe. However, if you do not have unsalted butter and don’t want to make a trip to the store, simply use your salted butter, but omit the salt in the recipe.

Q: If a recipe calls for espresso powder or freshly brewed coffee and I don’t like coffee, can I leave it out?
A: Yes, you can omit espresso powder. Coffee typically enhances the flavor of chocolate, which is why you see it included in some brownie and chocolate cake recipes. It usually is not prominent, but if you don’t want to use it, you can omit it. Substituting for freshly brewed coffee depends on the amount called for. If it’s a tablespoon or two, you can omit or substitute vanilla extract. If it’s any more than that, I would recommend substituting hot water so that the final texture isn’t affected.

Q: How do I know if my baking powder and baking soda are still fresh?
A: To test if baking powder is still good, combine 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it bubbles, it’s still good! To test baking soda, put 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of baking soda. If it fizzes immediately, it’s still good!

Q: How do I need to alter a recipe if I am using a convection oven?
A: The general rule of thumb for converting a recipe from a conventional oven to a convection oven is to either use the same temperature and bake for 75% of the stated time (i.e.  if a recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, bake for only 15 if using a convection oven), or you can reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F and bake for the same time or use a combination of reduced time and temperature. You can check out this Convection Oven Temperature Conversion Calculator as a starting point. Also, open the oven door as little as possible during baking.

Q: Could you explain the difference between different types of flours – all-purpose, bread, cake, etc. – and how to substitute them?
A: The short answer is that they differ primarily based on protein content, which affects the final texture of the baked good you are making. All-purpose flour has 10-12% protein. Cake flour has 6-8% protein. If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute ¾ cup sifted all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Bread flour has 12-14% protein; the high protein content causes the bread to rise and gives it shape and structure. Some recipes on this site (bagels, for example) call for high-gluten flour, which has an even higher protein content than bread flour and gives baked goods like bagels its characteristic chewy texture.

Q: Can I substitute oil for butter in a recipe? How much should I use?
A: I would always recommend using whatever type of fat is called for in a given recipe because they each have different properties, and butter especially lends a great flavor. Using a liquid oil in place of butter will also affect the final texture of the baked good.

Q: Why does my cake cave in the middle after it’s baked?
A: This could be caused by a couple of different factors. The first thing to check is your oven temperature. I am a big advocate of using an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is at the correct temperature. The wrong temperature can cause the cake to rise too far and collapse on itself. The second thing is to ensure that the cake is cooked through by using a skewer or thin knife inserted in the center and seeing that it comes out clean. If the cake is undercooked in the middle, it will cave in.

Q: Can I use a Pyrex bowl as a double boiler? Or can I use the microwave when a recipe calls for melting ingredients in a double boiler?
A: I have a set of nested glass bowls and have used them as a double boiler top with no problem, however, I did shatter a glass bowl of my mom’s using it as a double boiler. Since then, I don’t use my glass bowls. If you don’t have any stainless steel bowls, I would do your melting in the microwave. If you are melting chocolate, microwave on 50% power for 1 minute and then stir. Repeat in 30 second increments until the chocolate is completely melted.

Q: Why do my cookies always turn out flat?
A: There are a few things that can cause cookies to turn out flat. A few of the most common reasons are:  The butter is too warm when you add it to the batter; try refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes before baking. The baking powder or baking soda is old. The oven temperature may be off (again, I recommend an oven thermometer). Too much extra butter or shortening from greasing a baking sheet; instead of greasing, use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Q: Most of your recipes call for lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Can I just grease the sheet instead?
A: Well, you could, but here’s the thing.  Depending on how heavy you are with the greasing (using either butter or shortening), it could affect the final product. Especially when baking cookies, once that butter or shortening starts to melt in the oven, it gets into the dough, and if too much is there, it can cause cookies to turn out flat. If you do a lot of baking, I would recommend investing in one or two silicone baking mats, or you could purchase pre-cut parchment sheets from a baking supply store or even on Amazon.

Q: What is different about Dutch-process cocoa than regular cocoa powder, and where can I find it?
A: Dutch-processed cocoa powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Baked goods made with Dutch-processed cocoa tend to have a richer, deeper chocolate flavor. I have yet to find Dutch-processed cocoa at a regular grocery store, but have found it at Penzeys, King Arthur Flour and on Amazon (see below for links).

Q: A recipe calls for buttermilk but I don’t want to go to the store just for that. Can I make my own?
A: Yes! To make buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to the 1-cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes, and then use as much as the recipe calls for.

Recommended products mentioned in this post:

Oven Thermometer

Silicone Baking Mat

Pre-Cut Parchment Sheets

Dutch-process Cocoa – Found at Penzeys, King Arthur Flour & Amazon (Callebaut)

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

This collection of questions is surely just the tip of the iceberg, as we all encounter vexing baking problems from time to time, and they often leave us stumped. I will be turning this post into a reference page that will have a permanent place in the navigation bar, so that it can be easily accessed by readers. I will be adding more questions and answers to it as I come across them, so if you have one that wasn’t asked here, feel free to ask it in the comments section or shoot me an email requesting that it be included in the permanent page!

I hope that this was helpful for many of you, and look forward to your feedback!

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135 Responses to “Baking FAQ: Answers to Common Baking Questions”

  1. ashley on May 17, 2010 at 11:18 am

    thanks for the great post! i needed cake flour last night and ended up using all purpose bc i didnt want to run back to the store, next time ill know the better substitute! thanks!

  2. Heather (Heather's Dish) on May 17, 2010 at 11:38 am

    this is a great post! i would say the biggest question i have is how to convert (using a ratio or equation) normal recipes to high-altitude recipes? i’ve read so many things, but can’t seem to find a consistent answer… 🙁

    • Lanie on January 11th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      If you live in the mountains (i.e. Colorado) you can call the County Extension Office for recommendations on altering recipes for altitude. Here’s a link for an online resource

  3. Maria on May 17, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Love this post! Great Q and A!

  4. Mary on May 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I get so many great baking ideas from your site, it makes me (and my boyfriend) very very happy! Thanks again 🙂

  5. Baking Barrister on May 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I actually have buttermilk powder in my fridge for baking because I would never use the entire container of buttermilk otherwise. It’s great for bread and cookies.

  6. manizor on May 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    i have a question about muffins. i have an orange-oatmeal muffin recipe that we love! it tastes fantastic but the texture is often very sticky – like stick to your fingers sticky, which makes enjoying them not as fun. any suggestions to why that’s the case? thanks!

  7. Debbie on May 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    This is a great post, I have one more reason to get a silicon baking mat now!

    One recommendation I was hoping you could offer is a good flour sifter? I am looking for one that I can clean easily.

  8. Amy on May 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for all the valuable info. Love your site!

  9. Anissa on May 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I second the question on the flour sifter. Mine rusts after a few uses, no matter how careful I am with it.

  10. Michelle on May 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I know this sounds so lazy but I just love my battery operated flour sifter. I bought it about 20 yrs ago and it’s still going strong!

  11. Jen @ How To: Simplify on May 17, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    What an informative post! This is such a great resource for information on baking!

  12. Memoria on May 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    yeaaaa, I knew the answers to every single question! I’m so proud. My mom needs to read this post, but I know she won’t haha. She’ll just tell me to bake.

  13. Chef Dennis on May 17, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    thanks for all that great information!! you certainly cleared up a few things for me

  14. Katie on May 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Michelle- I was in the burgh this weekend for my Mom’s 60th birthday party and my sister and I needed to do our last minute grocery shopping. We went to the new Market District in Robinson (which I had no idea was there) and HOLY CRAP!! Have you been there yet? I think it’s way better than the biggest Whole Foods I’ve ever been in. Seriously, I went back the next day because there was so much to look at! I figured I’d share becacuse I know you have to love that place if you’ve been there!

  15. Erin from Long Island on May 17, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks for doing this! I am proud I knew most of these already. For the coffee sub, I think you could use molasses for the powder or diluted for regular coffee with good results if you hate coffee.

    My question is this….I like to “super size” a lot when I bake. I do big cookies and usually double my quick bread recipes and bake them in a 13 X 9 pan. Are there any rules of thumb for this sort of thing, especially for the cookies? I was thinking slightly lower temp for longer so they dont burn on the outside while being raw in the middle


  16. Sana on May 18, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Hi Michelle, great idea to start an FAQ section. Will surely send you many questions to add more to it 😉

  17. Jim-49 on May 18, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Thanks,so much for the post.”We all need these posted on the frig.”!! I do a good bit of bakeing,and get better,with all these helps.After we get over the fear (of yeast) and lazyness,most find plenty of baked things around the house.Love the site!!

  18. Jim-49 on May 18, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Oh yes,I put my buttermilk in the freezer,in 1 & 2 cups,already measured.It only takes about 10 minutes in warm water.I also got some powdered around just in case.

  19. Eliana on May 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Awesome tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

  20. Sally on May 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Oh, I heart you for this!

  21. Mary on May 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    appreciate that helpful baking tips. i will definately use them next time i bake.

  22. The Housewife on May 20, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Bookmarked! Thank you for the very practical, workable advice…very invaluable for amateur bakers like me.

  23. bridget {bake at 350} on May 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Great list! Very helpful!!!

  24. Cristina (TeenieCakes) on May 23, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    What an informative and great post! Thanks for sharing all these Qs&As! Didn’t know that about how to test baking powder and baking soda for freshness…that’s a truly invaluable tidbit!

  25. Pingback: My First Attempt at Buttermilk Pancakes | Seattle Lunchbox

  26. linda rohner on January 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Can I use a medium bread pan for a muffin recipe?

  27. Steve Smith on January 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    When I was a kid one of my cousins use to bake these German Pfeffernusses or, Peppernuts. I have been able to duplicate the taste of the cookies but her’s were very hard, almost like a jawbreaker. Mine come out crunchy & crumple in your mouth as soon as you bit down on them. Here is the recipe that I am using:
    1 c. shortening
    1 c. sugar
    2 eggs
    ½ c. molasses
    Vanilla no amount given probably 1 tsp.
    salt no amount given probably ½ tsp.
    1 tsp. anise oil
    1 tsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. baking powder
    ¼ tsp. nutmeg
    ¼ tsp. cinnamon
    nuts, chopped, if desired
    3 ¼ c. flour

    Roll in thin rolls, about the diameter of a nickel, refrigerate overnight, slice and bake at 350degrees until golden brown

    What do I need to adjust &/or add/delete from this recipe to get the hard texture that I am looking for? I can cook fairly well but baking is not one of my strong points & no matter what I have tried with this recipe I can’t seem to get it the way I want. Any suggestions? Any input will be greatly appreciated.



    • Michelle on February 15th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Steve, Yikes. I have never had one of those cookies so I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It’s hard to try to adjust a recipe I have never tasted. Maybe use butter in place of shortening? Shortening tends to keep cookies a little softer while butter will make them crisper. I don’t know if that would do it, but perhaps a place to start?

  28. Steve on February 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm


    Thanks for the tip & I think you are on the right track as I did some further checking on the net & found a web site where the person makes “hard” Peppernuts. Along with the fact that she uses butter in her recipe, which mine doesn’t, she also uses a 1&1/4 more flour. So, with that in mind I think I am ready to give it another shot. I’ll let you know what the outcome is. If I break a couple of teeth off I’ll know that these suggestions worked!! lol JK If you feel adventurous why don’t you try these cookies as I think you will really enjoy them.



  29. Paulette Dunn on February 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Pound Cake Issue
    I have a very old recipe for a cream cheese cake which I love. The only problem I consistently have is that the crusty (top of the cake when it is baking) bottom of the cake (when inverted onto the cake dish) gets too crusty and separates from the cake and falls off when the cake cools. Not too impressive looking! I am careful not to over-mix after adding the flour. What else could it be???

    • Michelle on February 27th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Paulette, Hmm that’s a tough one. Without knowing details of the recipe, it would be really hard to say!

  30. Elfie on March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Hi Michelle!

    I’ve been slinking around your site for a fair while now, and adore your posts (especially the Royal Icing recipe– it’s my staple now!) This is a wonderful post as well, and answers so many questions that I asked myself when I first started baking. However, I have a few points to add in addition that might help others:

    Cakes collapsing: Part of it could be due to the thickness of the pans– thinner pans let in more heat and let the cake rise more quickly, which can be an issue that makes them fall later. Another thing is opening the oven door–a pet peeve of mine–which lets in a rush of cool air and, in a fashion similar to a soufflee, causes the not-fully-baked-cake to fall in on itself because the inside is still soft and just lost the support of the rising air.

    Dutch Process Cocoa– Within Canada, can also be found at the Fair-Trade store Ten Thousand Villages (, which is where I get mine. It’s 7$ per tin but totally worth it– Fair-Trade and Dutch Process all in one. In Europe, Dutch Process Cocoa is the cocoa that is anywhere and everywhere; I don’t even know if they’ve heard of our not-Dutch-Process cocoa.

    Also, just thought I’d mention that I found the cookie-flattening-problem tip super helpful– it always happens with me and I never knew why. Now I think I finally have my answer! (Before I just used less baking soda, because I realised for some reason my new soda made them flatten if there was more of it, and made my cookie balls very, very tall, ahaha…)

    Thanks for the awesome article!

  31. Chung-Ah Rhee on May 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you for that buttermilk tip! My buttermilk always goes bad before I use it up so this alternative is perfect for me. Thanks for saving me money 🙂

  32. Amanda on May 17, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Hi Michelle,
    I always have a problem when baking either carrot or zucchini cakes. The cake appears done – it pulls away from sides of the pan, browns lightly at the top and even a cake tester inserted comes out clean. I cool it in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack. Once completely cooled, the middle of the cake appears raw and gummy.
    I follow recipes to the dot, check the oven temperature with a thermometer and I’ve even tried other recipes. This never happens with chocolate cakes, etc. Only if it’s carrot or zucchini cake.
    Please tell me what’s wrong?

    • Michelle on May 17th, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Amanda, I’m not entirely sure about the carrot, but I’m wondering if perhaps with the zucchini cake not enough moisture is removed from the zucchini before being baked, and therefore it causes the inside of the cake to be over-moist making it raw and gummy.

      • celeste mayer on March 10th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

        I had the same problem with gorilla cake. Raw inside.

  33. patricia kot on May 18, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    I have a really great granola recipe that I love…How do I turn them into granola bars

  34. Aga on June 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Very very good advise. Baking makes me happy. It’s a hobby of mine. Having no official training either, sources like this blog, explaining the mechanics of baking, are essential. Thank you very much.

  35. Emily on June 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Great post, thanks. Learned why my cookies fall flat! I did have another question though. I have a recipe for a yellow cake I’ve been wanting to try (can’t seem to find one that doesn’t taste like a pound cake, if you have any suggestions 🙂 ), but for one ingredient all it says is 1/2 cup Crisco. I have no idea what Crisco to use. Oil? Shortening? Any help would be great, thanks!

    • Michelle on June 12th, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Hi Emily, Anytime I see just “Crisco” or “oleo” in an old recipe I use vegetable shortening. Hope that helps!

  36. Daniella on July 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    To make buttermilk can I use skim milk?

    • Michelle on July 20th, 2011 at 10:35 am

      Yes, you can, it will just be thinner than if you used whole milk, but shouldn’t affect the final product much.

  37. Michael Nelson on July 20, 2011 at 8:13 am

    What two elements does a proofing cabinet control?
    Describe what leavening agents do for baked products?

  38. Casie on August 15, 2011 at 12:59 am

    can you tell me the brand of espresso powder you use and where I can buy some. My grocery store here does not have it and didn’t know what it was. I saw that William Sonoma carries some, but that’s an hour (one way) drive from me. I’m new to baking and I’m sure this is easier than I’m making it out to be. Thanks for any help you can give me! I LOVE your site =)

    • Michelle on August 15th, 2011 at 11:13 am

      Hi Casie, The brand of espresso powder I use is Medaglia D’ Oro – I buy it at a local Italian grocery store. If you can’t find anything near you, you could always order from Amazon or King Arthur Flour.

  39. Kara on September 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    My mom, at 70, has baked her fair share of cookies. Lately she’s complaining that the cookies are good for the first couple days and after that they become hard(er), regardless of how she stores them or type of cookie she bakes. Is there something she can add to the recipe when baking or is this just how it is.

    • Michelle on September 7th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Kara, Cookies are definitely freshest in the first day or two, but after that you could always try the slice of bread trick – place a really soft, fresh piece of bread in the container with the cookies – the cookies will soak up the moisture from the bread and stay soft.

  40. Valerie on October 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I am baking a pound cake and all I have is medium eggs. The recipe calls for six eggs and I wanted to know if I should use seven of the medium eggs. The recipe does not indicate what size to use.


    • Michelle on October 10th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Valerie, I always use large eggs to bake, but I’m not sure about substitutions due to egg size. I did find this conversion chart that might help you though:

      • Dianne Evans on September 16th, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        Hi Michelle: what’s confusing about the eggs when baking. All of the egg companies have re-graded their eggs. The medium is now small, the large is now medium and the ex-large is now the large. You have to buy “jumbo” in order to get large for pound cakes! I don’t know why they’ve changed their grading system! Just like the cake mix companies. All the old recipes (I’m 82) call for an 18.25-oz. box of cake mix and now all the companies except Ingles Laura Lynn brand are 16.2-oz.! It’s ok if you’re just making a cake from the cake mix box but with so many of the older recipes use the cake mix as a base to add other ingredients! Wish they’d just leave things alone, ha…..Dianne

  41. Anna on October 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I have learned from my baking experiences that sometimes cookies are flat because the recipe gives a wrong amount of flour. I have realized that if a cookie spreads try adding abut 1/4 to 1/2 cup more.And bake one and adjust accordingly.

  42. Barbara on November 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Can a graham cracker pie crust always be substitute for a regular pie crust?

    • Michelle on November 20th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Hi Barbara, For a single crust pie (one without a top crust), then if you prefer the flavor, I don’t see why not. I love the buttery flaky traditional crust though 🙂

  43. Brad on November 24, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Why are my rolls burning on the outside and still uncooked on the inside?

    • Michelle on November 26th, 2011 at 11:15 am

      It sounds like it could be a case of an oven temperature being too high. I’d make sure you double-check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer.

  44. lynn on November 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Hi I need to know if I can use Swanson cake flour instead of Presto flour for chocolate chip cookies

    • Michelle on November 30th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

      Hi Lynn, I am unaware of Presto flour – is that a brand name? Is it all-purpose flour?

  45. Lynda on December 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Michelle— I am baking cookies for Christmas and was wondering if I should freeze them for 5 days until Christmas so they will be fresh? Or not. Thanks

    • Michelle on December 20th, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Lynda, I think you are fine with them staying fresh! I started baking yesterday 🙂 Just be sure to store them in an airtight container.

  46. Lynda on December 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Michelle, thanks for your info. I’m so glad I found your site. Have a great Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks again, Lynda

  47. Sharnitta Brown on December 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    My recipe calls for heavy cream, I don’t have any can I use heavy whipping cream?

    • Michelle on December 22nd, 2011 at 12:33 am

      Yes, they are interchangeable for most recipes.

  48. Jo-Anne Dunakin on December 24, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I made cookies and after cooling they turned into hockey pucks, I know (think) its because there is too much flour but I made a master mix enough to make about 100 cookies. What if anything can I add to the mix to off set flour? Or do I have to throw away and start over

    • Michelle on December 26th, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      Oooh unfortunately I don’t know if I can help with this. Not knowing what recipe you are using would make it hard to gauge if you can add anything. Many times multiplying a recipe can cause funky things to happen, this might be one of those recipes 🙁

  49. eric walling on January 1, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Can I substitute butter for oil in a brownie mix at equal amounts?

    • Michelle on January 3rd, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      I have never done it, but I personally would not. They have very different properties, both in flavor and how they affect the final texture/structure of a baked good.

  50. maybelle on February 8, 2012 at 9:55 am

    i’m trying to figure something out everytime i bake cookies they stick together to the other cookie. I take them out of the oven let sit for a couple mins than put them onto cooling racks when cooled i put them into containers but everytime i do they stick to the other cookie. Am i missing something?

    • Michelle on February 9th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      I usually always separate layers of cookies with a piece of wax paper, that should keep them from sticking together.

  51. Colleen on March 22, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I need to adjust baking time for cookie cutter cake. 350 13×9 to a mold pan with 1 inch cakes.Is there a formula for this or just trial by error. TY

    • Michelle on March 31st, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Hi Colleen, I am not familiar with cookie cutter cakes or the mold pan you are talking about. If the recipe or pan you are using doesn’t provide specific instructions, I think you’ll just need to go by trial and error.

  52. Amanda on March 22, 2012 at 2:28 am

    I’ve tried several different recipes for simple chocolate brownies but they’ve all failed. One turned out like sheet cake, another was rubbery, etc. I never get a good dense, fudgy interior with a crackly top crust. I follow the recipe to the dot, so I don’t know where I’m going wrong. My oven has a lower and upper burner, and I switch to the lower burner after preheating for baked goods. When I use only the lower burner – the brownies get perforations all over the top instead of a nice shiney/crackly crust and they turn out like cake. When I use the top burner, the crust just gets burnt and the inside of the brownie remains uncooked.
    Help! 🙁

    • Michelle on March 31st, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      Hi Amanda, Ideally, you’d like to bake most things in the middle of the oven. I’m not sure the size of your oven and how close to the top/bottom your racks are, but this could definitely be playing havoc for you. I would also recommend an oven thermometer to ensure that the oven temperature is correct. Also be sure not to overmix brownie batter, as this could cause the texture to be off.

  53. Anne on April 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I’m having cookie problems! Last week I made a favorite of mine, my Grandma’s chocolate cookies. I had a problem with it getting “chunky” after adding sour milk (1 cup Milk + 1 tsp. vinegar). Tonight my husband is making Whoopie pies and had the same problem. I threw it out the first two times and the third time didn’t have the problem – the cookies were fine! I am wondering if it can have something to do with the milk, or maybe with how long the shortening and sugar are creamed at the beginning. Do you think the cookies are spoiled if this happens?

    It was the same first few ingredients and steps in both recipes:
    Cream shortening (Crisco) and sugar.
    Beat in eggs.
    Add sour milk and vanilla.

    Any suggestions of what might be making our dough chunky, or what to do to fix it?

    • Michelle on April 6th, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Anne, I don’t think that the dough was ruined, necessarily. There are many times that I’ve made recipes and once I add the milk, buttermilk, sour cream, etc the mixture looks almost curdled. However, once you continue mixing and add the flour it smooths out.

  54. thomas on April 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    i am new to baking and have just made some scones, they turned out looking ok but where a little heavy to eat, i used 450g of s/r flour , 80g butter 250ml milk & 1spoonful sugar & cooked them for 12mins on 250c , could you suggest how to make them lighter textured.

    • Michelle on April 26th, 2012 at 12:09 am

      Hi Thomas, Some scone recipes are heavier than others, depending on the ingredients and mixing technique. Here is an archive of my scone recipes – you can click through them and compare, and try some out if you’d like!

  55. cate on May 16, 2012 at 3:21 am

    hi, i just discovered your site and wow i cant believe how many people have used it, i am a seasoned baker and it is my passion but just now i baked a rich chocolate cake that i have made before but this time i used dutched cocoa instead. i was very careful to make sure no bi-carb was used and the ingredient list was well balanced, ie wet to dry. but when i cut it for the first time i now have a crumbley cake, it is still light fluffy and relatively moist but a large amount of crumble can you help me?

  56. Joseph on June 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Hi. My cake calls for 2 large eggs but all I have is Jumbo eggs. If I beat the jumbo eggs before adding to the batter, about how much should I remove to get the equivalent of 2 larges eggs.


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  58. missy on November 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I have a question. Can you add fresh apples to a box cake? I’m trying to come up with quick recipes for single moms who are always on the go and short on time. I tried but they didnt have a strong apple taste that i was wanting. My caramel icing turned out great…but not the cupcakes. They also didn’t raise as much as they should…could you explain that. Thanks in advance for any and all advise.

    • Michelle on November 20th, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Hi Missy, I haven’t really done any experimenting with doctoring up cake mixes, but perhaps someone else will have some ideas for you!

  59. Heather on December 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I have a problem with a Chocolate Chip Cookie. I have made the recipe several times and have not changed a thing. It was certainly said to me that the cookie has no flavor!! What gives? Any suggestions? Was told neither buttery or sugary…??? I’m at a loss!

  60. NorSid on January 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    i am using a ZANUSSI Fan assisted Oven (electric).

    I don’t bake Cakes or Cupcakes regularly and there’s a reason behind it. My Cupcakes/Cakes over-brown from the top and they remain uncooked/rubbery in texture from the middle. I follow exactly the same recipes always but still i always fail. I really don’t know where i fail or go wrong.

    Also, I place the cupcake tin/ cake tin 9” on the 2nd last shelf (2nd shelf from the bottom). i tried to keep it on 2nd shelf from top (which is 3rd from bottom) but still no use. There are four shelves in my oven. And the fan is at the left corner of the oven. I am using a PYREX cupcake tin.

    Baking at 180C (18-20mins) over brown alot from the top and rubbery/uncooked from the middle of the cupcake.

    Baking at 160C (20-25mins) dark brown from the top and uncooked from the middle of cupcakes.
    Pls HELP me, i am really very disappointed.

  61. Dottie on January 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    I love making muffins, my problem is that they always come out sticky..
    They taste great and are cooked through, I can’t imagine what the problem is. Other baked goods that are baked in my fairly new oven are never sticky?
    Any ideas would be appreciated
    Thank you

    • Michelle on January 16th, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      Hi Dottie, I would make sure that the cupcakes are completely and totally cool before you store them. Sometimes there is some ambient moisture that gets trapped if they are placed in an airtight container when still slightly warm.

  62. Janet Harris on February 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    I was trying to find where I could post a question but will try here. I mixed up a sugar cookie dough on the day before valentines day so that I could make cookies on valentines day. As life would have it the dough is still in my frig but I noticed that it has darkened and almost looks greyish. Is it still good? It’s been in the frig the whole time.

  63. Karen on March 30, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Question: My pound cake recipe calls for Parkay Stick margarine. Since the formula for Parkay Sticks changed, nothing I try has seemed to work, including unsalted butter. The texture is gummy and there is frequently a sticky streak in the middle of the cake. Suggestions?

    • Michelle on March 31st, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Karen, If you’ve tried butter and it doesn’t work, how about trying butter flavored Crisco?

  64. Lorraine on April 17, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Can someone help. Why do my red velvet cupcakes dimple(sink) in the middle I
    don’t have any problem with any other type cupcake. I have baked red velvet cakes and have no problem with them either it’s just the cupcakes.

  65. Cindy on August 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I made a double chocolate coco cola cake and it said to cook 20-25 min. at 350 I did and the center was still liquid. It took almost 1 hour to bake and in doing so the sides got burnt. I cooked the cake in a metal pan what caused this and what can I do to prevent it from happening again?

    • Michelle on August 8th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Cindy, Unfortunately, since this isn’t a recipe I’m familiar with, I can’t really say what might have gone wrong.

  66. Ferdinando on October 8, 2013 at 1:28 am

    Please if someone can answer my question. i have been making Sponge cakes and Genoise cakes. as you all know main difference is in one eggs white and yolks separated and in other one whole eggs are used. what i want to know if sponge cakes that have softer texture than genoise cakes, is it possible to make any of cakes that involves syrup, fruits and whipped cream like pineapple cream cakes or black forest cakes and so on, with only using sponge cakes and NOT using genoise cakes.
    if answer is no could you please give a reason why i should not replace genoise cake with sponge cakes. if there is any reason with sugar or sweetness it can be adjusted but if there is any strong reason why it should not be done i will be very glad to know.
    with thanks and best regards.

  67. Rosa Jacquard Bood on October 16, 2013 at 2:43 am

    I have made 7 vanilla cakes during the past week and every one has failed! I’m using a Vanilla Cake recipe from King Arthur All Purpose Unbleached Flour. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups milk. I’ve very slowly decreased the amount of milk down to only 2 ounces,and the center of the cake was still too wet! I baked the 9″ cakes for 33-35 minutes each. The tops of the cakes get golden brown and a little tough yet the centers are still wet. I followed the directions,and I did not over-beat the batter. I’m baffled and broke after baking 7 failed cakes! I’m wondering if this flour should be sifted…could it be too heavy? However,the recipe does not say sift the flour. Please tell me your thoughts regarding my 7 cakes disaster! Thanks! Sincerely,Rosa Jacquard Bood

    • Michelle on October 17th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Rosa, Unfortunately, having never tried to make this recipe, I really don’t know what might be the problem 🙁

  68. Rosa Jacquard Bood on October 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Michelle,thanks for writing me back! I figured out I had to remove the cookie sheet from underneath the ceramic cake pan! Michelle,do you know iif it’s o.k. to replace buttermilk with regular whole milk in a cake recipe [equal amounts] ??? Thanks again my friend !

    • Michelle on October 22nd, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Rosa, I would not suggest replacing buttermilk.

  69. Kaitlynn Montgomery on October 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Hi, I was making white cake tonight and completely forgot to put in the vanilla! Will this affect anything at all? Is it okay that I left it out?

    • Michelle on October 22nd, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Kaitlynn, It will affect the taste; you may notice that it’s a little on the bland side.

  70. Elzabe on October 28, 2013 at 9:06 am

    why is my cookies always so hard that I cannot bite into them
    but dipped in coffee it is soft

  71. Joy on November 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    My lemon bars did not set even after baking longer than stated time. Can I try to rebake them?

    • Michelle on November 25th, 2013 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Joy, I’m not sure that you would have success re-baking them. The texture would probably be off if you let them cool and then tried to bake them again. Make sure your oven is the correct temperature (an oven thermometer is a great, inexpensive investment).

  72. John on November 28, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I baked pecan pies yesterday that called for a couple tablespoons of bourbon, which I didn’t have. I wound up substituting spiced rum (cross your fingers) but only because I was afraid I might mess up the chemistry of the recipe by omitting the booze altogether. Does alcohol impact the baking process, or is it just for flavor?

    • Michelle on November 30th, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      Hi John, It depends on the purpose of the alcohol and the amount called for. A couple of tablespoons will not affect a recipe beyond the flavor. I have made a pie crust recipe that calls for vodka because of its ability to add moisture without developing gluten, the way water does, making for a flakier crust.

      • John on November 30th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

        Thanks! They were a big hit.

  73. Malinda on November 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    I was wondering if you could comment on how you double wrap your springform pan for a water bath when baking a cheesecake. I’ve made several cheesecakes (both with and without the water bath), but whenever I use a water bath a small amount of water always gets inside the foil and is affecting my crust. I’ve researched this a bit, and have seen some suggestions to put the foil on top of the bottom of the springform pan and then close the sides of the pan and wrap the foil up the outside of the pan. This is supposed to create a better seal. Just wanted to see if you had any comments on how you prepare you pan. Thanks!

    • Michelle on November 30th, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      Hi Malinda, I had always just literally wrapped up two layers of foil around the outside, then I read a tip somewhere to place the foil-wrapped pan inside of an oven bag, which is nearly foolproof when it comes to preventing leaks. These are the types of bags I’m talking about, you can buy them at the grocery store where the foil, wax paper, etc. are.

  74. Jeanetta on December 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Hi Michelle
    My 7up pound cake comes out gummy inside when I bake it sometimes. it doesn;t always come out like this all the time just most of the time why does this keep happening. thanks.

    • Michelle on December 26th, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Hi Jeanetta, Unfortunately, I’ve never made 7up pound cake, so I’m not sure what the issue could be 🙁

    • Carmella on August 30th, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Did you ever get an answer to your question…..I baked one for the first time today and it was gummy on the bottom. Please let me know if you’ve tried something differently…my email address is Thanks!

  75. Marie Palm on January 29, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    This is a question instead of a comment..I come from a generation that used real farm sour cream for chocolate cake…….not the commercial kind found in stores. All the recipes I can find are using commercial. Is there a recipe out there calling for the old fashioned sour cream in a bottle. Also, can I use the same method to make buttermilk to make sour cream from whipping cream? I’ve been all over the webs trying to find an answer. Thank you!

    • Michelle on January 30th, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Hi Marie, Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a recipe using farm fresh sour cream. I also do not know if you can use the buttermilk shortcut for sour cream with whipping cream.

  76. Dolores on March 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm


    I make crumb cakes, but the confectioners sugar disappears after 3-4 days. I have tried the 10x and the 6x sugar, and still no luck. Any suggestions?

    • Michelle on March 13th, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Dolores, Powdered (confectioners) sugar will dissolve into baked goods after a period of time. Your best bet is to sprinkle the confectioners sugar on right before serving. If you are serving leftovers, just give it a fresh dusting.

  77. Judith Maier on July 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Why is there malt barley flour in the unbleached flour I bought today?

  78. ROBYN on July 24, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I am in Melbourne Australia and was wrapt to find your website. can you please tell me:

  79. Seth on August 2, 2014 at 2:07 am

    I bought scones at the store and discovered they were uncooked in the inside (inside around the blueberries was basically the consistency of batter). Can I bake these again and finish off the inside or am I out of luck?

    • Michelle on August 3rd, 2014 at 10:01 pm

      Hi Seth, I’ve never tried doing this, but since they were probably baked quite a long time ago, I don’t know that they are salvageable. I would take them back and ask for a refund!

      • Seth on August 5th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply. The scones were baked the same day (this wasn’t a prepackaged item from a factory) in the in-store bakery. The only reason I thought this might be possible is because of other “par-baked” items that you CAN do this to. But I think you’re right. refund it is :).

  80. Cheryl on August 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I have a question regarding pie meringue. I have used a recipe for years that required cooking a meringue base (cornstarch, sugar, water), cooling, then adding gradually and beating with egg whites. After topping the pie filling, I bake it until the meringue is medium brown. It never weeps around the edge and seems to be much more solid and stable. I do prefer this over other traditional meriungue recipes I have tried that simply call for whipping egg white – no cooked base. However, my problem arises AFTER we cut the first piece. Once that piece is lifted out of the pan, the empty space immediately begins to fill with a syrupy liquid which makes the bottom crust soggy. I don’t know if it’s the filling, or the meringue causing the problem. I have tried several solutions to no avail, such as putting the meringue on the pie when the filling is still very hot, or when it is warm, or when it’s cool, and have baked the meringue at several different lengths of time and temperatures including broiling. I’ve even sought the advice of cooks more experiences than myself! Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

  81. Julia on August 26, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I am very new in baking. .can anyone please tell me why my cakes sides never get browned and ya down portion too..and if I am doin something wrong then can you please tell me how to correct it..

  82. annamae merics on September 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm


  83. valerie scaldwell on September 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Why do my victoria sandwiches turn out crumbly

  84. t b on October 15, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I’m making a pound cake it calls for bakingpowder baking soda and salt but I’m out of baking soda…what do I do?

  85. Sue on October 15, 2014 at 6:23 am

    Help please can you fell me what is 125ml in ounces also 310 ml to ounces. Thank you in advance. 😉

  86. Engrid on November 1, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Hello! I have a problem that I ALWAYS have, for years! Each and every time I attempt to make a cake from scratch NEVER rises, it turns out really dense, and has a muffin/biscuit type of texture.; just really heavy and thick. Not light and fluffy like cake should be. This is why I always end up using box cake mix.
    ***** another problem I have is when I attempt to make banana bread from comes out very thin, and the center seems to NEVER cook. it stays moist and doughy/gummy inside. No matter how long I cook it, it will stay doughy inside. I follow recipes to a T, each and every time. I am not sure why this continues to happen to me. I use All Purpose flour. Thanks!

  87. meenakshi on November 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    My cake n breads doesn’t cook in the middle remains uncooked tried altering temperature n time even same happens with instant cake mix I have Baja convection oven.please help

  88. Sandy on November 29, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I have a bar cookie recipe where the bottom layer is the standard brown sugar, egg, and flour. The top layer is melted chocolate. The problem I have had recently is when I cut them into bars, the chocolate does not stick to the bottom layer. Can you tell me what the problem is. Thanks.

  89. Richard Gorton on December 8, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Flat Cookies – Tested powder and soda, both good – intense fizz and aggressive bubbles. So what else could be wrong? This has happened with two different recipes, one with whole wheat and the other GP Flour. Frustrated.

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