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Cakes, cookies, breads, and more.

With its precise measurements and instructions, baking can seem intimidating. But really, it’s not very hard to get started making delicious cookies, cakes, breads, and more. 

Read on to learn everything you need to get started, including the general rules you need to know about how to bake, beginner baking supplies to stock up on, and some great beginner baking recipes that’ll have you whipping up treats in no time.

cinnamon bun
Baking cinnamon rolls is easier than you might think.

Baking for Beginners

When getting started baking, there are some ingredients and equipment that are good to familiarize yourself with—and have on hand if you plan on baking a lot! The recipes you choose may call for additional materials, but this beginner baking set will get you started.

Beginner Baking Supplies: Equipment

  • Measuring cups, liquid and dry to ensure you’re adding the precise amount of ingredients to your recipes. Dry measuring cups are easy to level off so you fill the cup exactly with the dry ingredients, whereas liquid cups leave extra room so you don’t spill and have a spout for pouring. 
  • Measuring spoons to measure smaller amounts of ingredients.
  • A kitchen scale: Some recipes will provide the weight of ingredients in grams in addition to the volume amount in cups—and very occasionally recipes will only give you the weight. Using a kitchen scale to measure by weight can help you be more exact, but you can usually use your measuring cups instead if you don’t have a scale.  
  • Electric mixer (tabletop or handheld): While most beginner baking recipes can be made completely by hand, having an electric mixer or beater can make the job a little easier, especially when it comes to steps like beating butter or making homemade whipped cream to top your treats. 
  • Mixing bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • A whisk for whipping ingredients by hand (if you don’t have a mixer) and sifting dry ingredients together.
  • Rubber or silicone spatulas: Don’t confuse this with the flat spatula you use for flipping eggs—you’ll want a soft flexible spatula here for mixing batters and doughs, scraping them out of bowls, and spreading them into pans. 
  • Baking pans: The specific pans you’ll need depends on the recipe you’re making, but in general a couple of rimmed sheet pans, a loaf pan, and both a square and 9×13 baking pan are a good beginner baking set. 
  • Parchment paper to line pans to keep things from sticking and to help shape dough. 
  • Cooling rack: Not 100% a requirement, but it can help you eat your treats faster!
  • Cake tester: A thin metal rod you stick in the middle of your cake to check if it’s done. A toothpick or piece of spaghetti will also work!

Beginner Baking Supplies: Ingredients

  • Flour: Keep all-purpose around, though some recipes may call for bread flour or cake flour as well. The difference is in how fine the flour is, and how much gluten it contains. Rarely, a recipe will call for self-rising flour, which you can make yourself with all-purpose flour and baking powder.
  • Sugar: White granulated sugar, as well as light brown sugar.
  • Unsalted butter: Make sure you don’t get salted unless your recipe specifically calls for it!
  • Eggs: Most recipes will tell you what size you need to ensure you have the correct amount.
  • Yeast: You’ll either need active dry or instant depending on your recipe—they’re different, so pay attention!
  • Baking soda and powder: To leaven (aka help baked goods rise) when you aren’t using yeast.
  • Cocoa powder and/or baker’s chocolate: Two different ways of adding chocolate to your desserts. 

Learn All the Basics of How to Bake!

Baking 101: The Basics of Baking—Cookies, Muffins, and Cakes

How to Bake: The Rules of Baking

Be Prepared Before You Start

materials
Example of mise en place, or measuring your ingredients ahead of time.

Baking can sometimes require you to add ingredients at precise times, so it’s always good to read the entire recipe before you start to make sure you know what’s to come. (Plus, the last thing you want to do is get halfway through a recipe and realize you’re missing an ingredient.) If you want to be extra prepped, measure out all your ingredients before you start assembling—chefs call this mise en place.

Be as Exact as Possible

Cooking allows for some flexibility with amounts so you can adjust to your liking or swap in what you have—baking, not so much. Getting baked goods right is all about exact ratios, so be sure to follow the recipe precisely. So, for instance, pay attention to if a recipe calls for a packed cup of brown sugar, or a loose one—they’re very different amounts. If you can, use a scale to ensure your amounts are exact every time. 

This also means being exact in the temperature of ingredients. Pay attention to whether the butter should be chilled, softened at room temperature, or melted. If a recipe says to chill dough for an hour, don’t skimp on that. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t be tempted to open the oven to peek early—this can drastically change your oven temperature. 

Trust How Things Look

test cake
Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack demonstrating how to test a cake for doneness.

A lot of things can affect how long different steps take in baking, so rather than trusting the time exactly, learn to pay attention to the indicators of when a certain step is done. Most recipes will give you an estimate of time, but also tell you what to look for. For instance, when baking cookies, you may look for them to turn golden brown. When baking a cake, test for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester. If it comes out wet, the cake isn’t done; if it comes out dry, you’re good to go.

5 Easy Things to Bake

The easiest way to learn to bake is to start tying some recipes! Wondering what a beginner should bake? Instead of starting with challenging croissants and artisan crusty breads, try one of these beginner baking recipes to see how easy baking can be.

1. Cookies

cookies
Lemon poppyseed shortbread cookies from Becky Sue Wilberding’s class.

There are so many kinds of cookies and, as long as you’re not trying to make cut-out shapes, are fairly easy for beginners. Find a recipe for your favorite kind, and get baking!

2. Brownies

brownie
Gooey, triple-chocolate-chip brownies from Barbara Brennen’s class.

There’s no reason to make brownies from a box when they’re so easy to make from scratch! The ingredients and steps will differ depending on what kind of brownie you like (e.g., cakey versus gooey), so search for a recipe based on your preferences.

3. Banana Bread

bread
Basic banana bread for beginners from Thomas Charles Mathiassen’s class

Banana bread is a quick bread, which means it’s leavened with baking soda and/or powder instead of yeast. Once you master this method, you can do something similar with zucchini, pumpkin, and so much more. 

4. Focaccia

foccacia
Focaccia with tomatoes, sage, and olives from Shubranshu Bhandoh’s class.

If you’re ready to get into yeasted breads, focaccia is a great place to start—plus you can customize it with any toppings you like. 

5. Tres Leches Cake

A common problem for beginner bakers is ending up with a dry final product, but tres leches cake makes that outcome impossible. This traditional Mexican sponge cake is doused in three kinds of milk after it’s baked, so you can learn the basics of cake baking while ensuring you have a delicious final product every time.

Learn More Beginner Baking Recipes!

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