1. Always use the highest quality ingredients available. Your cake is only as good as what goes into it.
2. Make sure you have all the ingredients required on hand before you get started. Some steps are time-sensitive, so it’s crucial to have everything ready to roll.
3. Preheat your oven. It may sound basic, but lots of folks cut corners on this step, which―depending on your appliance―can take from six to 20 minutes. And it’s always best to use an old-fashioned gauge thermometer to confirm that the temp is accurate. (One to try: Maverick Large Dial Oven Thermometer.)
4. Pre-measure all ingredients―cooking-show style!―to make the actual mixing and combining go more smoothly when the time comes.
5. Follow every step of a recipe carefully―they all have a purpose, and unless you’re a baking whiz, it’s not your job to decide what’s important.
6. Avoid over- or under-mixing. Most recipes are clear about spelling out the consistency you’re trying to achieve.
7. Don’t overcrowd the oven, as it will cause the temperature to go down. Another no-no: Opening the door to check on how things are coming along when not absolutely necessary. (25 to 50 degrees of heat are lost every time you play peek-a-boo.)
8. Pay attention to cooking times―but they’re not your only guideline. Insert a toothpick in the center of your baked goods―they’re done when it comes out clean.
9. Cool your desserts properly when they come out of the oven. Taking them out of a mold when they’re still hot will cause them to crumble.
10. Clean as you go. There’s nothing worse than being left with a mess when all you want to do is tuck into your freshly-made treat.