30 Amazing Holiday Baking Tips & Hacks

It's the most bakeable time of the year! Showstopping pies, cakes, and cookies are in full-time production. We've curated this comprehensive list of tricks and baking tips to make your baking go smoothly. We want this season to be your best baking season yet!

Better Cake

Many cakes and cupcakes call for butter. The butter is usually mixed with sugar until it is a creamy, fluffy consistency. Make sure the butter and any other cold ingredients come to room temperature. Eggs are included in this advice. The butter’s soft texture will incorporate more smoothly into the batter, and you will have fewer possibilities of overmixing the batter.

Quick Soften

Professional bakers know that the best creaming of fat and sugar in a batter happens when the butter or shortening is at room temperature. More surface area is always the fastest way to ensure the even distribution of temperature. Technical right? Don’t delay baking. Cut the butter or shortening into small cubes and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. It will be ready to cream when you’re ready to bake.

Oversized cooling racks

Do you struggle with having enough space for your cooling cookies? Save money on cooling racks so you can spend more on ingredients. Wink. Wink. Grab your ironing board and remove the cover. Wash the metal mesh with a kitchen-safe sanitizer and then use it for cooling. It will give you a lot of extra space on the countertop for baking prep, and it is portable!

Pan-size Switching

If you have a pans shortage because some are already being used for baking or not clean, this is a handy list. Of course, using the pan mentioned in the recipe is always the first choice. Here are some practical swaps.
One 9×5″ loaf pan = three 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
One 8×4″ loaf pan = two 5-3/4x3x2″ loaf pans
One 9″ round baking pan = one 8″ square baking dish
Two 9″ round baking pans = one 13×9″ baking pan
One 10″ Bundt cake mold = one 10″ tube pan or two 9×5″ loaf pans
One 13×9″ baking pan = two 9″ round pans or two 8″ square pans
Regular muffin pan (12 muffins) = mini muffin pan (36 mini muffins)

Eggs Especially Good

One of the best tips for significant volume in your meringues or great cohesiveness in your batter is to use room-temperature eggs (unless the recipe says otherwise). Place the eggs in a bowl of warm (not boiling) water for a few minutes. They will warm correctly.

Staples Stock-up and Store Ingredients Right

There’s nothing more frustrating during a heavy baking session than running out of the basics. So, do yourself a favor! Hit the sales. Get a stash of butter, sugar, nuts, flavor extracts, and chocolate chips. Extend the shelf-life of butter and nuts by freezing them in freezer-safe containers. Keep sanding sugars and sprinkles in a cool, dry place to avoid melting. If you have room in your freezer for flour and don’t often bake, keep it in an airtight container in the freezer. This will ensure that your flour tastes fresh. Spices are one of the most expensive baking items and are always best kept in the freezer to extend the shelf-life and preserve the flavors.

Foiled Again!

Because of the high-fat content of pie dough, the crust will sometimes bake more quickly than the filling. This over-browning can be prevented by making a shield out of foil.

Beans in Pie?

Some recipes will call for a “blind baking” of pie or tart crust. This baking method requires using something to weigh the pastry down. Pie weights are great, but you can also use dried beans instead! Line the crust with foil or parchment, and then fill it with the dried beans. Bonus: you can reuse the beans anytime for baking. You can keep them in a dry container for any future pie-crust bakes.

Double Crunch Double-Crust Pies

Our chef loves to add some extra crunch and texture to pies by using this simple tip. Lightly brush the top of the top crust with water or egg. Sprinkle with raw sanding sugar or turbinado sugar. It will give your crust some extra crispy crunch and magical caramelized flavor when baked.

Save Money with Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Spices are an investment, and if you are only making one or two pumpkin pies, why spend the money on extra spices if you don’t need them? If you already have a few basic spices, you can make your own Pumpkin Pie Spice blend. Combine One Tablespoon of ground cinnamon, two teaspoons of ground ginger, one teaspoon of ground cloves, and half of a teaspoon of nutmeg.

Beautiful Pie Crust Designs

Even if you’re using pre-made pie crust, it is easy to add elegant designs by finishing the pie with shapes formed by your favorite cookie cutters. Stars, leaves, and any holiday shape can be added to the edges or top crust. Use a little egg wash or water to get them to stick and bake as usual.

Break out the Turntable

Cake and Cookie decorating can be crazy messy. Keep your sprinkles and garnishes organized using a lazy Suzan that can be easily turned so everyone at the decorating table can easily access it. This tip is essential when decorating with kids! It is easier to share when the sprinkles are easy to reach.

Prep Cookie Dough Ahead

Making cookie dough ahead of time and freezing it several weeks ahead will save time when baking closer to the big day. Most cookie doughs can be kept in the fridge for three to five days as well. Cutout cookie dough can be formed into a round or roll and wrapped in plastic. Drop-cookie dough can be pre-portioned and frozen or put in an airtight container and frozen. For food safety, be sure always to label and date the dough.

Don’t Work it Too Much.

Cutout cookie dough is a pleasure to roll, but it is also tempting to re-roll it many times from the scraps. It makes the dough more challenging and tough when you re-roll it too often. Keep the cutouts as close together as possible with each roll-out to maximize the yield and limit the re-rolling.

Repurpose cookie-cutter shapes

Do you have a ton of cookie cutters in various shapes and sizes? You can do some extraordinarily creative things with different forms. Diamonds can become elves. Stars can become Santas. Triangles can be Santa hats or Christmas Trees. Think outside the box!

Make your cookies ahead of time and freeze them.

Baked cookies can be frozen several weeks ahead of time. The secret is to wait until the cookies are cooled completely and then place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment in the freezer. Freeze for at least an hour and then transfer and stack in an airtight container to return to the freezer. This method ensures that they do not stick together. You can also put plastic wrap between each layer of cookies to keep them from sticking together in the freezer. Thaw as usual. Want to refresh them? Bake in a 325°F oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet for a few minutes.

Apply Sprinkles After Baking

Putting sprinkles on after baking ensures they are clean and neat to the eye. Some sprinkles melt in the oven or spread out on the cookies if they are put on the cookies before baking. Cutout Sugar Cookies or Italian Butter Cookies can be decorated with sprinkles after baking. Warm some honey or syrup and brush a light layer on the cookies. Sprinkle away! Allow them to dry, and then stack them onto trays.

Keep Cookies Softer with Bread

One of the disappointments of overbaking a cookie is that the cookies may end up being too crispy or dry. Soft cookies can become dry and less chewy after a day or so in a container as well. One of our favorite tricks for refreshing soft cookies is to place a slice of bread in the cookie jar for a few hours. It gives the cookies the moisture they need without them getting soggy.

Easy Decorating Create a design with Stencils

Making a stencil out of cardstock or purchasing stencils to decorate the tops of cakes or brownies is a beautiful way to create a dramatic visual design. Press the stencil lightly onto the top of your baked good, and then dust with powdered sugar or baking cocoa. Gently remove the stencil, and your design will be fantastic.

Test Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Because of a limited shelf-life on baking powder and baking soda, it is always a good idea to test their potency, so you get the right lift in your favorite baked items. Test the baking powder by measuring a teaspoon into a cup of hot water. If it bubbles, it is ready to use. Baking soda can be tested by adding a half teaspoon into a quarter cup of vinegar. It is ready for baking if it bubbles.

Master Removing Bundt cake from its pan

Bundt Cakes can be a wonderfully dramatic and beautiful centerpiece. It is faster to bake and decorate than a layer cake. Some people struggle with getting the cake out of the pan in one piece. Chefs start by greasing the pan the right way and then allowing the cake to cool before flipping the cake over. Let gravity do the work and resist the temptation to bang the inverted cake on a countertop. Just allow the pan to rest inverted. Gently lift the pan.

Cover Cracked Cheesecake

Every baker runs into a cracked cheesecake now and then. Don’t despair! The cracks can be covered with a layer of fresh whipped cream, your choice of fruit, or a ganache. Cracks will be gone, and the dessert will taste amazing.

Warm Knives Slice Best

Clean cuts are best when serving beautiful cakes, pies, cheesecakes, and bars. Warming your knife will make all the difference. Dip your knife in hot water, dry it, and use it to slice. Clean often, and repeat. It will take your slicing and presentations to the next level.

Check for a Windowpane

Kneaded yeast breads are extremely popular during the holidays. Rolls and show-piece breads adorn many tables. Make sure your dough is developed correctly by doing a windowpane test. After kneading, stretch a small piece of dough between your fingers. If you can stretch it far enough to see through the dough like a window and it doesn’t tear, then it is ready. If it tears, keep kneading and repeat the test in a few minutes.

Oven Proof

Winter months make it particularly difficult for the kitchen temperature to be warm enough for loaves of bread and rolls to rise correctly. Using your oven as a proofing box is a fabulous trick! Don’t turn the oven on! Fill a glass baking dish with boiling water and put it on the bottom rack. Place your dough on the middle rack (just over the pan of hot water) and shut the oven. The steam creates perfect humidity and a temperature that your dough will love.

Cut with Cooking Spray

Soft roll doughs and bread doughs can be fussy to cut. To create precise knife cuts in cinnamon rolls, twisted loaves of bread, and other decorative doughs, spray a serrated knife with cooking spray before cutting.

Dove-tail Basic Cookie Dough

A baker’s best friend can be a basic cookie dough that can easily be turned into many cookie varieties. We like to use our Texas Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and swap out the chocolate chips with different dried fruits, nuts, chocolates, and other mix-ins to create innovative flavor combinations. Split a larger batch of the basic dough into quarters and make four different cookies from one batch!

Storing and Shipping Cookies

Sending homemade cookies in care packages is always such a kind gesture, especially in this Amazon world! For the best results, be sure to send them the same day you bake them (or freeze them and send them while still frozen). The drier crisp cookies seem to travel the best. However, chewy soft bars and brownies can be shipped if they aren’t stacked on top of crispy cookies and are wrapped in a single layer.

Go Grease Lightening

Tons of recipes call for greasing baking pans. We like setting aside the wrappers from our used sticks of butter instead of throwing them in the trash. The inside of the wrapper always has a little butter left on it. Use the buttery side to grease the surface of your pans. Another tip is never to grease cookie pans unless the recipe specifies it, or they will spread too much.

Coat berries and chocolate

To keep the berries and chocolate from dropping to the bottom of a battercake or quick bread, coat in a small amount of flour before incorporating.

Portion control

Use a rounded ice cream scoop to portion dough for cookies, cupcakes, and muffins. It will give you more consistent finished baked goods that will not only bake evenly but look more uniform.