I was thinking about some of the ways I have learned how to make baking easier, less expensive, more creative, or more efficient. Here's my little list, learned from years of experience.
- You can divide packaged cake mixes in half and only make half a cake at a time. If the original recipe called for 3 eggs, and you "half" the recipe, use 1 extra large egg instead of trying to fool around and come up with 1 1/2 eggs.
- You can substitute applesauce (homemade or store bought) for most or even all of the oil in a cake or brownie mix, but it will make for a denser, lower-rising finished product. I think it works best in brownies.
- You can save all your cookie crumbs and odd cookies, whiz them in the food processor or break them up with a rolling pin while in a sealed plastic baggie. Use the cookie crumbs as pie crusts (mixed with some butter to hold them together), especially for frozen or for pudding pies. Also use the crumbled cookies to add to brownie mixes for extra texture and flavor. Also you can freeze cookie crumbs and broken cookies in a ziploc bag until you have enough for whatever you are making.
- Make up your own cake toppings to make a plain frosted cake fancier. Use coconut, chopped nuts (toast them for even better flavor), chocolate chips, chopped chocolate bars, sprinkles, small nonpareils, etc.
- You can use any fruit jam as a filling between cake layers. The thicker the jam, the better. I especially like apricot jam as a filling for yellow cakes, and raspberry jam as a filling for chocolate cakes.
- You can use any instant pudding mix for filling between cake layers, too. Just use a bit less than the recommended amount of milk to make the pudding thicker: if it calls for 2 cups of milk to the package of pudding, I use 1 1/2 cups.
- When a cake recipe or a bread recipe calls for "water", I have substituted milk, spoiled milk, buttermilk, Half-n-Half, soy milk, even fruit juice. I do this to "use up" any little bits of leftover milk or juice I may have. If I don't have enough of the milk (or whatever), I make up the difference with water. All ingredients have worked nicely for me in the past, and give the cake a slightly different flavor (or a denser texture) each time.
- You can mix different fruits in your fruit pies. For example, not just strawberry and rhubarb, but blueberry and rhubarb go well together. Apples and pears go well together. Peaches and raspberries go well together. Experiment!
- If you don't have enough pastry to make a top crust on a fruit pie, make a crumb topping instead. You can make this topping many ways: with brown sugar, oatmeal, and butter; or crushed cornflakes, honey, and butter; or crushed graham crackers, butter, and sugar; etc. You get the idea.
- You can almost never have too much cinnamon in a recipe. I almost always DOUBLE the amount of cinnamon in a baking recipe for added flavor.
Hope these little tips were helpful. I guess my all-time best tip would be to HAVE FUN when you are baking and don't be afraid to occasionally experiment. We all have a few "flops" sometimes, but the good"experiments" become tomorrow's tried-and-true recipes.
By Ness - Lakeview, NY
About The Author: List Mom of Frugal Friends in the Kitchen
Keeping Track of Dry Ingredients
When measuring dry ingredients, I use a toothpick for each cup added. Really helps me keep track.
Greasing Cake Pans
If you don't like getting your hands greasy to prepare cake pans and etc. just use a sandwich bag as a quick glove.
I enjoy making cakes and have several very good recipies that I use and I make them for my wife's work place for the birthday employees. We have recently purchased a new electric range and ever since I am having problems with my cakes falling in the center. Any suggestions? (03/17/2005)
The cake falling in center is because it hasn't finished baking (09/13/2005)
When you use applesauce instead of oil, do you use the same amount of applesauce as oil? A cup for a cup. Thank you
Editor's Note: You can replace oil with applesauce in equal quantities although I've heard it is good to put 1 TBSP. of oil in in addition. It might really depend on the recipe, if it calls for a lot of oil and you are not deep frying it (that takes lots of oil and applesauce really won't work for that!) add the little bit of oil.
By Mrs. G