Tag Archives: baking tips

How to Make The Perfect Banana Bread Every Time (Plus Freezing Tips and a Recipe!)

Bananas gone brown? Make banana bread! This recipe is guaranteed to stay moist and tender from the use of sour cream and gets a crunchy, crackly top from a combination of granulated and turbinado sugar. Customize your bread by folding in chopped nuts, chocolate chips or both. But first! Some tips on how to make the perfect banana bread every time.

How to Make the Perfect Banana Bread

• Use overripe bananas. We are talking dark, heavily spotted ones. Overripe bananas are responsible for both sweetness and overall flavour. If you want to speed up the process, place bananas in a paper bag along with an apple (or another fruit that emits ethylene).

• Need banana bread now? Bake unpeeled bananas on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet at 300°F until their peels turn black.

• Do not over-mix the batter. After the flour has been mixed in, it is OK if the batter is not completely smooth. Folding in the bananas and other add-ins will help keep from over-mixing as well.

Related: These Muffin Recipes Will Turn You Into a Baking Person

• Add some crunch! Without any add-ins, the texture can be a bit monotonous. If you don’t want to add in nuts, make sure to sprinkle the batter with sugar. Once baked, the sugar on top creates a nice, crackly crunch. And if you are adding nuts, it’s a good idea to toast them before folding into the batter with the bananas.

• Sour cream is the preferred dairy; the fat provides plenty of moisture and the acidity keeps the bread nice and tender. Don’t have sour cream? Try using full-fat, plain Greek yogurt or buttermilk.

• Freeze banana bread (full loaf or slices) in a double-layer of plastic wrap before being placed in a large, resealable bag for up to three months. Make sure the banana bread has completely cooled before freezing.

The Perfect Banana Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup canola or grapeseed oil
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (about 3 to 4 overripe bananas)
Turbinado or raw sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer), mix together the oil, sugars and eggs until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Stop mixing before the last streaks of flour disappear in the batter. Do not over-mix – it is OK if the batter isn’t completely smooth. Fold in the mashed bananas until combined.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with granulated and turbinado sugar (about a tsp or two of each), if desired.

6. Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs. Do no overbake.

7. Allow the banana bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Need more baking recipes in your life? Try these fudgy, gluten-free sweet potato brownies or perfect lemon meringue cupcakes.

Harry Eastwood’s Quick and Healthy Substitutes for Baking

Spring has sprung, and with it comes a plethora of bold and beautiful baked goods, recipes and seasonal veggies that brighten our spirits after a long, dreary winter. And, like many of us, The Big Bake judge Harry Eastwood is excited to change things up in the kitchen — and incorporate more healthy substitutes into her baking.

“Most of my favourite seasonal ingredients are linked to what’s out in the garden,” she says. “I get quite strong urges for things that are bright and fresh, like lemons.”

Watch: Sweet Substitutes from Joy Wilson

The British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about baking hacks and substitutions — not to mention how to seamlessly weave together healthy substitutes and seasonal ingredients. “I’m done with [recipes] that are long and slow,” she says. “I crave foods that are a certain colour more than a certain flavour this time of year.”

Related: 20 Comforting Baking Projects That Deserve a Pat on the Back

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake continue to wow us with their spring-inspired cake creations, we look to Harry for her easiest healthy baking substitutions for when you’re in a pinch.

Farewell to a Baking Staple

One of the easiest baking ingredients to swap out? Butter. Although that might be a little difficult to hear for those with a serious sweet tooth, the truth is that you won’t actually miss it all that much in your favourite baked goods. (We promise!) “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake,” Harry points out as an example. “You taste the buttercream icing. [Butter is] the easiest thing you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.” If you’re doing some spring baking, consider replacing butter in our most crave-worthy carrot cake recipes in every form. Other healthy butter substitutes include applesauce, Greek yogurt, buttermilk and avocado.

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Make it Moist

If you’ve got a variety of veggies on hand and you’re looking to make an epic cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests adding in some of those sweet seasonal veggies. Not only will your cake come out soft and spongy, but it’ll be a whole lot healthier to boot. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference. The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake.” Psst, it also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands and are looking for novel ways to get them to eat their greens.

Harry’s Go-To Secret Ingredient

As for Harry’s all-time favourite healthy baking substitute, one need look no further than the nearest produce aisle. Surprisingly, it’s not avocado. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” she laughs. “If you’ve succeeded at [sneaking it in], then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

For more inspiration, try these Common Ingredient Substitutions That Will Bring Your Recipes to Life or enjoy these Underrated Spring Vegetables That Belong in Your Meal Rotation.

These Matcha and White Chocolate Oat Muffins Will Help Makeover Your Breakfast Routine

These are not your average breakfast oat muffins. They incorporate an unexpected (and vibrant) ingredient: matcha powder! Hailing from Japan, matcha is a finely ground powder of pure green tea leaves. It can be easily located in health food stores or online. In this recipe, the earthiness from the matcha pairs perfectly with the sweetness from the white chocolate. Your breakfast won’t be so average anymore.

Matcha and White Chocolate Oat Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1 ½ tsp quality matcha powder
1 Tbsp boiling water
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 cup quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

Related: Guilt-Free Paleo Carrot Cupcakes with Cashew “Cream Cheese” Frosting

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-tin muffin tray with liners.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together matcha and water until the matcha is fully dissolved.

3. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and add in the matcha mixture until well blended.

4. Stir in the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger until smooth. Fold in the chocolate.

5. Using a large ice cream scoop, evenly divide mixture amongst the prepared muffin tray.

6. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the muffins bounce back to touch.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Stuck Indoors

Don’t let the muffin fun stop there! Try these pumpkin, feta and sage muffins, plus these 50 best muffins recipes that will make you love baking.

These Banoffee Tartlets = Our New Favourite Spring Baking Project

Inspired by the classic banana and toffee-filled pie, these banoffee tartlets combine all of our favourite flavours into individual desserts. Plunge your spoon past the fluffy whipped cream and through the ripe bananas and chewy toffee before shattering the crisp yet buttery crust on the bottom. Each bite is full of brown sugary goodness and tons of fresh banana. We would never pass up a slice of the classic variation, but these single-serving individual tartlets get us all the more excited for spring baking at home.

Related: These Banana Bread Recipes Will Provide All The Comfort You Need

How to Make Banoffee Tartlets


Bake Time:
25 to 30 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
Serves: 7 to 8

Ingredients:

Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (or equivalent all-purpose flour)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ tsp salt
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and diced
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp cold water

Toffee
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch salt

Assembly
4 ripe bananas
Sweetened whipped cream for topping (about 2 cups)

Related: The Most Brilliant Ways to Use Overripe Bananas

Directions:

Crust
1. Combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter, a pair of forks, or your fingers to cut it into the flour mixture. The mixture should look sandy and the butter pieces the size of peas.

2. Stir together the egg yolk and water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. The dough will be rather shaggy at first, but should stick together when given a tight squeeze.

Related: 50 Best Muffin Recipes That Will Make You Love Baking

3. Gently gather the dough and divide evenly into 7 or 8 portions (depending on the size of your tart pans).

4. Press each portion into sides and bottoms of the tart pans. Use the flat bottom of a small measuring cup to press in the corners and flatten out the bottoms until smooth. Trim the tops of the tart shells by running a paring knife around the top edge of the tart pans. Prick the bottoms of the tart shells with a fork and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, pre-heat then oven to 375°F. Once chilled, line the tart shells with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights (dry beans or uncooked rice will also do). Place the filled tart shells on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully remove the parchment/foil and pie weights. Return the tart shells to the oven and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the edges start to brown and the bottoms are dry to the touch. Cool completely before filling.

Related: Delightfully Easy Easter Desserts That You Can Enjoy All Spring

Toffee
1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the brown sugar and cream. While whisking continuously, bring to a slow boil and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the toffee coats the back of a spoon.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour the toffee into a heat-safe container or glass jar, then chill in the refrigerator to cool and thicken slightly (don’t let the toffee completely set or it will be difficult to pour into the tart shells).

Related: Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream and Smoked Salt

Assembly
1. Once the tart shells and toffee have cooled, evenly distribute the toffee into the shells (leaving at least ¼ inch gap from the top). Slice the bananas into ¼ to ½ inch coins and place on top of the toffee filling. Top the banana slices with whipped cream.

2. Serve immediately.

3. Tart shells may be baked and cooled in advance. Leftover may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days, but they are best consumed on the day of assembly.

Related: Molly Yeh’s Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting is Simply Show-Stopping

For more inspiration, try our most popular cookie recipes of all time and crave-worthy carrot cake recipes.

No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread That Looks Fancy (But is Super Easy)

Trust us: This no-knead bread recipe will make you feel like a professional baker. The secret? It’s a super simple, fool-proof recipe that you really can’t mess up, unlike other breads out there. While it does require a bit of time to allow the dough to rise, all good things take time, right? After that, you’ll be off to the races. You can flavour this bread however you please, but we find the combination of our favourite Middle Eastern spice, za’atar, with salty kalamata olives is the perfect marriage of flavours. 

We chose spelt flour because that’s our preferred healthy flour of choice, but you can use a combination of whole- and unbleached-wheat flour, or AP flour. When made only with whole-grain, the bread will be dense, so we recommend combining a light or unbleached variety to give it airiness and levity. Now go impress yourself and your friends, and get baking!

Related: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf (Bread Baking for Beginners)


No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Proofing Time: 6-18 hours
Bake Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups light spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp za’atar
½ tsp dry active yeast
1 ½ cups room temperature water
¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives

Directions:

1. Place dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the yeast.

2. Make a small well in the middle of the ingredients, and pour in the water. Mix slowly to incorporate, then fold in the olives. A shaggy dough will begin to form. Do not over-mix. 

Related: Conquer Brunch With This Make-Ahead Veggie Strata and Sourdough Bread

3. Once the dough mixture is shaggy, cover the bowl with a towel and let rest anywhere from 6-18 hours. The longer you wait, the better the dough.

4. After the resting period, the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place a large oven-safe pot with a tight lid into the oven. We prefer a dutch oven. Leave it there for 30 minutes. 

Related: How to Make Everything Garlic Bread Knots

6. While the dutch oven is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place it onto a floured surface. The dough will be very sticky, so be generous with the flour. Begin to roll it into a ball, but remember, this is no-knead, so there is “no need” to start pounding it or folding it. Simply round it into a ball and leave it alone.

7. Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough back into the bowl. Cover it with a towel and let sit for the remainder of the 30 minutes that your pot is heating up.

8. After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the oven (it will be hot so be careful!). Remove the lid and place a piece of parchment paper into the pot and drop the dough in. Put the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

9. Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.

10. Then, take the freshly baked bread out of the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. You will be so impressed at how artisanal it looks, not to mention that you actually made it yourself, from scratch!

11. Enjoy with butter, ghee, olive oil or on its own.

Now that you’ve conquered bread from scratch, pair it with one of these healthy Middle Eastern recipes you’ll make on repeat.

Anna Olson Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Recipes for Every Skill Level: Easy to Advanced

Has Great Chocolate Showdown inspired you to try out some new skills in your kitchen? Not all chocolate recipes are created equal, so we asked Canada’s most beloved baker and Great Chocolate Showdown host Anna Olson to help us break down which of her recipes would be best suited to your skills.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, here are Anna Olson’s best chocolate recipes for bakers of all levels.

Easy Chocolate Recipes for Baking Beginners

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’re not sure where to start your chocolate baking journey, look no further than this classic bake — cookies. “Chocolate chip cookies are a great basic because it gets you into the chocolate world,” recommended Anna.

Anna Olson's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies RecipeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

For a serious sweet tooth, fudgy brownies are another great option for new home bakers, and as a bonus, they use items you probably already have in your kitchen. “Brownies take minimal equipment. If you’ve got a pot, a pan, and a whisk, you can make brownies,” said Anna.

Anna Olson's Fudge Brownie RecipesGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Fudge Brownies

Intermediate Chocolate Recipes if You Have a Few Baking Skills Under Your Belt

Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

For home bakers who have the basic chocolate skills down and want to give themselves a challenge, Anna provided some delightful options.

“You can get into fun things like chocolate crinkle cookies, a good, rich chocolate cake, a flourless chocolate torte, or vegan chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting,” Anna shared.

Anna Olson's Chocolate Fudge CakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

Advanced Chocolate Recipes for Baking Masters

Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

If you’re ready to face the ultimate home baking challenge and show off your chocolate technique, Anna had a couple of ideas.

“I have a delicious chocolate mousse cake: chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and it’s got a dark chocolate mirror glaze, which is really hot right now,” she divulged.

Anna Olson's Rich Chocolate Mousse CakeGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Rich Chocolate Mousse Cake

“[My] chocolate souffle is another very challenging recipe,” she also shared. “It takes confidence, and you have to feel positive that you know how to get it just right.”

Anna Olson's Grand Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel SauceGet the recipe for Anna Olson’s Chocolate Souffles with Salted Caramel Sauce

For even more inspiration, watch Anna Olson on the Great Chocolate Showdown, Tuesdays at 9 PM ET/PT only on Food Network Canada.

Harry Eastwood’s Top 7 Baking Tips for a Marvelous Holiday

There are few things in this world that excite The Big Bake: Holiday judge Harry Eastwood more than baking during the holidays.

“I am an absolute, unabashed Christmas junkie all the way,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve even already started wrapping up some presents and putting them on the top shelf in my office.”

Famous for her unique approach to vegetable cakes (more on that in a minute), the British-born, Paris-based chef and cookbook author knows more than her fair share about holiday baking.

So, as the talented teams on The Big Bake: Holiday continue to wow us with their festive cake creations, we took the opportunity to catch up with Harry to learn more about her top tips for healthy holiday desserts – including cake baking tips for beginners.

Related: Our Top 100 Holiday Cookie and Square Recipes


Harry on the set of The Big Bake: Holiday episode Santa on Cakecation

Plan Ahead

Although it may seem fairly obvious to prep in advance, Harry points out that it’s often one of the easiest mistakes home bakers make – and one that can result in high levels of stress and burnt baked goods. “I’m a big proponent of planning,” she says, “and by planning what I really mean, if I’m cooking a cake on Friday my list of ingredients would be done at least a day or two beforehand so I have time to make sure that I have everything I need. It’s very depressing to start a cake and discover that you’ve got only half the amount of sugar you needed.” So, forget that Santa wishlist: the most important list you’ll need this holiday season is the one organizing all your must-have ingredients. Check!

Budget Your Time

Another cake baking tip for beginners is something that comes with practice – and a whole lot of patience. “Don’t hurry it,” Harry says about getting your bake on. “The thing about cakes, above anything else, is [the realization] that you’re not in charge. The ingredients and the cake are in charge and that won’t bend just because you have a dentist’s appointment. So, budget the time for it.”

Related: Harry Eastwood Takes You Through the History of Cakes

Divide and Conquer

There are two stages of baking, according to Harry: one is the actual baking of the cake and the other is the icing and adding any additional decorations. Remember: there’s no reason why you can’t ice and decorate your masterpiece the next day, so there’s no need to rush through the entire process in a couple hours. “It’s like writing a letter by hand, the joy is always in doing,” she says. “Racing to finish it is dangerous and it would be such a shame to lose the joy of [baking].”

Kitsch for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun and infuse some of your own personality into your creation. Adding a little colour and texture can easily elevate your cake to the next level, so embrace it! “I’m not afraid of kitsch,” Harry says. “I love making my own [cake] toppers. I love that candy cane stripe; it’s so easy to mix into cakes. You can smash them up and make patterns on top. Everything is an excuse for a story at this time of year, so go nuts on the decorations because it’s such a joyful wow-factor.”

Related: The Perfect Holiday Cookie, According to Your Zodiac Sign


Harry Eastwood on set with host Brad Smith and judge Eddie Jackson

Swap in Some Veggies

If you’ve got root vegetables on hand and you’re looking to make an epic sponge cake that has some real moisture to it, Harry suggests swapping out some of the more common ingredients for some of those sweet veggies. “I think vegetable cake is so underrated just because it’s healthier,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good! If you have a vegetable cake with buttercream icing on top, I defy you to tell the difference.” Bonus: since the holidays are all about indulging in your favourite treats, you’ll appreciate having at least one healthy(ish) dessert. It also comes in handy if you’ve got a few picky eaters on your hands. “Zucchini is probably my favourite ingredient to add into cakes because it’s very easy to introduce without anybody having a clue,” Harry says with a laugh. “The point of a vegetable cake is that people don’t know it’s a vegetable cake so you need to do something which just effortlessly swaps it in. If you’ve succeeded at that, then you’ve done a good job. You’ve nailed it.”

Simple Substitutes

Bid adieu to butter this holiday season. “You definitely don’t taste the butter in a sponge cake, you taste the buttercream [icing],” Harry points out. “It’s the easiest ingredient you can lose without noticing so long as you replace it with a healthy fat, like ground nuts, because there needs to be a balancing act with what you put in.”

Related: Anna Olson’s Quick Guide to Ingredient Substitutions

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

You don’t have to wait until you’re a seasoned pro before you can start experimenting in the kitchen. “I’m a big fan of a recipe I wrote a little while ago which is for a sesame tahini white chocolate blondie,” Harry says. “That in itself is a show-stopper. I love offering something unusual around Christmastime.”

For more holiday fare, you can get your bake on with these 20 easy make-ahead Christmas cookies for your holiday bash and Anna Olson’s Ultimate Holiday Cookie Hacks.

6 Bakery Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Pro

Some say that homemade is best, but to be honest, we think those people have never been to some of the amazing bakeries featured on The Baker Sisters. Sure, some of us know how to whip up the best batch of cookies on the block, while others may boast cake-baking skills that would rival Nonna’s. But at the end of the day, it’s the tricks of the trade that really elevate a baked good to the next level.

The-Baker-Sisters-at-Sweet-Hereafter-Cheesecakery

Well, we’re ready to level up, and we’ve enlisted Jean Parker and Rachel Smith’s help to do it. Here are six genius hacks that all next-level bakeries use that will have your home kitchen smelling like a bakery in no time.

1. Make use of your freezer

Perhaps you’ve heard that freezing—or at least refrigerating—your cookie dough before baking is a surefire way to get gooey-but-crispy cookies? As it turns out freezing many of your concoctions in advance is a great way to add extra moisture and ensure a perfect bake.

“Your fridge and freezer are just as important as your oven sometimes,” Jean says. “That and giving yourself the time. For a home baker it’s hard to wait 12 hours for [something], but you do.”

Bakeries certainly seem to have the time, which is why they’ll freeze cakes or cinnamon buns before baking or decorating. Now that’s what we call a cool trick.

2. Enhance with citrus

Peach-Buckle-Proof-Bakery
Proof Bakery’s Peach Buckle recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of lemon zest. 

One of the best ways to elevate the flavour profile of something is by hitting all of those complex layers of seasonings—that’s true whether you’re baking or cooking. But one of the most common mistakes we make is adding too much salt and not enough acidity. Well, it turns out that latter ingredient elevates baked goods, too.

“You’d be surprised how much lemon juice is in a lot of things that you don’t necessarily get that flavour,” Rachel says. “It’s like salt. They can enhance flavours and really change the flavour profile.”

You’ve  seen lemon juice in apple, blueberry or strawberry pies (to name a few) but don’t be afraid to try it in chocolate cake, too.

Lemon-Chevre-Brownie-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver
Vancouver’s Purebread bakery marries lemon and chocolate flavours in their Lemon Chevre Brownie.

3. Invoke some flour power

How many times have you baked fruity muffins or chocolate-chip scones, only to have the fruit bleed through and sink to the bottom, or the chocolate chips melt into a gooey mess? It turns out there’s a very simple solution to all of those problems: a little flour power.

“Coating chips and berries in flour is a huge one,” Jean says. “It prevents them from sinking or melting. Blueberries, if you toss them in flour first, won’t blend into the batter.”

It’s so simple, yet makes concoctions so pretty. Who knew?

4. Swap flour for cocoa

No, as much as we love all things chocolate we don’t mean swapping out flour for cocoa powder when you’re baking in general. But when you’re coating a cake pan—especially a cake pan being prepped for a chocolaty concoction—that’s a swap the real pros make.

“A lot of the time you’ll see a baker dust their pan with flour to help prevent it from sticking,” Rachel explains. “But if you’re doing a chocolate-based cake, use cocoa powder so it actually doesn’t change the colour of the cake. I learned that at Little Bird in Saskatoon from Tasha and Kim.”

5. Get creative with jam and jelly

Not all Pinterest-worthy projects actually come out like the photos that inspire us—that’s why #PinterestFails were created in the first place. But if you’ve been eyeing a trendy birch-bark stump cake the way the bakers at Saskatoon’s Little Bird were, it’s time to get creative with your decorating to achieve the desired effect. And sometimes that means using creative ingredients like jams or jellies.

Double-Chocolate-Birch-CakeSaskatoon’s Little Bird Patisserie & Cafe makes this gorgeous Double Chocolate Birch Cake.

“I made a birch bark stump [at Little Bird]. It was insane,” Rachel says. “Watching somebody decorate a cake, you learn little tips. [They] took brown food jelly and put holes in the side of the cake, and then smeared it with an offset spatula to create those lines of the birch bark around it. When you see the finished product, you just look at it and wonder how the heck did they do that. It’s actually quite simple, those little details.”

6. Oil it up

Want to know the secret to a moist, indulgent cake? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not an extra pat of butter, despite how deliciously rich that sounds. Nope, the secret to moist cake comes in the form of a more unexpected ingredient: oil.

Chocoalte-Chip-Marscarpone-Cupcakes-Giada-de-Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis knows that secret to moist cake, too! Try her recipe for chocolate chip and marscarpone cupcakes.

“Oil doesn’t evaporate because there’s no water in it, but butter is made with water so it evaporates,” Rachel explains. “Butter is great for flavour; it’s not necessarily great for a tender cake.”

Aha. So it turns out butter doesn’t make everything better. Just most things.

Rachel-Smith-at-Purebread-Bakery-Vancouver

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start baking like the pros.