Baking Questions


Learn the answer to some common baking questions from icing to tips and strategies. Check out these holiday baked goods pictures.
Publications International, Ltd.

Whether you're an avid baker or someone who just enjoys a weekend in the kitchen, these baking questions and answers will help you with all of your oven endeavors.

Check out these how-to baking tips and baking questions to get you started on your next sweet-tooth journey:

How to Ice a Cake

There's a reason why the best part of something is called "the icing on the cake." Follow these helpful tips on how to ice a cake with ease.

How to Bake Using Fiber and Whole Grains

Whole grains are a great way to get more fiber into your diet. Learn how to bake using this fiber-rich food in your breads, cookies and cakes.

How to Ship Baked Goods

Baking the cake is one thing, but getting it across the country is another! Learn how to ship your famous cookies from Kalamazoo to California on this page.

For more helpful baking tips and hints, see:

How to Ice a Cake

There's a reason why the best part of something is known as the "icing on the cake." Learn how to ice a cake like the pros.
There's a reason why the best part of something is known as the "icing on the cake." Learn how to ice a cake like the pros.
Lori Sparkia

Q. What is best way to ice a freshly baked cake?

Cake decorating is an art that turns an ordinary cake into an elaborate masterpiece. It's not for the inexperienced cook, but with a few simple guidelines and a couple of tips, you can give your homemade cakes a professional touch.

Always cool a cake completely before frosting it. Then use a soft pastry brush to remove all loose cake crumbs.

Place the bottom cake layer on a flat plate, and place strips of waxed paper under the cake to catch any drips. Spoon about 1/2 cup frosting on the top and spread it evenly over the cake with a flat metal spatula.

Top with the second cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake to seal in crumbs, and let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes. Then, spread the side with a thicker layer of frosting, working from the bottom toward the top and turning the cake as needed.

To frost the top, spoon a mound of frosting in the center and spread it outward to the edges. Use special tools to give your cake a professional look. To make swirls in the frosting, use the flat, metal spatula or the back of a teaspoon.

The spatula also is the perfect tool to make ridges on the cake top by sweeping it through the frosting from side to side in evenly spaced strokes. A cake "comb" -- a metal triangle with teeth on all three edges -- can be carefully dragged around the sides and top of the cake for a professional look.

Add garnishes or piping, if desired, and you have a cake that takes the cake.

For more helpful baking tips and hints, see:

How to Bake Using Fiber and Whole Grains

Baking with whole grains is a great way to get more fiber into your diet.
Baking with whole grains is a great way to get more fiber into your diet.
Publications International, Ltd.

Q. I've heard it's important to get a lot of fiber in your diet, but is it possible to get whole grains in baked goods and not just in bread?

There's no doubt about the research: Most of us need to get more fiber into our diets. Although it's not a vitamin or a mineral, fiber plays an important role in keeping the body healthy.

The average American consumes half the amount of fiber experts recommend, only 10 to 13 grams a day of the 20 to 35 grams known to offer protective health benefits.

The fiber found in whole grains helps lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, and helps stabilize blood sugar. In addition, it's been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

How to Add Whole-Grain Fiber

To add more whole-grain fiber to your diet, think bread and baked goods. Forget the stereotype of whole grains being only for breads. If you have a variety of whole-grain flours on hand-and know a couple of simple tricks for the best results-you'll soon be baking full-flavored breads and baked goods made with the goodness of whole grains.

To start, stock your pantry with some basics. These should include bread flour, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, and oat flour. Barley flour is another good whole-grain flour that lends a sweet, nutty flavor to baked goods.

Bread flour, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, and whole-wheat pastry flour are available at most supermarkets; oat and barley flour are available at health-food stores. You can easily make your own oat flour by processing rolled oats in a blender or food processor until finely chopped.

Bread flour and all-purpose flour can be stored in airtight containers in a dark, cool place such as a cabinet away from the stove or oven. Because whole-grain flours have a higher fiber, vitamin, and fat content than refined white flours, they should be stored in freezer storage bags in the freezer.

Bring frozen flour to room temperature by setting it out on the counter in a mixing bowl for an hour. For bread baking, heating the flour and bowl slightly in a slow oven before mixing in the dissolved yeast helps get the yeastie beasties off to a very happy start.

Tricks of the Baking Trade

There are two simple tricks to know when adding whole-grain goodness to your baked goods: First, if you're baking bread leavened with yeast, about half of the flour you use will need to contain gluten.

Second, whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, rye flour, oat flour, and barley flour do not contain as much gluten as bread flour and some all-purpose flours, and should be used in combination with gluten-containing flours for best results.

What is Gluten?

Gluten, a starch found in wheat, is necessary in yeasted bread to provide the elasticity and structure that allows bread dough to form bubbles and rise. Bread flour is made from high-gluten hard wheat. (Cake and pastry flour is made from low-gluten soft wheat.)

Baked goods such as cakes, cookies, pie crust, pancakes, quick breads, and muffins that use baking powder and baking soda as leaveners do not depend on gluten and yeast for rising and structure.

Soft flours with less gluten, such as cake flour and whole-wheat pastry flour, and flours with little or no gluten, such as rye, barley, and oat flour, work well in these baked goods. Bread flour, with its higher gluten content, causes cakes, cookies, pie crust, pancakes, quick breads, and muffins to be less tender.

All-Purpose Flour, Cake Flour or Bread Flour?

All-purpose flour is a blend of flours designed to be a compromise between "hard" bread flours and "soft" cake and pastry flours. Generally speaking, all-purpose flour can be used for both bread and cakes, although bread bakers will say that "harder" bread flour is better for chewy, rustic breads, and pastry chefs will prefer to use cake and pastry flours for their baked goods requiring a tender crumb.

All-purpose flour comes bleached or unbleached; each can be used interchangeably. Unbleached flour is aged naturally by time; bleached is aged chemically.

With a little practice, you'll soon find the combination of flours that suits your baking style, be it high-rising bread, tender baked goods, or whole-grain goodness. The great thing about bread warm from the oven is that it tastes good no matter how it turns out, so feel free to experiment getting whole-grain goodness into your loaves and other baked goods.

For more helpful baking tips and hints, see:

How to Ship Baked Goods

Learn the best way to ship your baked goods to loved ones.
Learn the best way to ship your baked goods to loved ones.
Publications International, Ltd.

Q. I love baking for my friends, but shipping is always a problem. What's the best way to send baked goods to my friends and family?

Shipping perishable goods is a tricky process. There are several things to consider such as how to keep the items intact, how to package them so they don't get squished, and how long it can withstand being in a small box without going bad.

But before you give up and mail that Christmas sweater instead, here are some helpful tips to ensure your holiday goodies make it through the shipping process intact:

  • Prepare foods immediately before packing and mailing, and allow foods to cool completely before boxing up and shipping. Choose a speedy method of shipping.
  • Moist quick breads, brownies, bars, and sturdy cookies (soft cookies rather than crisp varieties) are ideal choices for shipping, as are many non-fragile confections such as fudge and caramels.
  • Avoid moist fillings and frostings since they become sticky or soft at room temperature.
  • Packaging soft cookies with a slice of apple or bread helps them to retain moisture. And don't package crisp cookies in the same container with soft cookies; moisture from the soft ones will soften the crisp ones.
  • Store cookies with sticky glazes, icings, and fragile decorations in single layers between sheets of waxed paper.
  • Wrap each type of cookie separately to retain flavors and textures. Pack wrapped cookies in rows as tightly as possible to prevent shifting and breakage.
  • When shipping quick breads, brownies, and bars, buy a new, decorative baking dish or pan and make it part of the gift. Place the baked good in the container to provide added protection during shipping.
  • Wrap all breakable containers in bubble wrap, and fill boxes with packing peanuts or popped popcorn for added protection.
  • Protect a gift bow by covering it with an inverted berry basket.

For more helpful baking tips and hints, see: