Baking can be intimidating for some people. You have probably heard someone say that baking is a science, which makes it seem like you are performing an experiment in a lab. Your Petri dishes are replaced with mixing bowls and your pipets with measuring cups. Yes, baking is quite precise, but there are just two simple things you can do that will instantly take your baking to the next level.
My favorite ingredient when it comes to baking, by far, is buttermilk. It is a game-changing ingredient. Whenever I bake any type or flavor of cakes/cupcakes I always use buttermilk. Many recipes you find online will say to use this wonder ingredient, but even if the recipe doesn't call for it...use it.
Seriously though, just do it. Buttermilk helps balance out the flavors. The key to any good recipe is balance. Sometimes desserts can be a bit too sweet. How many times have you taken a few bites of cake and couldn't bear to take another because it was too sweet? Let's for a moment forget about the frosting, that will be another blog post for another day. Buttermilk helps balance that sweetness with a sour flavor. It also helps boost the flavors and makes them bolder.
Think of buttermilk like adding citrus to a dish. When you add citrus to a dish, it amplifies the other flavors. Buttermilk is sour, like a citrus fruit, which rounds out all of the flavors more completely. I have been complimented on many occasions because my cakes aren't overly sweet, I credit much of that to buttermilk.
Let's say you want to whip up some cupcakes, but you don't have any buttermilk at home. No problem! All you have to do is combine whole milk and lemon juice, the lemon juice will curdle the milk. I know that sounds absolutely disgusting. The ratio is 1 cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix the two liquids and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes so that the milk curdles.
Alright now let's get to the second way to boost your baking game. Do not use fridge cold ingredients, unless specified. If you are making a pie crust, it is essential to use fridge cold butter and cold water. However, for anything else allow the ingredients to come to room temperature.
In order to cream butter, the butter has to be softened anyway. Before I begin baking, I measure out my butter, milk, and eggs and allow them to come to room temperature. This allows your cake to be lighter and airy. Cold ingredients will result in a denser cake and no one wants that. When I am prepping for a long day of baking, I have many bowls with my pre-measured ingredients coming to room temperature before I begin. Make sure your oven is not pre-heating at the same time. Your kitchen will get warmer with the oven on, which isn't good for the ingredients.