If you know me at all, you’ll know that one of my absolute favourite things (apart from baking, obvs.) is sitting around on the sofa and binge watching whatever my new favourite TV show, which is currently Shadowhunters by the way (#SaveShadowhunters). I’m basically the ultimate lazy girl, and if there’s a way I can make a recipe more speedy or less hassle, then you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll take it. And I thought why not turn my lifetime’s experience of cutting corners into the Ultimate 28 Lazy Baking Tips for you all.
So here goes…
1 – Squeezy golden syrup. For some reason, you can still buy golden syrup in a can with that really annoying lid (if you’re British you know what I’m taking about). It always gets super messy, and you end up with sticky hands when you try and get that ‘paint tin’ style lid back in place. Plus, it’s so much harder to measure a spoonful. So just stop buying syrup in tins, and start buying it in bottles. SO MUCH EASIER, plus it gives you a little measuring guide on the side that tells you how much 1 tablespoon of syrup weighs on your scales, so you can just squeeze it right into the bowl without even needing a measuring spoon.
2 – Buy salted caramel sauce. If you’ve got the time and patience to make your own Salted Caramel, then I applaud you. But if you don’t, or you just plain can’t be bother with the faff, then it’s more than okay to buy ready made salted caramel in the supermarket. No one will judge you. Okay, so it definitely wouldn’t get past Pru and Paul on the Bake Off, but we’ve all got more important things to do (see the aforementioned TV binges) than stand around watching sugar boil in a saucepan. Plus, there’s a chance that after all that hard work you just end up with burnt sugar. It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.
3 – Buy ready made pastry. Along the same lines as the caramel sauce tip above, as far as I’m concerned I pretty much NEVER make my own pastry. Unless it’s for a blog post. Anyone who makes puff pastry is either as perfect as Monica from Friends, or has too much time on their hands.
4 – Keep your eggs out of the fridge (but maybe only if you’re British). I don’t know about you, but I always keep my eggs at room temperature, and I’ve never had a problem. Eggs in the UK are pretty much guaranteed to be free from salmonella, due to the way they are farmed, and as such it is perfectly fine to keep them out of the fridge. I store mine in a cute little china egg tray (UK/US), on the counter top (away from direct sunlight). This way, whenever you need a room temperature egg for baking, you don’t have to remember to take it out of the fridge beforehand. In other countries (like the US) the advice is to store your eggs in the fridge – so do some research before you start keeping them out.
5 – Egg whites come in bottles now. If you’re a keen meringue maker like myself (see Ferrero Rocher Pavlova for my all-time favourite) then you’ve probably been through the predicament of what to do with all those leftover egg yolks. There’s only so much homemade ice cream and custard you can make, after all. The answer to your prayers can be found in the dairy aisle of your local supermarket! So much less wastage, and so much easier to pour straight into the bowl. I believe you might also be able to get hold of egg yolks this way too, although in my experience that’s far less likely to be a problem, as Kate makes omelettes using any leftover egg whites I happen to have lying around.
6 – Don’t bother to measure out vanilla extract. After a while, you just start to get used to how much a half teaspoon of vanilla extract is. Just eyeball it straight from the bottle and save yourself the washing up.
7 – Room temperature butter in just 10 minutes. We’ve all been there. You forgot to take the butter out of the fridge last night before bed, and now you’re faced with a long wait before your butter is warm enough to use in your favourite cookie recipe. Problem solved! Microwave a jug of water for a couple of minutes until it is boiling. Remove the jug from the microwave, and place your cubed but very cold butter into the microwave (on a plate) and shut the door. Make sure the cubes of butter are spread out on the plate (i.e. not all piled on top of each other). Leave the butter in the microwave for 10 minutes (don’t turn the microwave on!) and the residual heat in there from the boiling water will have brought your butter up to a lovely soft consistency that’s perfect for baking!
8 – Always keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge. Maybe it’s just me, but juicing lemons is always one of my least favourite baking jobs. It takes me about 20 minutes to remember where I put the juicer, and if you just go straight ahead and squeeze the juice straight from the lemon into the bowl, you’re always going to end up with pips in there. Save yourself the aggro and just pour some juice straight from the bottle. This also works for limes too, of course. The average lemon has approximately 2½ tablespoons of juice in it, and the average lime about 2. Apparently you can also buy pre-grated lemon and lime zests in the supermarket now!
9 – Ripen yellow bananas in minutes rather than days. I’ve mentioned this one before, in my Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bread post, but it’s so genius that it’s always worth another mention. The best bananas to use in baking are generally very over-ripe and squishy. But this means having to remember to buy bananas a good week before you want to bake. And I’ve definitely not got the ability to remember that! Instead, you can turn those yellow-green under-ripe bananas into squidgy messes in 30 minutes. Just pop the bananas on a baking tray (skins still on) and pop in the oven (150°C / 130°C fan / 300°F) for about 30 minutes. You’ll end up with some super mushy ripe bananas – just what you’re after. The skins will go very black, but that’s okay. They aren’t burnt inside. Promise.
10 – Vanilla paste gives that speckled look without the hassle of whole vanilla beans. Do as I do and keep some vanilla paste handy in the kitchen. If you ever want to get the speckled vanilla bean look in your cakes or ice cream, but don’t want the bother of slicing and scraping whole vanilla beans, you can just pop some of the paste straight into your bowl and be done with it. No one will ever know the difference.
Handy Kitchen Gadgets
11 – Cherry pitter. If you’re a fan of a cherry pie, or you want to make my Cherry Chocolate Loaf Cake, then you’re going to need to take a lot of cherry stones out of a lot of fresh cherries. And it’s a long long process with a regular knife, trust me. And that’s why some wonderful person invented the cherry pitter. This is the one I use and love, or find it in the US here.
12 – Non-stick baking spray and ready cut baking parchment. Another one of those annoying baking chores that no one really loves is greasing and lining the cake pan or tin. Save yourself time and sanity by buying non-stick spray and pre-cut baking parchment circles. You can get the circles in varying sizes, but seeing as I usually bake 8 inch cakes that’s the only size I keep around (US version here). Just spray the cake tin with the non-stick spray, and place a grease-proof paper circle in the bottom. Job done.
13 – Please get yourself a stand mixer. It’s such a worthwhile investment, I promise. And it doesn’t need to be a super fancy expensive one (although we’d all love a Kitchenaid wouldn’t we?). I’ve had my Andrew James stand mixer for 3 years (it’s still going strong) and you can get the exact same one for just £80. I can’t even begin to count the amount of time and arm-ache I have saved myself by owning one, and it’s especially wonderful for making meringues as you can just leave the machine to whip away whilst you go and have a five minute tidy up. This is the one kitchen gadget I wouldn’t be without.
14 – Use an ice cream scoop for cupcake batter. I’ve always struggled with getting my cupcakes to be the right size. I would either over-fill the cases and end up with an overflow in the oven, or under-fill them and have to add a tonne of icing to the top to make them look okay. Then I got this ice cream scoop from Amazon, and everything changed. It’s perfect, as one scoop of batter is exactly the right size for a single cupcake. And I no longer need to worry about uneven cupcakes again!
15 – Use a Google Home or Amazon Echo for quick alarms and maths. There’s something to be said for being able to ask Google to set you an alarm for 30 minutes, or to check with Alexa what a third of 350ml is when you’ve got butter all over your hands.
16 – Google can read you out recipes too. Yes, the Google Home can read you out your favourite recipes step-by-step (including recipes from What Charlotte Baked!). Just find your favourite recipe on Google on your smartphone (try searching ‘Super Berry Granola Cookies’ or ‘Peach Raspberry Smoothie Bowl’) and then click the little ‘Send to Google Home’ button underneath the recipe you want to make. Your Google Home will then read you out the recipe, waiting for you to be ready before moving on to the next step. Magical!
17 – Use silicone sheets that are the same size as your cookie sheets. Again, who wants to spend their precious time cutting out baking parchment to the exact size of their baking trays? Get yourself some silicone baking sheets (like these ones I own) that are the same size as your favourite baking trays, and then just place one on top of the tray without any need for greasing. And as they are reusable, it saves on kitchen waste too. Win win.
18 – Please please PLEASE own a dishwasher. As the proud owner of my first ever dishwasher, I can’t stress enough how much owing this stainless steel box of magic has changed my life. Dishes used to pile up around the sink, especially on baking days, and now the kitchen always looks (almost) mess free. Plus, all that time spent slaving over a hot soapy bowl of water can now be spent doing more exciting things, like writing blog posts and packing for my holiday.
19 – Don’t always mix dry ingredients separately. Quite a lot of recipes these days call for the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder) to be pre-mixed in a separate bowl before being added to the wet ones (butter, sugar, eggs). The logic behind this is that things like baking powder and cocoa then get evenly distributed in the bowl, and don’t all end up in one slice of your cake. However, as someone who pretty much exclusively adds the flour, cocoa, and baking powder directly into the wet ingredients, I can tell you that I’ve never had a problem. Give it a go, and save yourself some time (and a bowl).
20 – Place things in the freezer to cool faster. Sometimes you need to ice your cupcakes as soon as possible, either for genuine reasons, or because you’re impatient and want instant gratification. Once they are cool enough to get them out of the cupcake pan, pop them in the freezer to cool down much quicker. Of course, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t leave them in there too long, or you’ll have to wait for them to thaw out anyway. Just 10 minutes or so should be perfect. This method also works really well when you’re making a no-bake cheesecake, and you want your butter biscuit base to set firm whilst you’re making the cheesecake filling.
21 – Melt chocolate in the microwave. This one’s an oldy, but a goody. Instead of melting chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, just break the chocolate up into small pieces (or use chocolate chips) and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds or so at a time, stirring between each. This will quickly melt the chocolate, without you ending up with a burnt chocolate mess. And as we’ve all discovered previously in our lives, burnt chocolate is both a) absolutely vile, and b) not salvageable.
22 – Dip cookies in chocolate rather than using frosting. Sometimes you want to make beautifully intricate cookies covered in royal icing piped flowers. And other times you just want to eat some yummy cookies that you baked. If you’re looking for an easy decorating method, just dip half of each cookie in some chocolate, and then add some chopped nuts or colourful sprinkles.
23 – If you want to use a box mix, then go ahead and use one. Maybe not something you expected me, a baking blogger, to say. Box mixes have their place in the world too, especially if you want to throw together a cake or some cookies without having to measure out ingredients. Although, of course, there’s no substitute for how great you feel once you’ve made a scrumptious homemade cake from scratch.
24 – Choose a one bowl recipe. One bowl recipes are great for two reasons. Firstly, there’s much less washing up. You make the batter in one bowl, pour it into your baking pan, and you’re done. Secondly, one bowl recipes usually involve far less steps and processes to get to your finished result. Looking for a one bowl recipe to try? Lucky for you I wrote a whole post with some of my favourites.
25 – Overnight oats pretty much make themselves. If you’re looking for an easy and no-fuss breakfast recipe, you can’t go far wrong with overnight oats. Place some oats, milk (you can use any type of milk too), and flavourings/sweeteners into a jar, give it a good shake, and then place in the fridge overnight. By breakfast time you will have a delicious thick oatmeal ready and waiting for you.
26 – Bundt cakes and loaf cakes don’t need much decorating. Whilst I do really enjoy decorating a four-layered epic birthday cake, there are occasions when you just want a delicious homemade cake without the fuss of getting out a piping bag. Both bundt cakes and loaf cakes are great alternatives to a layer cake, and usually don’t need any decoration at all. See my Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt or Chocolate Cherry Loaf Cake.
27 – Cookies with no chill. Some cookie recipes need chilling before baking, and that’s fine. It helps keep them thick and stop them spreading. But if you’re after cookies in a hurry, then try using a recipe which doesn’t need any chilling time at all. Yep, no chill cookies are the ultimate lazy baker win. And I’ve got you covered with Double Chocolate Cookies, Mint Chocolate M&M Cookies, and Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies.
28 – No bake cheesecakes: ultimate wow factor with little effort. I’ve often said that the best thing to bake if you are looking for a fairly easy and straight forward recipe, but you still want to make everyone think you’re an amazing baker, is a no bake cheesecake. Everyone loves a cheesecake, and once you’ve added a few easy toppings and drizzled over with melted chocolate or caramel, you’ve got a real showstopper. Case in point: my Snickers Cheesecake. No bake cheesecakes are so much easier to make look gorgeous than a layer cake, for sure.