Mess-Free Mashing and Chopping
1. The quickest way to “chop” nuts is to place them in a sealed plastic bag, then roll over them with a rolling pin. This is also a clean, easy way to break up graham crackers or vanilla wafers to make a pie crust.
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2. Chopping nuts in a blender? Try adding a small amount of sugar or flour, which will keep the nut pieces from sticking together.
3. Chopping chocolate for a sweet recipe can be a real pain, thanks to the tiny shards of chocolate left on your cutting board. Make your job much easier by simply heating the chocolate before you cut it. (One minute in the microwave usually does the trick; heat until the edges start to melt.) The slightly softened chocolate won’t splinter as much, ensuring you waste very little!
4. To keep icing from hardening, just add a very small amount of white vinegar after it is whipped. You can also add a pinch of baking soda to the confectioners’ sugar. This will help the icing retain some moisture, and it won’t dry out as quickly.
Related: A Gajillion Uses for Vinegar
5. Here’s a tip that makes icing a cake much easier. To keep the cake from sliding around on the plate as you’re icing it, place a dab of frosting in the middle of the plate before you place the cake on top. The icing will keep the cake in place, and by the time you’ve served all the slices, no one will notice the little bit of extra frosting on the bottom.
Surprising Cake Decorating Tips
6. Trying to decorate a cookie or write or draw on a cake? Icing bags are still too big and leave you without much control. Try a clean kids’ medicine dispenser—the syringe design helps the icing come out slowly at your push.
7. Here’s a great bakers’ trick to make it easier to decorate the top of a cake: With a toothpick, trace the pattern, picture, or lettering before you pipe the icing. This guide will help you make fewer mistakes.
For the Best End Results
8. Having your ingredients (milk, butter, and eggs) at room temperature is the secret to smooth batter. If you haven’t planned ahead, you can take the chill off milk and butter quickly in the microwave. But what about those eggs? Give them a warm bath! Place eggs from the fridge in a bowl of warm water. As the water cools, repeat by draining the bowl and refilling it with fresh warm water. Let the eggs sit in warm water for about 5 minutes before cracking and adding to the batter.
See also: 8 Tricks for Perfect Breakfast Eggs
9. Drop that cake. That’s right, drop it! After you pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top. Then, from a height of about a foot, drop the pan bottom on your countertop. The drop will magically knock out any air bubbles in the batter for a more professional cake shape and appearance. Do this for cakes leavened with baking soda or baking powder.
10. Drop cookies too! For cookies, the drop comes after you take them out of the oven. Just bang the pan straight down on the stove to force the cookies to settle.