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Ask Gemma…Your Holiday Baking Questions Answered!

As a professional pastry chef, I have your Holiday Baking Questions answered. If you don't see your question, just ask me in the comments and I'll answer!

Hi Bold Bakers!

Christmas is when novice and experienced bakers alike dust off their aprons and get into the Holiday Baking Season. For some it has been a year since you last used your baking powder or maybe you use it so much you have run out and need a substitute fast! That’s where I come in! With more than 10 years of experience working as a professional chef, I’m here with answers to your top holiday baking questions. If you don’t see your question in this post, ask me in the Comments section below and I’ll get back to you.

Q: How can I tell if my baking powder or baking soda is still fresh?

A: If you are an avid baker, you probably replace these two staples frequently. If you reserve your baking for the holiday season exclusively, you’ll want to test those cans before you get started.

Here’s how:

  • For baking powder: place 1/4 teaspoon baking powder into 1/2 cup hot water
  • For baking soda: place 1/4 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar into 1/2 cup hot water. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • The mixture should bubble immediately — if so, your baking soda/powder is still good. If not, replace it.

Q: How important is it that ingredients are “room temperature”?

A: You’ll notice that most baking recipes call for certain ingredients such as eggs, butter, milk to be at room temperature. This is actually quite important for the final outcome. Cold ingredients will not incorporate smoothly or evenly, so your batter won’t get enough “rise” when it hits the oven. This results in dense cakes and hard, flat cookies. Be sure to allow enough time for your ingredients to sit out and warm up (depending on your kitchen and the time of year, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).

If you’re pressed for time (or simply forgot), you can place eggs in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 15 minutes. Butter can be diced (or grated on the large holes of a box grater) to speed up the process. Also you can place it in a bowl of hot water like this. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for milk.

The opposite of this rule applies to pie crusts, pastries, and biscuits. Here, you want your ingredients to be super cold, so when the dough goes into the oven the bits of butter melt, expand, and create those flaky layers.

Bold Baking Tip: If your recipe calls for separated eggs (whether whites, yolks, or both), always do so while they’re cold. Cold yolks stay more intact and are less likely to run into the whites.

Q: How do I prevent chocolate from seizing up in the microwave?

A: Chocolate hardens and burns when it gets too hot.  The best way to eliminate this problem is to melt chocolate in a double boiler. To melt it in the microwave cook it at half power for one minute, stir and repeat in 20 second increments until the chocolate is fully melted. Make sure to check out my video and recipe on How to Temper Chocolate.

There is no saving burnt melted chocolate but the best method for melting is low and slow.

Q: A recipe calls for buttermilk but I don’t have any on hand. Can I substitute something else?

A: Absolutely! To make buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to bring the liquid up to 1 cup. Let stand for 30 minutes and it’s ready to use.

Make sure to check out my video and recipe on How to Make Buttermilk.

Q: The recipe calls for unsalted butter but I only have salted available. Can I still use it?

A: Yes you can! Some baker choose to omit salt from a recipe if they use salted butter. I don’t, I leave in the salt. Never in all of my years have I baked something that was salty. Remember salt is not just a seasoning for savory food, it’s also a seasoning for sweets too to bring out all the flavors.

Q: Can I use brown sugar instead of white sugar?

A: Yes, you can HOWEVER brown sugar gives a caramel flavor to your baked good that white sugar doesn’t. The difference between brown and white sugar is the addition of molasses.

Did you know you can actually make Brown Sugar? It is so simple and makes a great addition to your baked good. I’ll show you How to Make Brown Sugar in my post and video.

Q: Can I substitute regular sugar for confectioners’ sugar?

A: Confectioners’ Sugar or Powdered Sugar has a much finer texture as well as a bit of cornstarch.  Therefore, it is NOT recommended to switch one for the other.  The only time these two sugars could be substituted would be in the case of decorating.

Did you know you can make it homemade? I’ll show you How to Make Powdered Sugar in my post and video.

Q: Why do my Christmas cookies spread out so much while baking?

A: Your butter is probably too warm. Try chilling the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes before baking to reduce spreading.

Bold Baking Tip: Try “aging” your cookie dough. Store your dough in the fridge for up to 5 days before baking it. The flavor will be more developed and your cookie will have lovely crackles on top.

Q: How long do spices actually last and what is the best way to store them?

A:  This is a great question! I am pretty sure that I can go into most home kitchens and find improperly stored, or ridiculously outdated spices. I suggest tossing ground spices if you are unable to use them within one year from the purchase date.

As for storing spices in your kitchen, always keep them in a cool, dark place away from heat and as far away from the stove as possible. Yes, that actually means that you should find a better place other than that odd cabinet above your stovetop! For the freshest flavor from your spices, consider purchasing whole spices instead of pre-ground, and grind them yourself using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that is only used for spices.

Q: Why is my fruit sinking in my cakes?

A: For cakes, muffins and other quick breads, and tarts that have fruit, toss the fruit with just enough flour to coat it well before you add it to the batter. Also, the lighter the pieces are, the less likely they are to sink through the batter. Fruit tends to sink in thin batters.

Q: Why is my chocolate a gray color?

A: Don’t be worried about that gray–white cloudy covering on your chocolate called “bloom.” It’s simply the result of being stored for a while at a somewhat warm temperature. Absolutely still use this chocolate in your baking. It will work just fine.

Q: Can I freeze cookie dough?

A: Nearly all kinds of cookie doughs freeze well for up to three months. Form the dough into a log, wrap it tightly in plastic. For more information about freezing and baking cookies, check out my How to Bake a Perfect Cookie post and video.
Go to my Holiday Baking Headquarters page for all your Holiday Baking needs!

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268 thoughts on “Ask Gemma…Your Holiday Baking Questions Answered!

  1. My daughter-in-law can’t eat cream cheese. It causes her to have an allergic reaction so I sub mascarpone cheese when possible. I tried to sub it in my king cake & it just oozed out. What can I do to make it not run out. Would adding gelatin or cornstarch work.

    1. Hi Dottie,
      it is not just on our website that comments go through an approval process. This is to avoid inappropriate comments sitting on the website. It allows us to keep a respectful community. We are always prepared to answer baking questions here,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Dottie,
      I got to it earlier – it takes us a bit of time to get through the comments on a daily basis, some days are busier than others, we will always get back to you in a day or two.
      It was an interesting question too,
      Gemma 🙂

  2. I have a recipe for potica that calls for a 2oz cube of compressed yeast. Can I substitute instant dry yeast and if so how many teaspoons or tablespoons would i use to equal 2oz?

    1. Hi Pete. You will need half an oz of instant yeast to replace 2 oz of compressed yeast. Here is the ratio for substitution using the three different yeasts; compressed fresh yeast 2 tsp: dry active yeast 1 tsp : instant yeast 1/2 tsp. I hope this helps.

  3. We bought a coconut cream pie with whipped cream. It seemed wet and the filling seemed split/gritty/not smooth. Can you tell me why and was it safe to eat?

    1. Hi Vicky,
      If that was fresh cream then it may have soured. Fresh dairy cream will be fresh for a few days, after that pasteurized cream will go bad and make you sick. Unpasteurized cream will ferment and sour and will not be so bad for you, but it will not taste right. I am sorry, I am not too sure what is wrong with your pie but it does not sound good,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Hi,
        Thank you for your reply. Actually the whipped cream looked and tasted fine. It was the actual pie filling that was funny. It tasted fine but had an off consistency! And the crust was wet.

  4. Hi, can I use broken up pieces of chocolate chip cookies in plain cookie dough? Can I just bake them in? I have 2 store bought, and I don’t want to toss them, I’d like to incorporate, what do you say!

  5. My grandmother’s recipe for Sandtarts (a butter cookie) calls for grade B eggs. I cannot find any and wonder if I can use AA grade eggs. Also what size egg should I use? I normally buy Extra Large eggs for baking, but should I use a smaller size in this recipe? Thank you.

    1. Hi Jill. I always use large eggs, using American standard for measurement. On the rare occasion that I use small sized eggs, it is usually for my mug recipes. I hope this helps.

  6. Hi I was wondering what is the difference with bread baked at 330 degrees Fahrenheit for 30mins and 356degrees Fahrenheit for 20mins. Tks.

    1. Great question, Yvonne! Love bred baking!
      A high temperature can evaporates water content in the dough faster to give it a better rise or OVEN SPRING. But this depends on the type of the bread and its size.
      For sourdough loaves or artisan bread, you pre heat the oven to a higher temp then lower it while putting the loaf in the oven. This decrease helps to create steam for a large loaf which needs a long time baking . So the crust does not harden too fast to prevent the inside from rising properly.
      For rolls (like my dinner rolls), you go with a lower temperature and bake for a shorter time .

      Hope this helps!
      Gemma 🙂

  7. I normally use vegetable suet in mincemeat for mince pies, but I would like to try your version and have already bought it, can I substitute it with the butter? And if so shall I put the same quantity?

    1. Hi, Catherine!
      You can substitute suet for butter at 1:1 ratio. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind while alternating the recipe: note to hold back some liquid by using up to 3/4 in one go and adjust it accordingly to get the same consistency with mine.

      Hope this helps and you get on well!
      Keep me posted!
      Gemma 🙂

  8. I want to bake Christmas presents to give away, so can you suggest anything that keeps for longer than a few days and the best way to store it/them? I don’t want to be doing everything at the last minute, as I’m sure you’ll understand

    1. Hi, Catherine!
      1. Jam can be stored in the fridge for 4-6 weeks , caramel sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months.

      2.Hot chocolate can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about 6 months, too.

      3.Hot chocolate truffle will keep fresh for 1 weeks at room temperature and 4 weeks in the fridge.

      Different sizes of mason jars would be great for packing these gifts!

      4.Also, you can make my cookie dough ahead of time and bake them off one day before giving them away. Aging the dough in the fridge or individual cookie dough balls in the freezer will enhance the flavor and prevent them from spreading out during baking. Baking them straight from frozen will take extra a few minutes until : the edges are set and the cookie is beginning to turn golden brown throughout, but still doughie and a bit pale in the middle. They will set more while cooling down.

      Hope this helps!
      Best, Gemma 🙂

  9. Hi My husband loves crumb cake but no matter what recipe I use the crumbs are too dry for him. He likes very moist crumbs. The last time I even cooked the cake part for 10 minutes before I even put the crumbs on and they came out too dry for him. Any suggestions to get a more moist crumb? Oh and Im already using alot of butter. Thank you!!

    1. Hi Gail,
      the proportion of butter to flour and sugar should be quite high to get a good soft buttery crumb.
      The brown sugar can be dark brown, which is very moist, or l light soft brown sugar, not a coarse demerara.
      Then you can add a little spice, like cinnamon to pick it up a bit.
      Try this blend;
      10ozs/300g flour
      10ozs/300g soft brown sugar
      8ozs/227g butter – real dairy butter is possible – there is a fair bit of water content in spreads which will affect the tenderness of the crumb.
      A little spice – to taste, if liked!
      Gemma 🙂

  10. My family and I love you chocolate chip cookie recipe, but my cookies came out flat, what did I do wrong?

    1. Thanks for trying them out, Karen!
      1. Flours don’t absorb liquid equally. Use up to 3/4 in one go and adjust it accordingly to reach the same consistency with mine.
      2.DO NOT over mix. Mix until ingredients just combine. Over mixing will separate fat from butter or oil causing the cookie spread out during baking.
      3. Chill your dough which enhances flavors and stabilizes dough to prevent cookies from spreading out.
      4.Pre heat your oven, the moment you put your cookies in , they start to rise. Imagine melting chocolate on stove top on low heat, you wouldn’t want the low heat to cause your cool cookie dough to melt slowly.

      Hope this helps !

  11. This is regarding your new better chocolate cake. It calls for hot coffee. I do not drink it not do I like the taste of it. If I don’t use it should I replace it with water or applesauce to have a moist cake? Thank you

    1. Either will work for you, Teri. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind while alternating the recipe: note to hold back some liquid by using up to 3/4 in one go and adjust it accordingly to get the same consistency with mine.

      Hope this is of help and you get on well!
      Best, Gemma

  12. Problem is Povitica recipe calls for, quoted, 1.75 cups (280gm) ground walnuts. My calculator says 140g. Ignore cups or grams??

    1. Hi Peggy,
      A lot of American recipes are in cups only – and in that case, it is best to use cups. Cup measurements are measures of volume, as are tablespoons and teaspoons.
      Cup measurements are based on an informal system of measurement, prior to home weighing scales. People would share recipes based on their kitchen cups, it did not matter the weight of the ingredients, or the size of the cup, as long as the same cup was used to measure all of the ingredients, in any one kitchen. It is a measure of volume. Once the balance is right, then all will be well. Different ingredients have different equivalent weights too, so rice will be different from sugar, cocoa to flour, and different flours will have a different weight too. Think Rocks and Feathers! So, the rule is simple, fill your cups in the same way, scoop/level/compress, however you choose, and the balance in the recipe will be good. It is not a good idea to mix cup measurements with another method, it is unnecessary, and will not be good for your recipes. You have to trust this system. If the weights are also there then use them, they will be more accurate for sure,
      Gemma 🙂

  13. Hey Gemma! I’ve got a baking powder question.
    I understand the difference between single acting BP and double acting BP. If all I have is double acting BP do I need to adjust all recipes calling for baking powder that don’t specify which one to use?

  14. Hi, I was just wondering what’s the difference between making a sponge where your sugar eggs and flour are equal in measurements and recipes where they are different ? Thank you

    1. Hi Lizzy,
      this is usually the difference between a creaming method and a melting method of sponge making. A Victoria sponge for instance is a creaming method, proportional ingredients, 2:2:2:1 that is for measured ingredients, butter, flour, sugar, and a single egg. It is easy to remember and easy to scale up.
      The real difference is in the texture – a creamed sponge cake will have a light, open texture, a melted one will have a tighter, moist texture.
      I hope this is of help,
      Gemma 🙂

  15. Hi Gemma, why does my muffin tops lean to 1 side instead of a mushroom top? I’m a home Baker & have tried a few time, failed.
    I’m a big fan %& have read your tips.

      1. I couldn’t get the mushroom top. I used a fan forced dial on the oven. Could that be the problem? Thank you in advance.

        1. Hi Faizah. If you’re using a convection oven, with the fan on, then it may be that the oven is too hot. You need to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees if you’re using a convection oven. Also, the fan makes the heat circulate inside the oven. The movement of the air causes most foods to cook more quickly. Your muffins must have risen too fast because of the high temperature, and at some point the air that’s trapped inside will have nowhere to go but out. Once air has been released, your muffins will have fallen.

  16. Hi..I am new to baking..I just made a whipped cream cake and I used white chocolate ganache for dripping,I used 3 parts chocolate and 1 part cream at first the drip seemed right and I put my cake in refrigerator and after two hours it was just a disaster ,my dripping ganache just melted and came down on the cake board making a mess, if you can help me figure out what went wrong in all would be a great help,thank you

      1. Thank you for replying Gemma. If you can tell me how long should I cook as I just microwaved it 30 secs

        1. Try to cook it an additional 30 seconds and observe. Microwave ovens do not have uniform settings, so you will need to observe how yours does with specific recipes. You can cook at 20-second intervals, that way, you avoid overcooking because you can quickly observe how it’s going. I hope this helps.

  17. Hello! Found you by googling ‘ask baking expert question’ I’ll be amazed if I get a response but desperate times desperate measures! I’m making a cake for my dad’s 60th birthday this w/e and want to be as prepared as possible. I want it to be both beautiful and delicious!
    Now the issue, how best to prepare in advance.
    I want to make it on the friday morning in preparation for the Saturday afternoon. Decided it wouldn’t travel well and the icing with raspberries wouldn’t keep, so instead I decided I would make the cake and the icing on the Friday and then decorate on Saturday. Is this the right idea? In addition, I wouldn’t get the required cake pan. Next best thing I could get was 3x shallower 20cm cake tins. Now I want to work our baking time? Any tips/ advice would be greatly appreciated! Kind regards

    1. Hi Elise,
      I am tempted to say ask the author of your recipe! Haha, I have removed the link as I do not allow them on my website. However, I have checked this out for you.
      This looks like a fab cake, and from a fabulous baker too. This will keep really well for you. The downside will be the filling and the decoration. I suggest you wait until you get to your destination before you assemble this cake. Refrigerate the cake when it is cold, it will be delicious and benefit from the overnight storage. Prepare the filling on the day and chill it also. Prepare the fruit when you get to your destination.
      Now the top tip. Dampen and freeze some newspapers and line a flat cardboard box with these, then a cloth, the cakes, and a covering of foil. that should keep things nice and fresh for you.
      Baking times are always arbitrary – depending on the oven, the climate, humidity, etc.
      Learning to monitor a bake is an essential part of baking, so, check the suggested time for the bake, allow the bake to set up before opening the oven door, for the reduced recipe I think to check it at the halfway mark, do not remove from the oven, you test with your eyes first, if it looks right the touch the top when it is done it will feel firm and it will also smell pretty delicious.
      Now that I have done Donna’s work I leave it to you, I hope it is a great success, I actually will give this recipe a go! I love her style!
      Gemma <3

  18. Hi Gemma its not on your question list but do you by chance know how to smoothen a brand your rolling pin? Didnt notice it till I wash it.

    1. Hi Jill,
      Do you mean a brand new one? if so, I have no idea why it would be rough. These are usually made from Beech-wood in recent times, it is not a soft wood so tends to be smooth. Ue a really fine grade sandpaper, the finest possible, if it is not smooth.
      Gemma 🙂

  19. Hi Gemma,
    I would really like to know if I can
    bake a ready made pastry case?!
    I am being a bit lazy and want to make a pumpkin pie without doing the pastry …so I have bought a ready made pastry case. But the recipe says after all of the ingredients are in the base to bake for 40 mins approx! But the pastry case is already cooked so it will most probably burn?! Any advise please? Or can you actually bake / put ready – made pastry cases in the oven ?!

      1. Hi Gemma,
        No, it’s not a ready bake pastry sheet and it’s not frozen. It’s a ready made (I think already pre baked) pastry case! I don’t know where you are but you may call them pie crusts? Not sure!
        You can just grab them off the shelf in supermarkets and they are already cooked! You just add the filling! And can eat them straight away. They are a store cupboard staple!
        I just wanted to make a very quick pumpkin pie and add the filling but it says to then bake for 35-40 mins….will this burn the pastry case?
        I don’t think I can add a photo of it on here? Thanks, Laura

        1. Hi Laura,
          I know now what you mean, and yes, that may indeed be too much baking for the pie.
          I made this pie for, but I used unbaked pastry for that so two things will change. !. the initial heat as the pastry likes a hot oven and 2. the time to bake the pumpkin filling. That is like a custard, so to speak, so it likes a cooker setting. For you, You can go right to the lower heat setting and I think it would bake in about 20 minutes, but you need to watch it. It should still have a jiggle when baked, but not be wet. See the recipe here:
          Pumpkin Pie Filling

          1 can (15 oz/425g) ​pumpkin puree, ​homemade or store bought
          2 eggs, at room temperature
          1 cup (8 fl oz/225ml) ​evaporated milk
          1/2 cup (4 fl oz/115ml) sugar
          1/2 (4 fl oz/115ml) maple syrup
          1 teaspoon ​pumpkin pie spice
          1/4 teaspoon salt


          For the Pie Crust:
          1. Roll out the chilled pastry to roughly an 11 inch round. Line a ​9 Inch GoodCook Pie Pan​ with the rolled pastry. Trim and flute edges. If using decorative cookie cutters cut shapes out of the excess pastry. Place the prepared crust in the fridge while you make the filling.
          For Pumpkin Pie Filling;
          1. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, egg, milk, sugar, maple syrup, pie spice and salt and whisk until smooth.
          Assemble the Pie:
          1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (210°C).
          2. Pour filling into crust. If using decorative shapes around the crust,
          layer them around the edged of the filled pie.
          3. Brush the finished crust with egg wash.
          4. Bake at 425°F (210°C) for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C)
          and bake for 20-25 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and top of the pie is set (cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning if necessary).

          5. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight or until set. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
          I hope this helps, I have highlighted the step for you,
          Gemma 🙂

  20. Hi Gemma …..I by mistake added too much of sugar in the homemade chocolate syrup recipe…is there anyway I can reduce the sugar or can I use it for anything…what may I do..please help….love Spurthi

    1. Hi there,
      it depends on what ‘too much’ means. This recipe calls for 2ozs/60g of sugar, if you have exceeded that by a considerable amount and cooked it it would caramelize and still be usable, I am sorry, I do not have sufficient information,
      Gemma 😉

  21. Hi Jemma!
    Can I decrease the sugar amount I put in either cookie dough of cake batter without compromising the texture? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jane. Yes, you can reduce the sugar anywhere between a quarter or a third of the amount required in the recipe without compromising the result. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Julie,
      yes! this is what we used at home, Victoria sponge in a million guises. It is such a forgiving thing. Add, what my mum would call a handful, of desiccated coconut to the mix if you add more you may need to adjust the flour or add a little milk to loosen the batter. It is delicious.
      Other great additions, cocoa, coffee/chicory, lemon zest, orange zest, dried fruits, etc.
      I hope this helps,
      Gemma 🙂

  22. Hi, I am wanting to make croissant tarts. How should I roll out the laminated dough? My plan was to roll it out quite thick in a rectangle and put the filling in the middle on to. Though I am not sure if that’s how it should be done, any tips?

  23. Hi. I made some scones, which turned out well, but I forgot about them and they went stale. I have just whizzed them to crumbs, intending giving them to the birds, but that seems a waste! Can you suggest something more creative and human-friendly??

    1. oh Amanda that’s a funny one. I honestly can’t for scones. With cake you would blend it and coat a cake with it but I don’t think that’s a good idea for scones.

      You will have very happy birds on the bright side 🙂

  24. Good morning. I have a cake recipe which includes using two tablespoons of coffee essence, however I have only coffee extract – is it OK to use that? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  25. Good morning, I have a recipe and one of the ingredients is 2 tablespoons of coffee essence – I have coffee extract – is it OK to use that please? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  26. How can i make my shortcrust pastry sort rather that hard. someone told me it was because lard and margarine were used together ?

    1. Hi Sue,
      actually this is more to do with how you are making it – I presume you mean after it is baked – pay attention to the following steps.
      1. Use the correct proportion of fat to flour – it is usually a little north of 50% fat to flour – depending on the type of pastry.
      2. Water is the enemy of good pastry – this is where I think you are going wrong – too much water makes a tough pastry. A little, add it little by little, until the pastry comes together in a clean ball.
      3. Keep everything as COLD as possible.
      4. rest it, that means in a cold place for at least 30 minutes before using it – this relaxes the gluten and makes the dough pliable and easy to roll.
      5. rest it again after rolling and using before baking.
      I hope this will help you to get a good result,
      Gemma 🙂

  27. Can you use fondant icing sugar for buttercream icing? I ran out of normal icing sugar and just used the fondant one I had in the cupboard but it seems a bit different!

    1. Hi Jenny, I think they are the same thing. I am not sure if that one has other ingredients aside from sugar, so I am guessing that would be the reason. Best to check the packaging. Gemma

  28. Hi, my question is: will a 9 inch pie crust fit into a 6 inch springform pan? Top and bottom crust. Making Salted Bourbon Carmel Apple Pie from Two of a Kind.

    1. Hi beth,
      ah! I am not too sure what the measurements are for your pie crust.
      Here is what I would do.
      1. roll the pastry out quite thinly.
      2. place your pan on top and cut around the pan allowing for the sides.
      3. Gather the remaining pastry – by now you will know if it is sufficient – if it is not, then cut it into strips like a lattice, and cover the pie with theis.
      I hope this is of help to you. I suspect if it bough pastry then it will do the job quite well,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Chelle,
      I do not have a recipe here for lace cookies but let me see if I can help.
      The recipe for this type of cookie needs to be followed carefully. The sugar is high but necessary and the liquid sugar is what allows this to spread. The method also matters, effectively the sugars are dissolved before being baked.
      If you alter your recipe, then the result may not be quite what you expected, that means changing butter to margarine, or reducing the sugars.
      I hope this helps, I must add this recipe to my list, thank you for the idea!
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Ayesha. If it did not rise at all, then it may be that your yeast is no longer active. Proof your yeast to find out if it’s still active by adding 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (one envelope) to 1/4 cup of warm water. Then, wait 10 minutes. If the mixture bubbles and develops a yeasty aroma, the yeast is still good. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Ezra,
      Wax paper is NEVER used in the oven, it is used to wrap food, for the fridge or for the lunch box.
      Parchment is silicon coated non-stick paper used for baking, great for things like cookies, choux pastry, bread, etc.
      Then there is Baking paper/Greaseproof paper. This needs to be applied to the pan using butter or oil to stick it down. It is not non-stick without this. However it is really useful for lining baking pans, it sits well in when the pan is buttered and I usually butter the paper too.
      That is the range Ezra, it is about what you can find where you live,
      Gemma 🙂

  29. I am trying to make big Easter eggs out of melted chocolate, using a big plastic Easter egg I’ve bought from the dollar store this is my 3rd attempt at trying this and looking for opinion’, when I take the chocolate egg out of the freezer to take out of the plastic part it sticks and brakes apart as I remove it is there any way to do this without it sticking to the plastic egg once cooled.

    1. Hi Jasmine,
      the first thing you need to do is to get the chocolate layer thick enough. (
      The type of chocolate you use may also influence the result. The fridge will be as good as the freezer for setting it, the freezer may make it a bit brittle.
      You could also temper the chocolate before you pour it, this will give you the idea ( it results in shiny crisp chocolate.
      Keep at it, re-use the chocolate until you get what you want, it will be lovely when you get there and you will be an expert!
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Jackie,
      I wonder if you are referring to a butter cookie that has been piped?
      If you send a pic, do it by email, as I will not get the context here. I think it is a butter cookie, which is piped, a tender shortbread type thing. sometimes it is dipped in chocolate and sandwiched with buttercream, and very delicious. I suggest you google this ‘Piped butter cookie’ it will give you a selection. Generally, you will need a large piping nozzle to get the shape right. My mum used to make these, called Viennese biscuits, I will email you that recipe,
      Gemma 🙂

  30. Hi Gemma In your latest recipe I got today it shows a very easy rustic bread. If I am baking for a celiac person, how do I make this bread and any of your easy bread ,rolls,buns etc. Gluten free isn’t easy baking for yeast baking choices. I have mastered the art of baking Gluten free by using blends of flours. Pamela’s GF flour is always the base though, and through some GF books I have made my own blends. But yeast bread? is that possible??? Help…I have tried the 3 ingred breadsticks you had as an option , not a success.HELP

    1. Yes it is possible to use yeast in gluten free flour. However, what is very important is that you use the right gluten-free flour. The best thing to do would be to buy a gluten-free flour mix that already says on the label that it is suitable for yeast dough or light bread.

  31. Hi Gemma! I’m going to make a no bake dessert and it calls for sandwich cookies. The recipe doesn’t say to leave out the icing in-between the cookies. The instructions say to crumb the cookies and add melted butter and mix, then press mixture in bottom of dish and refrigerate. My ‘guess’ is to remove the filling
    from the cookies, and just use the cookie parts.
    Could you let me know what you think about this please?

    1. If you’re talking about chocolate sandwich cookies like oreos you can buy a package of chocolate wafers. I think that is what they generally mean.

    1. Hi Kathy. That would depend on the recipe. It may be that the dough is sticky because it needs more kneading. Dough rising and fermenting are the same. Fermentation is an anaerobic biological process that converts sugars and starches into simpler substances. In baking, it causes yeast and bacteria to convert sugars into carbon dioxide, among other things. This is what causes the dough to rise.

  32. If I have a box of cake flour (unopened) that says “best if used by 2013” I suppose I should throw it out instead of trying to use it 🙂

    1. Hi Paulette,
      haha! I know how these things happen, but I think you are right, it will certainly be past its best. If it was kept in a cold place for all of that time it may still bake well for you, but I would bin it!
      Gemma 🙂

  33. Hi, Gemma. I make some thing called Fudge meltaways. They have a thin layer of unsweetened chocolate spread on top. When I cut them, the chocolate cracks. I even tried heating water in a microwave and dipping my knife and it still cracked. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Deborah,
      sometimes the crack is a good thing, other times not so desirable. If you melt the chocolate with a little cream it will form a soft layer for you. It does not need to be too much cream to soften it. ( this recipe will take you to the extreme of this idea, try it with just a little cream, or alternatively milk and a little butter. You can experiment with the amount.
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Finn,
      I do not know which recipe you used! If you used salt in the cookies and salted butter, then you may just have added too much. I am sorry, that is too bad, you may need to start again,
      Gemma 🙂

  34. Hi Gemma, here’s a question for you: Can you substitute European butter (such as kerrygold) in a cake recipe that calls for regular butter? I know the fat content is different from American butter.

    1. Hi Gina,
      Kerrygold is my native butter, I grew up with this, and it is always my choice when I can get it. Go for it, it will be perfection for all of your bakes.
      Happy baking!
      Gemma 🙂

  35. I have a recipe from Grandma with chocolate covered peanut butter being the main ingredients. About every other time I make them, for some reason the chocolate does not harden properly. The ingredients include Karo Syrup, and it’s almost as if there is too much. But following the same recipe each time renders different results. What am I doing wrong? I melt chocolate chips, butter and Karo Syrup over low heat. Then I dip my peanut butter balls into the chocolate, put them on a baking sheet in the fridge for a few hours. They are so great when they work! Right now, they are sticking to the waxed paper they are on, and we’ll just eat them with a fork instead of sharing with anyone!!!

    1. Hi Kelly,
      my eye settled on the waxed paper for a start. This should be silicon baking paper, nothing will stick to that.
      I suspect it is to do with the chocolate. Try it with a bar of chocolate, about 70% of cocoa solids should do it. Start with about 2/3 of the Karo syrup and see what it looks like. Chocolate chips are formulated to remain whole in a bake. They are also more expensive than a good chocolate bar and they do not like to be melted. If you like the chocolate less dark then go down to 50% cocoa solids indicated on the wrapper, but not lower.
      I hope this is of help, that sounds delicious,
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Thank you so much! I will try these things! When they work, they are super delicious! Grandma always put a bit of chopped dates, too, but my family does not care for them. Thanks again!

  36. Hi Gemma. I’m making macaroon cookies on new non-stick cookie sheets. Recipe says to grease & flour. Do I still need to do this? Cookie sheets are aluminum & textured

  37. I have a recipe that calls for 28% cocoa white chocolate, it’s to be melted for a peppermint white chocolate ganache. Is this different that all other white chocolates?

      1. Thanks! It helped, the recipe turned out great. I was having a hard time finding white chocolate that listed the percentage of cocoa butter but I went to my local bake shop and found what I needed.

  38. Why did the crushed peppermint I sprinkled on my frosted chocolate cookies look like it was dissolving after only a few hours. Was it the humidity? It has never happened before!

  39. Help!! I made butterscotch and chocolate nut clusters, and added 1 cup of peanut butter, when I should have added 2 tblspns peanut butter, and they won’t harden!? How can I save the mess I’ve made??

    1. Hi Vicki,
      oh, dear! I am not too sure how you can get back to the original recipe but it is probably possible to use the mix in a different way. How about refrigerating the mix, which will stiffen it, then roll it into balls and dip in chocolate or roll in chopped nuts as truffles. I have a selection of recipes here ( which will give you the idea.
      Happy Christmas to you and your family,
      Gemma 🙂

  40. Bakers has 16 pieces per bar of unsweetened chocolate. 1970 , recipe calls for 2 squares, which is the way they were packaged. Should I use 8 pieces or half of the bar in pkg today or ounces…how many ounces are in “2 squares”.

    1. Ginger, I have no idea which recipe you are making, I am sorry, cannot think!
      The squares of chocolate I use are about 10g each. That would be about 1/3 of an ounce.
      It depends on the recipe too, does that make sense to you?
      Gemma 🙂

  41. Hi! Is it ok to double a cookie recipe without any issues? I am baking biscotti, butter cookies, tea time tassies and nut balls. Thank you

    1. Hi Ann,
      Yes! cookie dough is particularly forgiving. Just watch liquid additions where there are such things, you almost always just need dough to come together in a clean ball. The flour you use will be different from mine too, and flour in different places behaves in different ways, so watching the liquids will be a big help.
      It sounds like a great selection! Let us see the results,
      Gemma 🙂

  42. Hi Gemma I like baking but am trying to cut down on the sugar content for health, so am trying to find a no bake lemon slice recipe without the condensed milk – do you have any alternatives for the condensed milk? Thank you

  43. Hi Gemma, The recipe calls for a 9″ square baking pan but I only have 8″ pan. What adjustment do I have to make or is it possible to double the recipe and uses 13×9″ pan with double the recipe? Thanks, Kris

    1. Hi Kristine,
      Odd as it sounds there is a difference in these pans in terms of volume. I am not sure which recipe you are looking at, and that matters.
      An 8×8 inch pan, 2 inches deep, will take c. 8 cups of batter.
      a 9x9inch shallow pan, that is 1 1/2 inches deep, will take 8 cups too.
      a 9×9 inch pan 2 inches deep will take 10 cups.
      a 13×9 inch pan will take about 14 cups, so your instinct is right, it will be about twice the amount of batter as in an 8-inch pan.
      It does depend on the recipe, of course, the ingredients will matter and the baking time will change too,
      Gemma 🙂

  44. I’m making peach cobbler in the crock pot. A little bit of a shortcut using butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, a little bit of cream, peaches in light syrup, and white cake mix. I want some sort of a crunchy top so can use pie crust from the refrigerated section in the grocery store by just layering it over the top after cooking the mixture some in the crock pot before finishing it in the crock pot? Thanks!

    1. It would depend on what you are making (fruit cake, cookies, bread, bars, or cakes). At this time, you can bake the ones that can last longer like cookies and fruitcakes. You can bake a day or two ahead, goodies that are best eaten fresh.

  45. I have two 24 cupcake commercial quality pans where one is slightly heavier and older than the other. Why is it my cakes bake perfectly in the slightly lighter pan with a perfect dome as opposed to the heavier pan where the batter spreads out and doesn’t form a dome? The cake batter and cake wrappers used are identical in both pans.

  46. I am having trouble with my jumbo muffins sticking to the muffin tin. I make triple chip jumbo muffins with a half cup each of choc chips, white choc chips and butterscotch chips to make 9 muffins. I have used muffin papers, I have coated the tins with pan spray, I have used a flour and Crisco coating and I put wax paper in the bottom of the tins but the muffins stick no matter what I do. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Nanci. Have you coated the tins generously? You might need a little more. Not just the insides of the divet, but also the rims of each one as this is where the muffin tops form and possibly stick. It also helps to let the muffins cool for 2-5 minutes to get them to set. If they still stick, just run a butter knife or metal spatula on the underside very gently and you should be grand. Hope this helps. Gemma

  47. Hi Gemma
    I live alone and I haven’t found a recipe for a small cake, But my question is in making a store bought cake mix, can I freeze the batter for a later time? Or do I divide in half , cook then freeze? Please help! Tired of throwing cake away because it goes back before I get it ate.

    1. Hi Ann. Yes, go for the second option. Halve the mix and add other ingredients (also halved) and bake. The best way to not waste the cake is to share it, with a friend, a neighbor, or a colleague. You get to eat your cake and make someone else happy with it too 🙂

  48. I am in desperate need of an answer. I am not an accomplished baker but I like to bake cakes using easy recipes. I have one recipe that is LOVED by everyone who has ever tried it. It is not a scratch cake; I am a terror when it comes to handling flour. It is based on a devils’ food cake mix with pudding in the mix. It seems that all of the popular cake mix companies have stopped making mixes containing pudding. The problem is, the cake does not turn out with the same taste or texture when using plain devils food cake mix. I am desperate because this is the only thing that one of my best friends ever wants for her birthday. The one I made last year was a disaster — well at least I thought so. My friend was too nice to say it was not up to par with ones in the past. Do you know of any unusual brand mix that still has pudding in the mix or do you know how to substitute pudding into the mix? PLEASE HELP ME IF YOU CAN!!!! thanks so much!! Jackie McPherson

    1. Hi Jackie. I googled and it seems cake mixes with pudding are no longer available in the market. There are however instant pudding mixes, which may well serve the same function in those cake mixes and reviews say that other bakers mixed the instant pudding mixes into the cake mix, achieving the desired result, a cake that is moist and firm. Let me know if you try it and how it goes. I hope this helps.

  49. Hi Gemma, I am trying to make your Waterford Blaas recipe for Thanksgiving, and it calls for bread flour. ALl I have is All Purpose Flour, is this something I can use, or do i need bread flour? If I need it, is there a way to make it with the all purpose flour that I have?

    Thanks Maggie

    1. Hi Maggie! For the Waterford Blaas, you can use all purpose flour if you don’t have bread flour. Very likely you will not need all the water if you change the flour. The difference is a few % in gluten. All purpose has gluten just not AS much as bread flour. Bread flour tends to make a more bubbly textures bread.


  50. I’m making mini cheesecakes for coffee shop I work in and until recently everything has beef fine. But then I started having problems with graham crust literally falling off bottom. Not crumbling but in one piece like a puck. I use 3 T butter to 3 T sugar to 1 cup crumbs and pre bake them at 350 for 10 min. I let them cool slightly before adding filling. What am I doing wrong????

  51. Gemma
    What makes a dog treat crunchy? I’ve tried several times and they still don’t come out with crunch. Just love your recipes! Please help!

    1. Hum, Susan I’m not sure what that would be because mine aren’t hard and crisp but more soft. I think it really depends on the recipe. One I’m guessing with little moisture.


  52. Hello, thank you for all the interesting information!
    I am wondering if you could help – I have a recipe which calls for splitting the batter into two and adding cocoa to one half (so you end up with one plain and one chocolate sponge). When I take them out of the oven. Both are baked perfectly, but within minutes the vanilla sponge colapses. What can I do to the vanilla part to prevent this? It always happens and it is driving me crazy.
    The recipe is:
    4 egg yolks
    200g icing sugar
    Then add:
    150ml tepid water
    150ml oil
    260g plain flour
    3 teaspoons of baking powder
    4 egg whites whipped until firm (I whisked these until I could turn the bowl upside down and gently folded them into the batter)

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lucie,
      I do not know this recipe. The thing which looks odd to me is the icing sugar. This dissolves way ahead of where granulated/caster sugar will and may affect the structure of the vanilla side of the cake. The cocoa seems to be adding stability to the chocolate side. This means that you may need to add a little something to the vanilla batter to stabilize it, cornstarch may be a good choice, but not too much, less than a tablespoon may help.
      I would have to try it Lucie, and I do not have time right now to do it. The alternative is to change your recipe – the one I use here for the sponge cake ( is a good basic sponge cake which takes additions really well. I use this in my crazy cupcake recipe too.
      I hope this is of help, I think, start by changing the sugar to granulated/caster sugar!
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Thank you so much, Gemma. It is a recipe from my late Grandma’s collection and my favourite childhood dessert, so I am keen to work this out! It is called Metrový dort – I suppose it is a bit retro now, but looks cool – you bake two semi circle shape loaves, one vanilla, one chocolate, slice them, spread cream on the slices and put together alternating colours, pour chocolate frosting over and slice diagonally to get both sponges in one slice.
        Thank you so much again, I will try different sugar and if it fails, will add cornstarch. ☺️

  53. In the banana bread what can you substitute the rolled oats for. I’m making it Gluten Free.
    I thought of coconut.

  54. My cheesecakes rise so high that during the last 25-30 minutes pieces begin to fall into my water bath. This continues to happen even after purchasing the largest spring form pan i can find. How can I solve this problem?

    1. Hi Connie,

      I know what you are talking about as I have cheesecakes that rise high. Is this a recipe you are in love with? otherwise I would actually make a different cheesecake recipe or cut this down by 1/4 or so. I’m surprised given you bought a bigger pan.

      Covering it during baking is not what you want to do either as I will also damage the top.

      Hope this helps,

  55. Hi…I have 2 questions. I accidently doubled the baking powder and baking soda that a particular cake recipe called for. I’ve made this cake many times with no problem, today it came out with a funny crumbly texture and it didn’t rise properly. Would the baking powder and baking soda have done this? I was more concerned with it overflowing and it seemed to do the opposite.

    2nd question: This same cake is made by putting half the batter in, then a topping of cinnamon sugar, nuts, and chocolate chips, then the rest of the batter. The chocolate/nut mixture has been sinking to the bottom. What’s causing this? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Gina,
      Yes, it is counter intuitive, but too much raising agen can indeed have this affect.
      In a light batter the added ingredients may indeed sink, which is not what you want in this type of recipe, which sounds really lovely!
      I suggest you lightly flour the chips and nuts before adding to the batter, this tends to hold them in position. Add the sugar first, the chips and nuts on top, I think that will work for you. now I am dying to try it!
      Sounds like you would also like this recipe (
      thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  56. Hi,

    I’m searching far and wide for savory muffins but there is none that taste just right, to my surprise you don’t seem to have one either, why is that?

  57. I was making a pound cake and the recipe calls for separating the eggs. I did and made sure no yolk got in them. I starting whipping them on high in my stand mixer and then slowly added the sugar. I continued beating until the sugar was dissolved and folded them the batter. I baked it at 325 for 1 hr and 10 minutes without opening the oven. When the timer went off I opened the oven to find a hard crust on top and everything under it was like soup and sunk. What did I do wrong? The oven was the right temp and I followed the recipe exactly.
    Thanks, Rene

  58. I have a cookie recipe for chocolate toffee bars. Half the time I make it , it turns out fine and the other have they don’t work at all. I have no idea what could be different. They are sheet pan cookies. I cream 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 egg yolk. To that I add 1 cup of flour and and a pinch of salt. Then I spread the dough out to fill a 10×15″ jelly roll pan and bake 15-20 min. Sometimes it is perfect and other times it seems like an oily mess. Can you tell me what affects this?

    1. Hi Susan,

      It sounds like the mix is separating and that is why you are getting an oily layer. Do you find that maybe sometimes you mix it together more than others? this is what can happen when working with cream, butter and sugar.

      Hope this helps,

  59. Hi, I have a question about pound cake. It calls to put in in a bunt pan and put an ovenproof container of water next to it when it is baking. I did this and the top of the cake split in a circle. Could you tell me the reason for this.
    Thank you

  60. Hello
    Have an old serbian chocholat torta recipe passed on to me but keep having problems with filling. Recipe calls for making sugar syrop with 2 1/2 cups sugar 2 cups water. Problem 1… not sure how long to cook to make syrop. Then add 4-5 sq chocholate to syrop and combine. Problem 2…. chocholate keeps curdling. Then combine chocholate mixture with1 lb butter to make cream problem 3 is caused by previous problems… end up with curdled cream. Please help because the end product is so delicious.

    1. Haha, I am laughing, every day someone really makes me laugh, today it is you. I love the way you laid out the issues here, and we can try to resolve them with you.
      Problem 1. ( here is my simple recipe. You will know when this is right for you. Simmer it gently, using your recipe, the drop a little on to a cold plate. Touch it with your finger. It will feel sticky to touch and it is ready.
      Problem 2. Sounds like you are adding it to the syrup when the syrup is too hot. Allow it to cool a little, the chocolate will melt if left to stand in the warm syrup for a few minutes. If you have taken the syrup too far it will crystalize when you add the cold chocolate, it may be worth warming the chocolate before adding it. I did not try it though I think it may work!
      Problem 3. I tihnk this is to do with the heat of the syrup too. get your butter to room temperature and beat it in to the chocolate syrup little by little.
      I am intrigued! It is an unusual thing, but there is no real reason why it would not work.
      Let me know, I have my fingers crossed,
      Gemma 🙂

  61. Hi Gemma,
    I was wondering if I could use my mothers fruitcake recipe and instead of putting it into the loaf pans make it into drop cookies? Thanks for your help! Kathy

  62. Hi gemma I tried your recipe for buttermilk biscuits and they are amazing thanks so much for sharing your recipes

  63. Hey Gemma, I rlly need help with making butter! I’ve made butter with whipping cream before successfully but recently I bought another brand of whipping and failed at making butter! :(( does it matter what kind of whipping cream I use? Does all whipping make butter?

  64. Hi Gemma! How could I make a Carmel that is soft but still holds solidly for a millionaire bar ? My recipe said to cook until 250 degrees. The Carmel once set was as hard as a rock. We couldn’t eat them. I tried again and didn’t cook until 250. This time the Carmel tasted amazing but oozed out of the squares. Ugh. Lol. Thanks in advance! Be well,

    1. Hi Sherrie,
      This is about understanding the process of making caramel. I find for Millionaire Shortbread Dulce De Leche works really well. The longer you simmer the can of condensed milk the darker the color, the more complex the flavor and the thicker it will be. So, ( using the simmered can method, bring to a simmer, then hold it there for three hours.
      There is a method where you use a can of condensed milk, a stick/4ozs butter, 3 – 4ozs of an invert sugar, such as golden syrup/dark corn syrup/thick simple syrup ( You put all of the ingredients into a pot, gently ‘melt’ them until they come together, then bring to the boil, and boil, stirring, until the caramel color develops.
      Learn too about caramel, the stages, the temperatures of the stages too. I think 225 may be what you need for this.
      I hope this helps a little,
      Gemma 🙂

  65. Gemma,
    Where can I find the containers that you used for your hot chocolate mix? Do they come in a larger size? I have a mix for hot spiced tea & I usually use a plastic container with a stew on lid.

    Thank you,
    Linda Stoddard
    [email protected]

  66. Hi Gemma. I’m having a nightmare time making millionaire shortbread base. My oven is a vintage commercial gas oven so I can’t heat it from the bottom..all the heat comes from the top. I don’t know how to cook the underneath of my base. I’ve tried everything from cooking at a high heat for short time (gas 6, 40 mins) but it results in a burnt top and raw underneath…. I’ve tried the slow cook trick (3 hours at gas 2) but results in burnt edges and still raw underneath. Exactly the same problem with quiche base (trying to blind bake but just can’t get the heat under the baking beans.. tried holey tins and foil dishes with fork holes in them to no avail)…please help. I’m at wits end and ready to donate all my baking goods to the local charity shop and take up fishing instead.

    1. Hi Louise,
      Do you think it would cook the fish 😉 lol.
      Sorry, every day one comment here makes me laugh out loud, it was your today! Not because of your poor results, but the fishing haha!
      I am not sure why the heat is not distributing in your oven, that is very strange. A gas oven will not ever have an element in the bottom, and the best baking position is the center shelf in an oven which is working effectively. I think you have a thermostat issue, if there is a thermostat. In very old cookers there was a reliance on natural convection in the oven cavity, which means that heat rises, then revolves in the cavity, which is why the bottom of this oven is cool.
      So, I think your problem is not a recipe/baking issue but a cooker issue, which is way above my pay grade! I think you need to call the man!
      I am sorry, though I agree that the fishing sound like an attractive proposition too! 😉
      Gemma 🙂

      1. Maybe you need to calibrate your oven. Like when you use a meat thermometer. Saw a YouTube video on it once. Regular maintenance is a must.

  67. Hi, Gemma, love your recipes nd device. I have a question. Have you ever used a patterned rolling pin when making cookies? The rolling pins seem to be all the rage right now. Do you have any good recipes (sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies) that would work well with these beautiful rolling pins. I have one. But I have not had much luck finding a really good recipe to use. Any help would be appreciated

      1. Thank you so much Gemma. I have already saved your sugar cookie and gingerbread recipes. I am going to try both. I know they will turn out good. I love the rolling pins. Mine is beautiful. It is snowflakes. I can’t wait to try it. Keep up the good work. I love your recipes,

  68. Hi , I am loving your recipes too much , I just started baking on stove now days but trying to learn from your videos , that are easy to grasp and you teach very well keep it up . I wanted to ask that my father is a diabetic so if I want to make cookies for him what substitute of sugar can I use?also if I don’t plain flour can I use oat flour Thanks

  69. Hi,
    I have an easy rum cake recipe that I have been using for a number years. The ingredients involve a boxed cake mix and is easily found on line. I have made it many many times over the years – it has always been reliable recipe and everyone loves the cakes. I recently moved and have not been able to get the cake to come out correctly. When I drop it out of the bunt pan, it doesn’t hold together – it either cracks or breaks apart in some way. It tastes fine, but does not look right. Someone mentioned to me about 6 or 7 years ago to stay way from the box cake mixes that say they are extra moist. I used to use boxed mixes that only had water and eggs in their recommended preparation. Now, I have trouble finding boxed mixes that do not include oil in their preparation. The only other thing that I wonder about is if the elevation where I live makes any difference. My previous home was 574 ft and at my current home is at any elevation of 1325 ft. I also have a repairman to come out and check to see if my oven is heating correctly — he said it was working perfectly. I would like to use this recipe again. Any help you can give me would be appreciate. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Rory,
      The moment I began to read this I said ‘high altitude’ to myself. This is not a terribly high altitude but the air pressure will still be different. There are adjustments you can make to help. These are my tips for 5,000 ft, a different thing I know, but you may find some of these help. Box mixes are not so easy to adjust, and I am not a fan. You may decide to make from scratch, when you can control the ingredients.
      Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
      Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
      Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.
      Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F, 10 C.
      For you I think you may need to increase the liquid addition, a little, and the oil would help I think! It will be a learning curve for you. Talk to the locals too, your coffee shop people may tell you what, if any, adjustments they need to make to their recipes.
      Thank you for this question, it is interesting, and poorly understood. I will do more on this shortly,
      Gemma 🙂

  70. Hi Gemma. I just adore your blog!! Thanks alot for simplifying baking,so we can enjoy happy to have found you.could you help me with this:– How to proof and ferment bread dough at home? Also is there a healthy substitute for the fat to make puff pastry?

    1. Hi Karishma,
      !. Puff pastry can be made with a solid vegetable fat too, but the question is, is it more healthy? I really cannot say, it is a matter of not eating too much of this type of pastry I think!
      2. The recipes here ( are all fermented dough, though they have a little start using a little yeast. A sourdough starter, which I am working on at the moment, will change this for you, and some of your own dough can also be used as a starter.
      Check out the Pizza Dough here, it is a simple way to understand how a fermented bread works.
      Sourdough starters are great, and if you use them regularly then they are easy to manage. If not they are a bit like keeping a pet, they need to be fed and watered.
      I hope you enjoy trying these recipes,
      Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Pam,
      do you mean the spoons? or the tiny ramekins?
      I measure into little bowls for ease when doing a recipe, get all of the measurements done first, then putting a recipe together is really easy.
      Is this what you mean?
      Gemma 🙂

  71. Hi Gemma,

    Thank for all these answers! My question on room temperature butter my cookies spread & are larger. I now know I have been leaving my butter out like overnite to soften, too long! So, what is the right about of time? I leave them on the counter and forget. By the way, your Flour Tortilla recipe is flawless I use it all the time so easy!

    1. Hi there,says
      This will be 4ozs/125g if it is in solid state. This changes if it is melted butter, then it is 115ml.
      It depends on your recipe. When a recipe says 1/2 cup of butter/melted, it is solid butter which you melt. If it 1/2 cup of melted butter then you start by melting it. But the difference is little enough.
      Gemma 🙂

  72. Hi Gemma! I’m new to your amazing site. Made my first home made ice cream and it was excellent!! Impressed myself Question. I never see you cover your ice cream when you go to freeze it. Should I cover it when I place it in freezer? Thank you for all your amazing recipes & your ability to make baking fun & less intimidating!

    1. Hi Batya,
      Good to have you with us. I always cover food for the freezer, it is vital. I just show you the ‘fancy’ finish, for show really, then it gets trimmed down and covered.
      I hope you enjoy using the recipes, there are hundreds here on the website, thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  73. Hey! A quick urgent question! I plan to make a caramel cake. It’s going to be a vanilla cake and caramel sauce will be infused in the whipping cream. I also want to try some honeycomb. I always simple syrup the cakes(there’s a lot going on ????) and I’m just afraid that with all these ingredients, the cake is going to be too sweet! Could you suggest something to balance out the sweetness? Maybe some lemon zest or lemon juice in the simple syrup?

    1. Hi Himali,

      So, I’m not a fan of brushing cake in syrup and I’ll tell you why, it is something that is done in bakeries when they make lots of cakes in advance and they go dry. I don’t think it is good practice. Also I always try and share cakes that are moist so there is no need for simple syrup.

      If you still want to do it then yes I suggest so lemon to maybe cut the sugar. Also the cream filling will cut the sweetness.

      I hope this helps,

      1. Hey, Gemma!

        I never knew that was the reason for using simple syrup into cakes. I just thought that it was necessary for every cake! But thanks for the tip!

        Also this is the first time I’m making caramel cake and it’s a birthday present for my mom, so I don’t want to mess this up. If you have any other tips or advice for the cake flavour or anything then it would be appreciated!


        1. Yeah, I have seen chefs online using simple syrup and I think it is bad practice. And I normally would never criticize others online.

          So make your cake Let it sit and then decorate and serve the next day. Cake is best eaten at room temp so leave it out for a bit.

          I hope your mum likes it.

  74. Hi, Gemma!

    I’ve tried following countless recipes where cookie dough is used. However, I think it might be edible cookie dough as once it is baked it remains the fudgy texture of dough.

    However, I can’t seem to buy it anywhere. Is there a recipe for it so I could use it in bakes? Particularly brownies! 🙂

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

  75. Gemma,

    Good morning. Love the site and thanks for taking questions. My question, if you dont mind. Every year my wife makes cinammon rolls for Christmas morning. They are the ones from a tube where you just pull them apart and bake them. This year I want to make them from scratch. Reading several recipes, they all call for proofing the dough and letting it double in size. All of the recipes state this will take between 2-3 hours. My question: Since I want the rolls to be ready to pop in the oven in the morning, can I make them the night before and refrigerate them? I have no desire to stay up all night waiting for the dough to proof and then completing the rest of the tasks needed to get the rolls ready for the oven.
    – Mike R

    1. Hi Michael,

      So I always make mine the day before, roll them out and pop them into the tray. Put them in the fridge over night then the next day let them proof for 2 hours roughly until they rise again.

      I hope this answers your question,

        1. Hi there,
          Butter is a great ingredient, and it works really well in baking. If you need to substitute it it is best to use a good baking margarine. This is usually sold in a block, not in a tub. Tub margarine is designed for spreading and are a bit too soft for many purposes.
          I hope this is of help,
          Gemma 🙂

    1. Hi Rena,

      Is it pure cranberry? no other fruit?

      Cranberries are very liquidy and might be better paired with a fruit that would soak up the extra a liquid.

      Hope this helps,

    1. Great! I am rally happy to hear this.
      Do start with the basics, that is where you learn a lot. Try mug recipes if you have a microwave, this is also learning, and you will not waste ingredients.
      Thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  76. Do you have a recipe for water biscuit, want to make some without milk for employees at work but several employees can not handle milk

    1. Hi David,

      Unfortunately I don’t. I haver never tried to make them. But I’ll keep a look out. Lots of bread recipe don’t have dairy. You could try one and make crackers out of it 🙂

  77. Hi. I tried your crazy cupcake recipe and it is very good but it was to sweet for me. Can i reduce the sugar on the batter so that i can experiment with other sweet flavors to balance it out? Thank you

  78. Hi Gemma, if i put the chocolate fudge on a stick and stir it into hot milk will it be hot chocolate? Really need a hot chocolate on a stick recipe, and if you can tell me how to do a choc mint or orange one too!
    Thanks 🙂

  79. Hi Gemma!
    I’ve been a long time subscribers, and I bake a lot, but the one thing I always mess up is my buttercream frosting. Bits of butter get separates from the liquids and it’s all clumpy. What did I do wrong? Also, what website creator did you use? WordPress? Wix? Weebly?
    Thanks ilysm! ????

    1. Hi Lia,

      Thanks so much for being apart of the community for so long. What type of butter are you using? it’s getting liquidy? that is very weird. I suggest changing your butter.

      P.S we use WordPress 🙂

  80. Dear Gemma, just wanted to thank you for your wonder tips especially your bigger bolder basics
    Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Your to you and yours.

    1. Hi Shirley,

      I’m thrilled you like my recipes. The Basics were my favorite series to do.

      Happy Christmas and make sure you share photos of anything nice you make over the Holidays 🙂

  81. Hey Gemma,I am a fan of your recipes and love your videos!

    Can I use xylitol instead of sugar? If yes what is the ratio to sugar?

    1. Hi Faria,
      For which recipe?
      This is important as xylitol does not caramelize, and so will not bind the ingredients in cookies for example. I really need to know more! For some of this product, crystals for instance, you replace it one for one. Read the instructions on the pack too, this will help.
      Gemma 🙂

  82. Hello! I’m in the process of making the salted fudge brownie trifle but I’m not sure on how to make the whipped cream part. I read the directions but it goes straight to the cream cheese part. I may be mis reading it but if you could help me that would be great!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sophia,
      Good for you, this is a big recipe, but a good one, well done.
      starting from step 8:
      Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Divide the cream in half, half for the mousse and other half for cream layers.
      So, you are whipping the cream, and putting 1/2 of it into the cream cheese mix. (Fold ½ whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Place in fridge until needed).
      The remainder you hold back for the assembly of the trifle.
      I hope this helps.
      Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,
      Gemma 🙂
      Place the other bowl of cream in the fridge until assembly of the trifle.

      1. I figured out the cream cheese part! Thank you! I made it about an hour ago but I won’t be serving it until tomorrow around 3. I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge…do you think it will stay fresh until then?
        I hope you have a great thanksgiving as well!

    1. Hi there,
      Karo syrup is a type of corn syrup, it is a similar, but different thing! I have not use this in this recipe, so I am not sure about it! Golden syrup has a golden, caramel flavor, and this adds to the recipe. Not too sure about this!
      Gemma 🙂

    1. I bake a lot but I avoid bread and cakes because it always is crispy at the top but undercooked inside. I dont know what to do. How do I fix this problem?

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About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere! No matter your skills, I have you covered. Sign up for my FREE weekly emails and join millions of other Bold Bakers in the community for new recipes, baking techniques, and more every week!

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