To me, baking is an entirely different ballgame than cooking, with its own set of techniques, equipment, and ingredients specific to its needs…
This page will hopefully help you to navigate the grocery aisles, locate exactly what the recipe calls for (or at least a close approximate!), and learn a little about why specific ingredients are needed in baking.
To be updated as I think of more items… Happy baking!
The list is in alphabetical order.
Butter is often a critical element in baking. Make sure that your butter is the appropriate softness for the recipe you are doing, because it will affect the results of your recipe. Also make sure you use the right type of butter (unsalted or salted) because you don’t want your dish to be over or under salted! Most often, the recipes on this site will call for unsalted butter….
Why unsalted and not salted butter? With cooking, and especially baking, it is important to be able to control your ingredients. Because it is not possible to know exactly how much salt was added to salted butter, and because each brand may use a different amount of salt, unsalted butter offers more predictability in a recipe. By using unsalted butter, the amount of salt can be easily adjusted, and no matter what brand of butter is used, it guarantees that the recipe turns out the same for everyone.
Cake flour is a particular type of flour that contains less protein than all purpose flour, and is of a fine texture and very light colour. The lower amount of protein in the flour makes it so that less gluten forms when it’s used in a recipe, which in turn makes it ideal for making soft, fine crumbed cakes. Cake flour is readily available in most grocery stores. Just don’t get it mixed up with cake mix!
While it is, of course, preferable if cake flour is used, if you don’t have any on hand and it’s a total emergency, a possible substitute for cake flour is mixing all purpose flour with cornstarch. I only recommend this if you seriously need to make this dessert and cake flour is nowhere to be found where you live. The recipe is that for every 1 cup of all purpose flour, remove 2 tbsp flour and replace it with 2 tbsp cornstarch. Sift them together 3-5 times to aerate the flour and ensure the cornstarch and flour are thoroughly mixed together. Then, use as directed.
Confectioners sugar, also called powdered sugar or icing sugar, is a very finely ground sugar that typically will also have an anti-caking agent mixed into it. It’s quick to dissolve, so it’s ideal for recipes that don’t contain much liquid for which sugar to be dissolved, such as shortbread cookies or frostings. It’s also often dusted over desserts as decoration or to add a hint of sweetness.
Dutch-process cocoa is cocoa that has been treated with an alkalizing agent, making it less acidic, and more smooth and mild in flavour than “natural cocoa”. The colour is also darker than natural cocoa, and is more soluble as well. I wouldn’t normally suggest substituting Dutch-process cocoa for other types of cocoa, since it would change the outcome of the recipe… but if you really have no other alternative, you could always try – but no promises on how your dessert will turn out!
Granulated sugar is your everyday, ordinary, household white sugar, that’s simply called “granulated” so as to distinguish it from powdered sugar.
Matcha is a finely powdered green tea that is traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies. It dissolves into liquids easily, and does not need to be strained like regular teas. It can be found in some grocery stores and Asian grocery stores. It is also often sold in specialty stores. Matcha might be shelved in a variety of locations in a store, including the Asian/international food section, tea and coffee aisle, or vitamins/supplements department.
Salt – Why salt in a sweet dish? Well, basically because salt will help heighten the sweetness of your sweet ingredients by bringing balance to your other non-sweet ingredients. It’s important to add the right amount of salt, so don’t leave it out of your recipe!
Pure vanilla extract is a liquid solution made using vanilla beans, ethyl alcohol, and water. It’s commonly used in many baking recipes, and is definitely a staple to have in your kitchen.