8 Life-Changing Baking Tips You Need To Know

Straight from the kitchen of Celebrity Pastry Chef Anna Olson herself!

Anna Olson 3 (landscape)

Many might recognise Anna from her addictive cooking shows like Sugar and Bake with Anna Olson, and like me, grew up watching her bake on TV, wishing that we’ll one day master the art of cutting a cake as gracefully as she can.

I was lucky enough to spend a day with Anna when she was down in KL last month to promote her new show Inspired with Anna Olson and here is her advice on what we can do to become better bakers.

1. “The three things you can’t teach in baking are patience, common sense and repetition. That’s why most of the time, the only advice I give is to calm down and think rationally to get yourself through a recipe, and with that, every skill can be learnt.

“Common sense also means being practical. Always, always read the recipe before you start baking and don’t forget to be organised. Get all your ingredients ready beforehand.”

2. “The golden rule when it comes to baking – remove your nail polish. More than jewellery, nail polish is a big no-no for me. Whereas if you’re doing pastry work,  a ring mark might leave an indentation on your fondant decorations, so I guess it’s easier to go without it.”

3. “Crack your egg, not on the side of your bowl but on a flat surface. You can pick it up and roll it around, it won’t leak out. That one crack means that you’ve got larger pieces of shell, so when you pull your egg apart to separate it, you won’t have sharp, tiny edges caught in the yolk.

“I learnt this technique from an apprentice of mine who happened to be the daughter of an egg farmer.”

4. “A lot of people ask me what the difference is between baking soda and baking powder. Why do some recipes call for one or the other and some call for both? Let’s put it this way, you can adjust the heat and flavour of a soup simmering on the stove; but once a cake goes in the oven, it’s out of your control. Maybe that’s why people tend to get nervous about baking.

“Baking soda needs to be in a liquid state to activate. It needs to be in the presence of a little acidity and it runs out of energy quickly. So quite often you will see baking soda being called for in a recipe that takes a short amount of time to bake, like a chocolate-chip cookie.

“Baking powder on the other hand needs to be liquefied. It already has the acidity worked in but it needs heat to come to life. So your baking soda activates right away and starts lifting the batter; you’ll see your batter becoming fluffy and foamy. Once the baking soda runs out of energy, by that time your baking powder will be warmed up and it’ll pick up where the baking soda left off. So that’s why you’ll see baking powder called for in cakes that take more than 20 minutes to bake, like a traditional vanilla or chocolate cake.

“This information gives you a lot of control because if you find a cake that rises up and then sinks in the middle, that’s one of two things: it either came out of the oven too soon or it has got too much baking soda. Meanwhile, if you have a cake that (forms) domes, it’s also a sign of one of two things: you’ve either over-mixed it before it went into the oven or you’ve put too much baking powder.”

5. “The secret to whipping cream is making sure it is iced cold. Chill your bowl beforehand because you want to keep everything cold as humidity can curdle the cream before it is even fully whipped. So for every 250ml of whipping cream that you add, add 15ml of instant skimmed milk powder before you whip it and it will keep the cream bonded together and prevent it from separating. This is so you can whip it, put it in the fridge and 24 hours later, it will still hold its shape.

“Also, never whip your cream on high speed.”

6. “For professional bakers , always keep back-up frosting at hand in case an accident happens.

“Problem-solve in the moment as there’s no point getting emotional because that doesn’t fix the problem. Even when you’re just baking for fun at home, don’t panic when something seems off. As long as you follow the recipe, everything should be fine.

“The one thing about baking is that you need to allow yourself the proper amount of time, because if you try and rush it (like putting icing on a warm cake), well, there’s a whole website dedicated to #cakefails.”

7. “Hacks for baking under our humid weather: the butter. Make sure your butter is not squishy soft. Pull your butter from the fridge, measure it, cut it into pieces and just let it sit out for 15-20 minutes. In that time, the heat will get to it and when you’re at the end of your recipe, the butter is actually where it should be.”

8. “When it comes to meringues, there is not much you can do about that because humidity is the enemy of meringues. What I can recommend is keep those silica gel packets that you find in a new purse or shoe. Save them for when you’re making anything that is humidity-sensitive and you can place them into the container, which you use to store your meringues. Their job is to hold off moisture and it works on your dessert. Just make sure you don’t eat them.”


A day well spent learning the ropes of cooking and baking from the celebrity chef.

Premiered exclusively on AFC (Astro Ch 703) on Friday, 29th July at 9pm, Inspired with Anna Olson has a total of 10 episodes and will feature her unforgettable culinary journey in Asia – from street-food stalls to high-end restaurants, to learn the secrets behind the region’s best-loved signature dishes. She then adapts the techniques, ingredients and flavours in her kitchen to create her own inspired dishes gathered from her travels.