I’ve been baking for as long as I can remember. There’s a picture of me as a little kid sitting on the counter licking a spoon covered in chocolate cake batter. Of course there was batter all over my face too, which is still pretty common decades later. I’m not a trained baker by any means, but I learned a lot from my mom and then experimented with new recipes and ingredients as I got older. When it comes to baking, there are core ingredients that you’ll use over and over again. I try to keep my pantry and refrigerator stocked with the basics at all time since I never know when the urge to bake will strike! Below are the essential baking ingredients that I use on a regular basis.
13 Essential Baking Ingredients To Always Have On Hand:
- Flour. All-purpose flour is used for everything from cookies and cupcakes to biscuits and pancakes. I’ve also started to use cake flour for certain recipes, so I keep a box of that on hand, too.
- Sugars. Most baking recipes call for granulated sugar, but I also use brown sugar, dark brown sugar and powdered sugar quite often. Brown sugar is a must for chocolate chip cookies! And powdered sugar is needed for all buttercream recipes.
- Salt. Granulated table salt is perfect for everyday recipes. Salt is a must-have ingredient because it keeps baked goods from tasting flat or overly sweet. It really brings out the flavor of other ingredients, like vanilla, sugar and almond. I also keep sea salt in my spice cabinet for “sweet and salty” recipes like anything salted caramel or these salted peanut butter brownies.
- Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are leaveners that help your baked goods rise. There is a lot of science behind if that, admittedly, I don’t fully understand. Basically, baking soda (a “base”) is used in recipes that call for acidic ingredients, like buttermilk, vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, natural cocoa powder, etc. Together they create a reaction that produces carbon dioxide, which allows your baked good to rise.
- Baking Powder. Baking powder is actually a mixture that contains baking soda. Again, there’s a lot of science involved. I found this post about the difference between baking soda and baking powder from Sally’s Baking Addiction to be really helpful. Baking powder is often used in recipes that don’t have acidic ingredients.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder. I tend to use Hershey’s and use this when baking brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, etc. It definitely came in handy when baking these Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes!
- Chocolate Chips. Duh! I always have a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in my pantry because you never know when you’ll be craving some fresh cookies! Plus I use chocolate chips in a variety of ways, such as melting them to create a chocolate ganache. However, I keep my chocolate chips out of reach because otherwise I’ll just eat them by the handful after every meal. Zero self control over here!
- Vanilla extract. I prefer to use pure vanilla rather than the clear imitation vanilla. The only down side is that the pure vanilla can make an otherwise white buttercream look a little yellowy.
- Butter. I stock up on both unsalted and salted butter, although unsalted seems to be used most often. One key baking tip is to always let your butter soften to room temperature unless the recipe says otherwise. This way it will be evenly distributed and you won’t end up with lumps of butter. Plus it makes mixing way easier!
- Milk. Whole milk is usually preferred because the higher fat content makes your baked good very moist. However, we always have nonfat milk on hand for drinking and cereal, so that’s what I typically use. Professional bakers my cringe reading this, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference. I also try to have heavy whipping cream on hand for buttercream recipes and ganache.
- Cream Cheese. I always keep an 8 oz. brick of cream cheese in our refrigerator, which I use for cheesecake recipes and cream cheese frosting. It’s a must for the icing on homemade cinnamon rolls!
- Large Eggs. Most recipes call for large eggs and always bring them to room temperature before baking because they will disperse more evenly into the batter.
- Canola or Vegetable Oil. These are typically used when baking cakes. I also like to have a canola oil spray for greasing pans.
Are there other essential baking ingredients that you swear by? I’d love to hear what you always have on hand.