Top 10 Essential Baking Ingredients

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Take a peek into my baking cupboard and my guide to the top 10 essential baking ingredients that every baker needs. If you’re just starting out on your home baking journey or looking for some new ingredients to try out then you’ll want to check out this guide including top hints and tips.

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Do you find that there are so many recipes out there that use different lots of different ingredients that sometimes figuring out where to start can be a bit overwhelming.

Even now there will be a recipe that comes up with an ingredient that I’ve not heard of before. And after a consult with the Google Gods I’ve got in the cupboard, it’s just called something else

Just as with my baking equipment, I get lots of questions about the ingredients I use, and I try to share my tried and tested favourites with you in my recipes.

This essential baking ingredients guide is all about the actual ingredients, rather than brands, so if you have your own favourite then by all means stick to what you prefer.

So if you’re ready to take a dive into the baking cupboard, then here’s your quick reference ingredients guide.

Essential baking ingredients every baker needs

1. Plain Flour and Self-Raising Flour

First up, and the one of the key ingredients that I am never without… flour, and I like to make sure I have both plain or all purpose flour and self-raising flour in the cupboard.

Most of the time I use plain flour along with baking powder or baking soda, especially for recipes like my Kinder Bueno brownies or NYC chocolate orange cookies.

I do also love self-raising flour, which I know isn’t as readily available outside of the UK. But if you can get hold of it, it’s good to keep in the cupboard. It has the raising agents included and is got for quick cakes and tray bakes were you want to get a lovely rise, just like in my raspberry Victoria sponge.

And that leads me onto… 

2. Baking Powder and Baking Soda

These raising agent are both essential baking ingredients for your cupboard, and an absolute must if you use plain or all-purpose flour.

The difference between the two, is that baking powder is a complete leavener, as it includes baking soda and an acid. When baking, these react together which releases carbon dioxide and gives your bakes a rise. 

On the other hand baking soda, or bicarb of soda, doesn’t have an acid added. This means when you use it in your recipes, you need to add something to start the reaction. Where recipes call for baking soda, you might see lemon juice or vinegar included on the ingredients list, like my red velvet Bundt cake.

3. Free-Range Eggs

Eggs are super important in baking and are my second most important ingredient. I always use medium free-range eggs.

Whether you keep eggs in the fridge or on the work surface; it is really key that when using them in baking that you allow them to come up to room temperature first. This makes them easier to whisk and incorporate air to give lift.

Eggs are super versatile and I use whole ones in all my cakes, or separate the whites for meringues and the yolks for custards, ice cream and also pastry.

4. Caster Sugar and Soft Brown Sugar

Sugar is my third key ingredient, and along with flour, eggs and butter makes up the four key ingredients of baking! It is hydroscopic so helps keep your cakes and bakes moist and tender, as well as sweet.

There are so many different types of sugar but these are essential ones I really recommend keeping in.

First up caster sugar or superfine sugar. The fine sugar granules mix perfectly into your batters and pastries. Regular granulated sugar will give you a more heavier, coarser texture to your bakes.

TOP TIP: If you can’t get caster sugar, pop regular sugar into a food processor and give it a few pulses to help grind it down. Don’t go too far or you will end up with a powder.

I also recommend soft brown sugars, both light and dark – and I use these both in things like my smarties cookie pie for a soft chewy texture, or my rolo brownies for a rich, deep taste and that perfect fudgy centre.

5. Icing Sugar

Next up is icing sugar. I have a love hate relationship with this stuff. One wrong move and it gets everywhere!

I use icing sugar, or powdered sugar or confectioners sugar, in my buttercream and frosting recipes. Try my chocolate buttercream frosting, for the smoothest and creamiest frosting ever!

TOP TIP: Icing sugar also has a tendency to clump so sift before using. But remember, be gentle so it doesn’t go everywhere.

6. Unsalted Butter and Fine Sea Salt

It’s time to talk butter; the fourth ingredient in my four key baking ingredients, and like plain and self-raising flour; there are two options here and which you use is down to your own personal preference.

I tend to use unsalted butter so I can control the amount of salt in the recipe by adding in fine sea salt. The salt is key as it brings out the creaminess of the butter and flavours in your bakes.

If you’re not confident in adding in salt, go for a slightly salted butter instead; or let’s be honest it’s also easier…

TOP TIP: Avoid commercial table salt as it will over salt the recipe and often has a metallic taste.

7. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Ok let’s move on to cocoa powder, not drinking chocolate, just pure unsweetened cocoa powder.

I use regular cocoa powder in all sorts of things – cakes, frostings, desserts etc; but I also have come across an intense cocoa powder which gives more of a cookies and cream chocolate taste.

I love the intense powder, but bakes will come out a lot darker like in my triple chocolate banana bread and mint oreo cake.

If you want to keep cocoa powder in the cupboard, I recommend just sticking with a regular one.

8. Vanilla Extract

For all of my bakes and desserts I add a touch of vanilla extract, and I know before you say it, it can be really expensive. But trust me adding a drop into your baking is a game changer. It gives a sweet taste and brings out other flavours too. Vanilla is anything but plain, check out my vanilla layer cake!

When shopping for vanilla extract, you’ll find there are so many on offer but be sure to always go for extract rather than essence. Essence is a synthetic flavour which means it’s just vanilla flavour, rather than pure vanilla. But if you’re on a budget, then essence works well for your purse.

TOP TIP: You can easily make your own vanilla extract. Check out my super simple 2 ingredient recipe and all my hints and tips, if you fancy trying it out.

9. Chocolate and Chocolate Chips

Next we’re onto my favourite ingredient, chocolate! There is always always some form of chocolate in the baking cupboard… unless I’ve eaten it all!

I use regular chocolate rather than cooking chocolate as I prefer the taste and which one I use will sometimes depend on what’s on offer in the supermarket. But I always try and keep a bar of milk, dark and white chocolate in for things like brownies, blondies, ganache or late night munching!

Chocolate chips wise; I like dark choc chips especially in thick chewy cookies. Again it depends whats on offer, I do prefer Callebaut Belgian chocolate chips but I’ve recently discovered Guittard chips with have the perfect melt and shape for cookies.

10. Ground spices

Finally my last essential ingredient for your baking cupboard is ground spices. 

I love adding a touch of spice to my baking especially in autumn. The warmth of ground cinnamon and ground ginger gives you that big hug inside, especially in my toffee apple tart.

TOP TIP: I recommend keeping in ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg and mixed spice. You can also use them to make your own spice mixes like my pumpkin spice mix.

Watch Essential Baking Ingredients video

So there you have it a peek into my baking cupboard and my essential baking ingredients. These are the ones that I try to always keep in so when the urge to bake strikes I’m ready to go; and no trips to the supermarket when all you want to do is whip up a quick five minute cookie dough.

Once you start trying out ingredients, you’ll soon find those that you really like the taste of or prefer to use, and you’ll soon be adding them as regulars on to your shopping list.

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More baking tips to try

If you liked this Top 10 Essential Baking Ingredients guide here are some other tips that I think you’d enjoy…

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Hi I’m Lou

… Dessert obsessed baker, busy 9-to-5er, and the recipe developer and photographer behind Crumbs and Corkscrews. Based in the UK, I live in the beautiful Cotswolds. I’m so glad to have you here with me and I can’t wait for you to start trying some of my recipes.

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