Dessert and baking hacks you'll wish you knew sooner

If you've heard time and time again that baking is a very precise science, chances are, you may have found the idea of whipping up a cake or a pie a little bit daunting. Many baking and dessert recipes require a step-by-step process incorporating very specific ingredients, and things can get a little complicated. And although there can be quite a few steps to some desserts, there are plenty of ways to make it easier on yourself!

Even the most novice of bakers or dessert enthusiasts can whip up something amazing, if you have the right tips and tricks to turn to. You don't always need expensive equipment, a million piping tips, or elaborate artistic skills. With a few genius hacks, you'll be a dessert aficionado in no time, and we're letting you in on the most important ones to know about. These are the dessert and baking hacks you'll wish you knew sooner. 

Make your own piping bag for frosting

Chances are, if you've never been trained in a cake decorating class or grew up with someone who knew how to decorate cakes, the concept of a piping bag is a little foreign. But don't worry! 

Did you decide to go all out for your friend's birthday, and you're ready to dress up that cake to impress? Even without all of the tools from the cake decorating aisle, you can make your own.

According to Bon Appetit, grabbing a Ziploc bag from the cupboard will do the trick. It's definitely better if you can use a thicker plastic, but even those thin sandwich bags or a leftover produce bag from the grocery store will do the trick. Grab a tall glass, and place the open bag inside. Add your frosting. Then, holding the bottom near the tip with the frosting, squeeze the top opening of the bag to be sure your frosting meets the corner of the bag. Simply snip off the end of the corner and start piping. But remember, the size of hole you snip will determine how big your piping diameter will be. This works great for a simple border or for writing "Happy Birthday" in a pinch.

Use marshmallows for frosting

Making your own frosting at home calls for softened butter, a splash of milk, and a whole lot of powdered sugar. It's a pretty simple process to make your own, but unless you know exactly the steps to follow, or unless you have a stand mixer, it can be tricky. That's where marshmallows come in.

If you're not interested in going through the steps to make frosting — and then individually frost each cupcake — PureWow says using marshmallows will definitely work as an easy substitute. 

Once you've put your cupcakes in the oven, keep an eye on them until they're just about baked all the way through. You'll see the top begin to crackle just slightly, with a bit of a gooey center. Pull the pan out, add a large marshmallow on top of each cupcake, and carefully stick the pan back in the oven for another three minutes. This will allow the marshmallow to melt while your cupcakes finish baking, so you're not over-baking them or making them dry. Pull the cupcakes out and let them cool, and the marshmallow will hold its shape just like frosting. Talk about a win-win!

Keep cookie cutters from sticking

Making cut-out sugar cookies around holidays like Christmas or Halloween is a pretty common tradition in many households. Whether you choose to make your own cookie dough or use store-bought roll out dough, there's always the same problem that seems to arise. It always happens that your cookie cutter manages to get stuck to the dough, causing the shape of the cookie to become deformed. 

According to Paste Magazine, the best way to prevent that dreaded sticking is to use flour. Simply dip each of your cookie cutters into a dish of flour right before you press them into the dough. Doing this each time before cutting will eliminate the cookie cutter from sticking to the dough. This is especially handy if you have little spaces throughout the cookie cutter shape that need to come out clean. 

Also be sure to use flour on your counter or table before rolling out the dough to be extra sure your dough won't stick to the surface while cutting.

What to do when you don't have enough eggs

If you've ever baked anything, chances are you've started on a recipe, only to find out you don't have enough of one particular ingredient. It happens all the time, and without a good substitute, the bake will flop. The good news is that if you run into this problem with eggs, there's plenty of substitutes that will work just as well.

According to Healthline, eggs are used in baking for the purpose of binding ingredients, leavening, and adding moisture. But if you're running low on eggs, or need to avoid them for another reason, there are a number of things to use as a great swap. Unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas are two of the most popular egg substitutes because they add the moisture needed in a recipe, especially for cakes. Use ¼ cup to replace one egg in a recipe. Similarly, yogurt or buttermilk will work for muffins and cakes as well, and be sure to use ¼ cup to replace one egg for this swap, too. 

Shockingly enough, carbonated water will work, as well. Carbonation adds both moisture and works as a leavening agent, just like eggs, which is why mixing a can of soda with a cake mix is so popular. It eliminates the need for eggs completely when using a cake mix. Problem solved! 

Make DIY cookie cups

If you've ever had the pleasure of experiencing how ridiculously delicious it is to eat ice cream out of a cookie bowl, you know it's life changing. From time to time you can find cookie bowls serving up elaborate ice cream sundaes at ice cream parlors or restaurants, or you might find a bakery using it as a dish for a cupcake. It's edible dishware, and it's one of the best inventions we as humans have ever imagined. 

And now you can recreate that exact experience at home on your own. DIY cookie bowls are actually pretty simple to make in a few quick steps if you have the right tools. According to Wilton, cookie dough, a cupcake tin, and flour is all you'll need. Roll out your cookie dough on a floured surface, and then cut a 5-inch circle from it. Be sure to flour your cutter so it doesn't stick! Flip your cupcake pan over and spray the bottom (now acting as the top!) with cooking spray. Drape each circle over a section of the muffin tin, and press around the bowl to form the shape. Bake the pan for 10-12 minutes, until your cookie bowls are golden brown, and you're all set to serve ice cream, frosting, pudding or anything else you can think of.

Make ice cream with just one ingredient

If you have an ice cream maker at home, it can offer you endless delicious possibilities. But for those who haven't quite made that investment, there's still hope when you want creamy ice cream but you don't want to head to the store or make it yourself.

It turns out, bananas on their own make for the perfect solo ice cream ingredient. (Crazy right?!) According to New York Times Cooking, you can use frozen bananas to blend up delicious ice cream, but it does require a bit of prep and thought ahead of time. If you have leftover bananas, or, if you're buying bananas specifically to make ice cream, peel the bananas, cut them into chunks, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. They'll typically need at least six hours to freeze. Once it's time to make the ice cream, blend the frozen banana chunks in a blender, food processor, or even use your stand mixer. The bananas will break down into a smooth, ice cream consistency, while still staying cold. Add in raspberries or blueberries or chocolate chips to really up your DIY ice cream game! 

Easily use chocolate to dress things up

Have a dull dessert that needs a little bit of a face lift? Planning for an elaborate party and you need a dessert to match? Dressing up your desserts is easy with this simple chocolate hack. Using chocolate to up your dessert game is one of the best routes to take. You can use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or even white chocolate with food coloring to add a drip effect or designs to your cakes, cupcakes, or brownies

According to Delicious Magazine, if you want to melt chocolate for piping the easy way, you should add chunks of chocolate to a plastic freezer bag. Tie off the bag and place it in the microwave, heating for 20 seconds at a time until the chocolate melts. Once you're ready to pipe, cut a hole in the corner to use it as a piping bag. This will allow you to write in chocolate, add polka dots, or even add that drip effect by cutting a larger hole in the corner of the bag. 

If melted chocolate isn't the look you're going for, you can use a block of chocolate and a peeler to make chocolate curls to make any dessert look fancier. 

Perfectly cut a round cake for a party

We've all been in that dreaded position when you're asked to cut the cake at a party, and you have no idea how to do it correctly. Well, no more cake cutting fear here! Once you know how to cut a cake perfectly, offering equal servings to every party-goer, all of your friends and family will be envious of your supreme party skills. And no, we're not talking about that wonky triangle slice method here. 

According to Delish, the best way to cut a round cake is to start by slicing a one-inch section across the cake horizontally. Flip the entire one-inch section onto a cutting board, and then divvy it up into one-inch strips for small slices, or three-inch strips for those hoping for a bit more cake. This is the method caterers and professional wedding cake bakers utilize to cut up those multiple tiers of cake, so they must know a thing or two. 

Make your own whipped cream

Whipped cream is the ideal topping for so many desserts, from pudding, to cream pie, to custard. But what do you do when you just hate the stuff out of an aerosol can or the freezer aisle? Luckily you can make it from scratch. 

First and foremost, making your own whipped cream requires heavy whipping cream. Utilizing other types of cream, such as half-and-half won't work due to its fat content. According to Food Network, you can make your own whipped cream simply by whipping one cup of heavy cream and two tablespoons of sugar together. Food Network suggests you use a metal bowl and whisk that has been placed in the freezer ahead of time to cool. Once chilled, add the cream, add the sugar, and start whisking. Eventually, peaks will begin to form. 

If you have an electric mixer or a stand mixer, utilizing your equipment will take a lot of the arm work out of making whipped cream, and the process works just the same. Add the heavy cream to your bowl, dump in the sugar, and let your mixer do the work until those stiff peaks form. Easy as pie! 

What to do without a rolling pin

As it turns out, not everybody has a collection of five different rolling pins passed down from their baking family members. Shocking, right? If you're trying to roll out cookie dough for cutout sugar cookies, or you're working with pastry dough for a pie crust or tart pastry, you'll definitely need to roll out your dough nice and evenly. But what do you do without a rolling pin?

Luckily, there are quite a few household items that feature the same shape, and can do the same job in a pinch. According to Pop Sugar, using a wine bottle is a great substitute for a rolling pin. The roundness of the bottle, as well as the fact they're glass, make for a great option in holding the dough's shape. 

If you're not a wine drinker, chances are you still have something laying around the house that will work. According to Chew the World, other great substitutes to utilize include tall drinking glasses, a water bottle, a Thermos, or even a tall beverage can. 

Even out your cake before layering

There are plenty of times when, even though you follow the recipe perfectly, a cake won't turn out exactly as planned. Any number of factors can cause a cake to bake unevenly. According to Better Homes & Gardens, it can be from not mixing your batter enough, your oven baking at uneven temperatures, or even your oven being too hot. But even if your cakes do turn out unevenly, there is still hope.

Stacking layers to create a layer cake is tricky, but with the right planning, along with even cake slices, it's totally doable. According to Delish, using dental floss is one of the most effective ways to make sure you have even cakes before layering, but be sure you're using a floss without flavor.

Simply take your baked, cooled cake, and hold the floss in both of your hands at the top of your cake. Hold the floss horizontally and pull it across and through the cake. This will cut the top, bumpy layer off, leaving just a smooth, flat top to begin your layering.

Make s'mores without the campfire

If summer has come to an end and you're missing that perfect combination of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker, or, you if you don't live someplace where you can easily start a backyard fire, this is the solution for you.

According to Food Network, there's a brilliant way to catch the flavor of s'mores from inside your kitchen, and all you have to do is crank the oven to 400 degrees. Using a cookie sheet as your base, lay regular size graham crackers flat on the cookie sheet in a rectangular shape. Top the graham crackers with your favorite milk chocolate broken into squares. Using scissors, cut your large marshmallows in half vertically to make for a flatter marshmallow, and place them on top of the chocolate. Top the s'mores stacks with another layer of graham crackers, and bake for 3-5 minutes, or until your marshmallows start to puff and turn golden brown. Pull the cookie sheet out, push down lightly on each s'mores sandwich, and enjoy your favorite summer treat while they're still warm at any time of year!

Make a cream pie in minutes

When you need the quickest and the easiest dessert you can possibly think of, a cream pie is the answer. You can throw this dessert together in minutes, but the people you're serving it to will think it took you hours.

Head to the store and buy a pre-made graham cracker crust in the baking aisle. Depending on the flavor of pie you're hoping to make, you can grab either a chocolate or regular graham cracker crust. While in the same aisle, grab a flavor of instant pudding mix to go with your pie. Banana or chocolate do especially well for this dessert. Mix the pudding according to its directions with cold milk in a bowl, and let it set in the fridge. While the pudding sets, make your own whipped cream using heavy whipping cream in your stand mixture.

Once your pudding has set, scoop it into your graham cracker crust and top the whole pie with freshly made whipped cream. Depending on the flavor, consider adding shredded coconut, a dusting of cocoa powder, chocolate curls, or even banana slices. This dessert hack will have you party-ready with a dessert to impress in minutes!