Photo: Jennifer Causey

Hint: Look for these clues in the recipe.

Arielle Weg
November 09, 2017

As the temperature starts to drop and holiday decorations are in full swing, there's one food-related topic on everyone's minds—baking. Scroll through social media and you'll see endless pictures of glorious pumpkin pies, cool peppermint cupcakes, smiling gingerbread cookies, and perfect lattice-topped apple pies. 

If you're a baker, this is your season. But if we're being honest, I really don't like baking. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook. I spend hours most evenings chopping veggies, playing with spices, and (sometimes) creating masterful dishes. But give me a recipe for frosting and cupcakes, and I'm tapping out.

Over the years, I've definitely been able to pinpoint which baking recipes I can handle, and which I'll quickly pass on. If you've caught the winter baking bug, but don't really like to bake, look for these clues to determine which recipes are manageable.

Make the Three-Step Recipe

This is the ultimate clue that a recipe is non-baker friendly. You'll generally find these recipes formatted in three steps; preheat the oven (I can do that!), mix all the ingredients in a bowl (love the simplicity), and pour the mixture into the tin to bake (done!). It's quick, painless, and you can toss it in the oven in just minutes. Quick breads, like this Coco-Zucchini Bread, are usually a safe bet.

Beware of Fancy Techniques 

Even if the method only requires a few extra steps, you definitely want to avoid techniques that make you instinctively cringe. If you're willing to experiment, then by all means please do, but if intimidating tricks are what's keeping you from grabbing the stand mixer, then stick to simple.

Things like using a double boiler, creaming sugar and butter, tempering eggs, and adding dozens of different ingredients can lead to confusion and frustration for the inexperienced baker. If you're looking for a dessert that looks complex, but is actually a breeze to make, try this Frosted Brown Butter Blondie. This recipe calls for a quick three-step cake, plus a basic microwavable frosting and design. 

Check the Time

If a recipe claims the "active time" is 25 minutes, but the "total time" is six hours, then something is definitely up. One of my biggest pet peeves with recipes is when I have to make a dough, roll it out, let it chill for hours, then let it rest for some more, bake it, and then cool it before I can eat. I want to make the batter, toss it in the oven, and be done—can you tell I'm a fan of simple recipes?

Try this Chocolate-Tahini Banana Bread for an elevated-yet-simple treat that doesn't require anything (or anyone) to chill and wait impatiently. 

Stick to One Ingredient List

If you dislike baking, there's no way you're going to have the time or patience to make a baked good and a fancy addition. One indicator I always avoid is the multiple part ingredient list. Oh, there are separate instructions for the pie dough? Pass. I need to make a complicated frosting that involves soaking, blending, straining, and mixing? Not going to happen. 

These Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins are a three-step muffin with just one additional decorating step. Simply make a quick oat topping to sprinkle over muffins. Easy as...not pie. 

Limit Your Equipment

There's no need to break out a blender, fine-mesh strainer, three bowls, stand mixer, food processor, and whisk for one cake. Aim for as few utensils and equipment as possible, because this generally indicates simpler instructions (and an easier cleanup). A perfect pick is this Fudgy Skillet Cookie, which is a simple dessert made with, you guessed it, just a skillet. Magic. 

Dodge Extra Decorations

Difficult additions to baked goods are a major turn-off for those who dislike baking. Recipes that call for things like piped frosting, a delicate cake glaze, or an intricate lattice topping are off my list.

Opt for recipes like this Brown Butter Cake with Cocoa, which bake with a simple sprinkled-on topping. The finished cake looks gorgeous, and you can save your hand from pesky frosting cramps.

There's No Need to Knead

If you hate baking, recipes that require kneading and rising should be avoided. If you are willing to use a bread machine, then these recipes can be as easy as the three-step desserts. Choose recipes that ask for store-bought crusts, or mix it up with crustless dishes like Easy Individual Apple Crisps. Easy is in the name, so you can't go wrong. 

Read the Recipe 

This might seem self-explanatory, but always read the recipe through. If I have to reread the first step six times just to understand all the elements, I'm tossing it. If I can read a recipe through and have a solid idea of what's expected, then I can feel confident the recipe will turn out delicious. 

Try this yummy Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Bundt for a recipe that only looks complex. You'll be a baking whiz in no time.