Tell me if this sounds familiar: it's way past your bedtime the night before a birthday party or bake sale and you're gazing down at the worst batch of cupcakes you've ever seen.

They've somehow managed to overflow the tin while still collapsing in the middle, the bottoms are burned, and they taste like cardboard. Somewhere along the line, you've made a terrible mistake.

I may not be able to help you with that specific batch of cupcakes, but here are some of the most common mistake made when baking and how to avoid them. 

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1. Letting your brown sugar become rock hard. 

There's a lot of moisture in brown sugar, and when it evaporates, the sugar hardens. Prevent that by storing your sugar with as little air as possible, such as in a zip-top bag. Or use one of those terracotta disks made specifically for the job. 

To revive hardened sugar, microwave it for a few seconds with a damp paper towel. 

2. Giant domed tops are making your layer cakes wonky. 

Yes, you can trim the domes off, but besides wasting perfectly good cake, it can be tough to trim it perfectly level. Prevent domes by wrapping a damp cloth tightly around the outside of each pan while you bake. 

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3. But what about when your cookies end up too tall?

Dome-like cookies have a number of culprits, but the biggest is the temperature of the dough. Make sure it's room temperature, because the fat in cold dough doesn't have time to melt and spread before the edges harden. 

4. With every batch, your cookie bottoms are more burnt. 

Let your cookie sheet cool between each batch. Otherwise, the bottoms will begin to cook even before you put the cookies in the oven. The most efficient trick is to have at least three baking sheets: one that's in the oven, one that's cooling, and one that's cooled and ready to have the next batch rolled onto it. 

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5. Make sure your butter is in the correct state for your recipe. 

If your cake calls for melted and cooled butter, melt and cool it. Softened? Frozen and grated? It may seem like work, but it wouldn't tell you to do it if it didn't matter. 

6. Yes, the order of your recipe matters!

via GIPHY

Sure, a boxed mix might let you dump everything together and stir, but when baking from scratch, you need to follow the recipe. It's chemistry, and if everything doesn't distribute evenly, you could be in for a disaster. 

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7. And so does the temperature of your ingredients!

7. And so does the temperature of your ingredients!
Instagram |  @break.an.egg

Depending on the temperature of your ingredients, it could change the results of your baking. For example, room temperature eggs whip up fluffier than cold eggs, or adding a liquid that's still too hot could curdle the eggs. Which...ew.

8. Your egg white foam always deflates.

8. Your egg white foam always deflates.
Instagram |  @thecake_smith

Meringues, chiffon cakes, and other delicate treats require a strong egg white foam to hold their shape. The biggest culprit for bad foam is fat. Even a drop of egg yolk can ruin it. Separate your eggs carefully and thoroughly wash any tools to make sure no stray butter or oil lingers. 

And whip the egg whites when they're room temperature.

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9. You can't always just swap the "all purpose" for "gluten-free."

9. You can't always just swap the "all purpose" for "gluten-free."
Pixabay |  Pezibear

Breads and cakes need the structure gluten brings, but not all gluten-free flours include a binding agent to make up for it. If your treats are collapsing, check the ingredients in your flour for an item like xanthan gum or guar gum. 

If it's not there, then you need to add it to your recipe. 

10. Don't skip the crumb coat when frosting a cake.

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In awe of how smooth professional bakeries manage to get their frosting? Before plopping the icing on, spread on a thin layer to trap all the extra crumbs so that they don't end up in the final layer. Chill the cake so that the crumb coat is hard before finishing the frosting. 

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11. Don't use too much liquid in your pastry crusts.

11. Don't use too much liquid in your pastry crusts.
Instagram |  @zee_bakez

Too much liquid can make a pie crust tough, but if you don't use enough you'll never have a dough you can roll out. When in doubt, remember the 3-2-1 rule: three parts flour, two parts fat, and one part cold water will make the perfect crust. 

12. There's no substitute for sugar when working with yeast.

12. There's no substitute for sugar when working with yeast.
Instagram |  @mariasartisan

You may be tempted to swap the sugar in your bread recipe with an artificial sweetener, but you'll be disappointed with the results. Yeast requires sugar to eat and multiply, but it can't get the same food from the artificial stuff. That means your dough just isn't going to rise. 

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13. Baking soda and baking powder aren't interchangeable. 

Both are leaveners, but baking soda can't do its job without an acidic ingredient in the batter. That means buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice, or something similar. Baking powder contains its own acid in the form of cream of tartar. 

Most recipes have a careful balance of acid and leavening, so don't try to swap one for the other. 

14. Using expired leaveners raises no one's spirits.  

Ignore the expiry date on your baking powder or soda containers. That's based on it being unopened. In general, leaveners are only good for about three months after opening. 

Write the date on the container with a marker and if you don't bake very often, try to buy the smallest package possible to avoid waste. 

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15. Opening the oven too early to check on things.

15. Opening the oven too early to check on things.
Instagram |  @rafnsoerensen

Trust your cake to do its job and leave it alone. If you open the oven, it lets out the heat, and that can deflate treats still in the process of rising. Turn on the oven light so that you can watch through the glass instead. 

16. Always read the recipe all the way through first. Carefully.

16. Always read the recipe all the way through first. Carefully.
Pinterest |  Denise McNamara

Recipes can be a grammar test all their own. The placement of a comma can make a big difference. 

For example: "1 cup of chopped walnuts" means to measure them after chopping, but "1 cup of walnuts, chopped" means to measure the whole walnuts, then chop them. 

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