Author Charmian Christie, a.k.a. The Messy Baker, shared her tips with Canada AM for preventing baking disasters. As someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, I can appreciate her sage advice! Clearly there's plenty that can be done before your creation even goes in the oven.

Charmian says one of the biggest mistakes people make when baking is using the wrong temperature butter or eggs. You want both to be room temperature, so if you don't have a lot of time, here are two of her handy tips: rest your eggs in a warm water bath (not hot, you don't want to cook them) and grate your butter with a regular cheese grater.

Speaking of time, Charmian says that is another big issue. People don't give themselves enough time to prepare a dish. Make the time, and things will turn out better when you're in less of a rush.

Also, just because you've set your oven temperature to 350 doesn't mean it's actually 350. Check the true temperature of your oven by using an oven thermometer.

Finally, how old are your ingredients? Baking soda and baking powder that has sat for a long time on your pantry shelf will not react the same way as fresh product will.

As far as fixing mistakes after the fact, Charmian has some ingenious ideas for hiding flaws.

  • To fix burnt edges on cookies, use a microplane or cheese grater to remove the burnt bits (the cookie underneath will be fine), or you can crumble the cookie and use as a parfait topping!
  • If your cake has fallen, there are ways to camouflage the crater with icing, whipped cream, ice cream and fruit
  • For burnt or dried-out cakes, remove the edges with serrated knife, or use thread or dental floss to remove burnt layers. You can also add moisture back to the cake by converting it to a trifle or torte

Charmian's website is The Messy Baker, and that's also the name of her new cookbook!