The Holiday Baking Championship Judges’ 11 Best Baking Tips

Even the most accomplished bakers make mistakes in the kitchen—luckily, they have Duff Goldman, Nancy Fuller and Lorraine Pascale to guide them. Even if you’re just baking at home, follow these tips from the judges to up your game in the kitchen.

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Don't Be Shy With Spice

Don’t skimp on warm spices like cinnamon and ginger when you’re baking for the holiday season. “That’s what’s really going to take it from being a summer dessert to a holiday one, you really have to go in there with that spice.” – Lorraine

Be Careful With Sugar

Be careful when using super-sugary ingredients, like marshmallow, as it’s nearly impossible to mute the sweetness. “It is what it is, and they are really sweet.” – Duff

Candying is a Careful Art

“The thing about candying nuts when you’re using egg whites and powdered sugar, is you don’t need very much” – Duff

Play With Fire

Flambéed desserts won’t properly light in the pan unless they have enough booze. “Throw it on in!” – Lorraine

Don’t Skimp on Spirits

If you’re going to rely on alcohol as a major flavor in your pastry, make sure it really stands out. “If there's just a hint of brandy, I want a shot glass.” – Nancy

Pump Up Texture

When Duff found one baker’s cookies lacking in texture, Lorraine suggested adding nuts: “Maybe if there were some pecans in them, cut with bigger chunks.”

Keep an Eye on the Oven

If your pastry has been baking for a while but doesn’t look fully risen, "maybe you need to bake them for a bit longer. – Lorraine

Balance Sour Flavors

When you use tart flavors like cranberry or lime, be sure to have a mild component to balance them out. “You need enough cream to balance the astringent flavors.” – Nancy

Let Color Shine

Adding color to your baked goods can take a plate to the next level. “A darker green would have brought this whole thing together and then it would have really said holiday” – Lorraine

Keep Plates Clean

Too many things on a final plate can detract from presentation. Keep it “tight, focused and clean” to impress Duff.

Whipped Cream Advice

Be choosey about what kind of dairy you use to make whipped cream. Nancy wasn’t impressed with how strong of a yogurt flavor one contestant had in their topping: “The yogurt is the dominant factor in the whole thing,” she said.