By peoplestaff225
July 01, 2014 04:03 PM

Courtesy Amnah Ibrahim

According to Urban Dictionary, the term “hack” has several meanings, among them “a clever or elegant technical accomplishment” and “a temporary, jury-rigged solution.” These 13 baking shortcuts not only fit both of these definitions, but are ingenious enough to change your culinary life forever. Read on, and never cry over snafus like burned cookies or undecorated cakes again.

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Chantal over at Paleoaholic suggested a simple but super-smart way to get errant bits of shell out of an egg you’ve over-zealously cracked into a bowl. “Wet your fingers before trying to get it out. It literally gravitates the shell to your fingers, so you can quickly remove all of the unpleasant crunch,” she writes in a post dedicated to this do-it-all food.

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You last bought brown sugar to make chocolate chip cookies for a holiday party. Now it’s summer and you want to make another batch for a picnic, but your sugar looks and feels more like a brick than something you’d want to eat. No need to toss it in the trash. Place it in a baking dish, cover it with a moist paper towel and either microwave it on high for 20-second intervals or place it in a 300F oven for five minutes.

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Some recipes call for room-temperature eggs, since they are often easier to incorporate into batter when they aren’t too cold. If you’ve forgotten to take them out in advance, Baking Bites suggests placing them in a bowl of warm water for five to ten minutes before using them.

Courtesy Jill Nystul

Sometimes a banana-bread craving strikes but you might not have an overripe bunch stashed and ready to go. So follow this suggestion from Jill Nystul of One Good Thing by Jillee and roast whole bananas in the oven for 40 minutes at 300F to ripen them. They’ll end up soft, black and the perfect texture for baking a moist loaf.

Courtesy Brenda De Los Santos

There’s nothing like opening the oven and realize that your highly anticipated cookies have been scorched — and the friends you’re hosting are coming in a matter of minutes. Don’t panic and dump them into the trash, instead, steal a tip from Brenda of Downtown Dish and shave off the bottoms with either a box grater or microplane zester. What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen, right?

Courtesy Toni Spilsbury, The Organized Cook

Don’t feel like frosting a batch of cupcakes? If you’ve got a bag of large marshmallows you’ll barely have to lift a finger to gussy them up. About five minutes before the oven timer is due to ring, Toni Spilsbury places a large marshmallow on top of each cupcake for a melted, S’More like topping.

Courtesy Amnah Ibrahim

Leave the swirly writing and individually piped rosettes to the professionals. We’re loving this elegant, minimalist design that Amnah of Little Life of Mine created using only a cookie cutter and rainbow sprinkles. With this idea, your creative options are only limited by the shapes and styles you have available. You can also try reversing the design by dropping sprinkles over most of the cake and leaving the number white.

Courtesy Carmen Nuland

Carmen from A Simple Homestead blogged about the time that she wanted to make rolls, but couldn’t use the oven to let the dough rise because her husband needed it for another dish. So she improvised by placing her bowl of dough on a heating pad covered with a towel. It puffed up beautifully within an hour.

Chia Chong

Libbie Summers, author of Sweet and Vicious — Baking with Attitude, made this quick, fun video of 20 different ways to crimp a pie border, such as using a corkscrew tip, a measuring spoon, and, our favorite, an elegant pearl necklace.

Tracy Benjamin

Tracy Benjamin of Shutterbean calls making whipped cream in a mason jar “the greatest party trick ever” and who are we to argue with her? “I walked around my kitchen cleaning things up one handed while shaking. 3 minutes-ish. I burned exactly 1000 calories….in my dreams,” she writes.

Courtesy Teacher-Chef.com

Here’s how this ingenious, kid-friendly technique from Rachel at Teacher-Chef.com works: Inflate balloons, melt chocolate, dip balloons into chocolate and pop balloons. The result is a group of gorgeous (and edible!) chocolate bowls that can be used to hold berries or mousse. Her key tip? “Rinse and dry all of your balloons just to make sure there is no ‘balloon powder’ on the outside,” she writes.

Courtesy Natalie Mancino

Natalie Mancino admits on her blog, Book Line and Sinker, that she used to tease her sister about her “persnickety cookie decorating and sizing rules” and the fact that she used the bottom of her cut-crystal salt shaker to shape her holiday creations. “But today she feels vindicated! They really do make a perfect snowflake,” she tells PEOPLE. To get the look, first roll the dough into balls, then press them flat with the bottom of the shaker. Depending on the size of your cookie, you can also get a similar effect with a small crystal glass or vase.

Tristi Ogden/Ogden Photography

As the founder and owner of The Wild Cupcake bakery in Amarillo, Texas, Cupcake Wars winner Nicole Costa can certainly be considered an expert on how to best consume these frosting-topped treats. She’s a fan of the popular “sandwich” method, whereby you slice (or pull) off the bottom half and place it atop the frosting. Then simply bite into it like a burger. As Costa says, when you eat a cupcake the regular way, “It’s really difficult to get that perfect cake to buttercream ratio.” (You’re also more likely to end up with a nose full of frosting.) We suggest doing a little advance prep work and serving reassembled cupcakes at your next party.

—Lexi Dwyer

RELATED: Bite-Size Breakfast: Bake These Strawberry Lolli-Pop Tarts

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