It Happens to the Best of Us … Common Cookie Baking Mistakes & How to Fix Them

Updated October 9, 2019
Everyone makes baking mistakes. We took ours to the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens to get the fixes and to find out how to avoid burnt cookies and other travesties in the future.

Why do my cookies turn out flat? Bake together? Burn? We took these questions and more to the Betty Crocker Test Kitchen’s pastry chef, Carrie Franzen—the brain behind Betty’s Christmas cookies and many more desserts. In each case, Carrie was able to identify the probable mistake and more importantly, how to fix it and avoid it in the future.

Why Are My Cookies Flat?


The Mistake: When cookies turn out flat, the biggest culprit is butter. If dough is made with butter that is too soft or even melted, cookies will spread. Another common error is using too little flour—we get it, it’s easy to get distracted or lose track when measuring. Finally, cookies will also flatten if placed and baked on hot cookie sheets.

How to Fix it: If too-soft butter was the culprit, try refrigerating cookie dough for 1 to 2 hours before baking. If too-little flour was the issue, try adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour to the dough. Then, bake a test cookie. If neither were the mistake, it was probably a too-hot pan that caused the spreading. Cool your cookie sheet before baking another batch.

How to Avoid it: Allow your butter to come to room temperature—cut into pieces this should take about 30 minutes. Make sure you’re using the most accurate measuring method and the correct measuring tools. Cool your cookie sheet in between batches—allow sheet to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes, then run under cold water and dry—this will cool the sheet without warping.

How Come My Cookies Baked Together?


The Mistake: When cookies bake together, it’s because they were too close. Just like us, cookies need a little breathing room—otherwise, they melt down!

How to Fix it: Make a snack of your cookie clump or break it into pieces and use it as a topper for your ice cream sundae!

How to Avoid it: Space cookies about 2 inches apart. You should be able to fit a dozen cookies onto a sheet. And remember to let your cookie sheets cool in between batches or your dough will spread.

Why Did My Cookies Burn?


The Mistake: A few things can cause your cookies to burn: using a dark-colored cookie sheet or baking at too high a temperature. And, sometimes it’s just the simplest answer: cookies were baked too long.

How to Fix it: The good news is, you only bake one sheet at a time, so it’s not like your recipe is ruined just because you burned one sheet. The bad news is, burnt cookies belong in the garbage can.

How to Avoid it: Use a shiny, silver-colored aluminum cookie sheet, which will reflect heat. Remember to set a timer when you put your cookies into the oven. It’s also a good idea to use an oven thermometer to check your oven’s temperature. It’s not uncommon for oven temperature gauges to be 25 to 50 degrees off.

Why Did My Cookies Bake Unevenly?


The Mistake: If your tray of cookies bakes up unevenly—with some cookies tough and overdone and others too soft and raw—it’s probably because the cookie dough balls you started with were too varied in size.

How to Fix it: As long as the cookies are not tooth-breakingly hard or raw, you can still enjoy them. You could remove the cookies that are done and return the underbaked cookies to the oven for a few more minutes.

How to Avoid it: Luckily, this is an easy one. Use a spring-loaded cookie scoop or tablespoon measure to portion out cookie dough uniformly. Cookies will get done at the same time, and you won’t wind up with a tray of cookies that’s simultaneously overdone and underdone. Get the scoop on cookie shaping.

Why Did my Cookies Stick to the Sheet?

The Mistake: Cookies stick to the sheet when they’ve been left to cool for too long.

How to Fix it: When this happens, put the cookies back in the oven to soften enough that they release from the pan. This should happen quickly, in 1 to 2 minutes. Once they’ve warmed, remove from the oven to avoid overbaking.

How to Avoid it: Pay as much attention to your cooling process, as you do to your baking process. Most recipes advise leaving cookies on the sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, after being removed from the oven. This allows cookies to set and makes them easier to move. Next, place cookies on a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Now that you know what not to do, learn what to do. With tips from the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens, you’ll be baking perfect homemade cookies in no time.

Meet Carrie!

Carrie Franzen is a consulting recipe developer in the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens with more than 25 years of experience in the food industry. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and a culinary diploma in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Her lengthy experience includes: a pastry chef and baker for several fine dining restaurants in the Midwest, a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts, a manager and instructor for a culinary school in the Twin Cities and she has been published in several cookbooks and magazines. You can count on Carrie to bring goodies to any gathering. From pies to breads to cookies and cakes, Carrie loves to bake!