Common baking terms explained

Common baking terms explained

Come across common but confusing vocabulary in your quest for perfect bakes? Read on

The ultimate baking glossary
If you've always wanted to impress everyone with some grand baking, this glossary's got your back Image Credit: Shutterstock

Whether you're just wading into the baking world or have been baking like a pro, you've probably come across recipes with jargon you just don't get. What's the difference between glucose syrup and golden syrup? And what exatly is gluten? Is vanilla paste the same as vanilla extract? This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the complex world of baking. 

ALMONDS: Blanched brown skins removed from the kernel. Meal also called ground; almonds are powdered to a flour-like texture, slivered means small pieces cut lengthways.

BAKING PAPER: Also called parchment or baking parchment; a silcone-coated paper that is primarily used for lining baking pans so that cooked food doesn’t stick.

Baking paper
Baking paper Image Credit: Pixabay


Baking soda
Baking soda Image Credit: Shutterstock

BAKE BLIND: A cooking term to describe baking a pie shell or pastry case before filling is added. If a filling does not need to be baked or is very wet, it may be necessary to 'blind bake' the shell. To bake blind, ease the pastry into a pan or dish, place on an oven tray; line the pastry with baking paper then fill with dried beans, uncooked rice or 'commercial baking beans'. Bake according to the recipe’s directions then cool before adding filling.

Blind baking
Blind baking Image Credit: Shutterstock

BREADCRUMBS: Stale day-old bread made into crumbs by blending or processing.

BUTTER: Use salted or unsalted (sweet) butter; 125g (4 ounces) is equal to one stick of butter.

CACHOUS: Also called dragées in some countries; minuscule metallic-looking-but-edible confectionery balls used in cake decorating; available in silver, gold or various colours.

Cachous Image Credit: Shutterstock

CASHEWS: Plump, kidney-shaped, golden-brown nuts having a distinctive sweet, buttery flavour and containing about 48 per cent fat.


Cream also known as Philly or Philadelphia; a soft cow-milk cheese.

Mascarpone an Italian fresh cultured-cream product made in much the same way as yoghurt. Whiteish to creamy yellow in colour, with a buttery-rich, luscious texture.

Mascarpone Image Credit: Shutterstock

CHOCOLATE: Dark (semi-sweet) also known as luxury chocolate; made of a high percentage of cocoa liquor and cocoa butter, and little added sugar.

Melts - small discs of compounded milk, white or dark chocolate ideal for melting and moulding.

White - contains no cocoa solids but derives its sweet flavour from cocoa butter. It is very sensitive to heat.

CINNAMON: Available both in the piece (called sticks or quills) and ground into powder; one of the world’s most common spices.

CLOVES: Dried flower buds of a tropical tree; can be used whole or ground; has a strong scent and taste, so use sparingly.

COCOA POWDER: Also used as unsweetened chocolate.

COCONUT, DESICCATED: Concentrated, dried, unsweetened and finely shredded coconut flesh

Desiccated coconut
Desiccated coconut Image Credit: Shutterstock

CORN FLAKES: Commercially manufactured cereal made of dehydrated then baked crisp flakes of corn. Also available is a prepared finely ground mixture used for coating or crumbing food before frying or baking, sold as 'crushed corn flakes' in 300gm packages in most supermarkets.

CORNFLOUR: Also known as corn starch.

Cornflour Image Credit: Shutterstock

CRANBERRIES: Available dried and frozen; they have a rich, astringent flavour and can be used in cooking sweet and savoury dishes. The dried version can usually be substituted for or with other dried fruit.

Cranberries Image Credit: Shutterstock

CREAM: Pure or fresh cream.

Cream Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sour cream: A thick cultured soured cream with a minimum fat content of 35 per cent.

Sour cream
Sour cream Image Credit: Shutterstock

Thickened cream (heavy): A whipping cream that contains a thickener. It has a minimum fat content of 35 per cent.

Whipping cream
Whipping cream Image Credit: Shutterstock

CREAM OF TARTAR: The acid ingredient in baking powder.

Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar Image Credit: Shutterstock

CURRANTS, DRIED: Tiny, almost black raisins; not the same as fresh currants.

DAIRY-FREE SPREAD: Made from vegetable oils; dairy-free substitute for butter.

Dairy-free spread
Dairy-free spread Image Credit: Shutterstock

DATES: Fruit of the date palm tree, eaten fresh or dried, on their own or in prepared dishes. About 4cm to 6cm in length, oval and plump, with a honey-sweet flavour and sticky texture.

EGGS: For raw or barely cooked eggs, exercise caution if there is a salmonella problem or you are pregnant.

ESSENCE/EXTRACT: An essence is either a distilled concentration of a food or an artificial creation of it. Coconut and almond essences are synthetically produced substances used in small amounts to impart their respective flavours to foods. An extract is made by actually extracting the flavour from a food product. In the case of vanilla, pods are soaked, usually in alcohol, to capture the authentic flavour.


Bread - has a higher amount of protein than all-purpose flour so produces more gluten ideal for bread-making; gives a chewier result. Protein essentially adds strength to dough and helps loaves to rise.

Plain - a general all-purpose flour made from wheat.

Rice - very fine, almost powdery, gluten-free flour; made from ground white rice.

Self-raising - plain all-purpose flour sifted with baking powder in the proportion of 1 cup flour to 2 teaspoons baking powder.

GELATIN: Dried (powdered) gelatin; it’s also available in sheet form known as leaf gelatin. Three teaspoons of dried gelatin (8g or one sachet) is about the same as four gelatin leaves.



Fresh - also known as green or root ginger; the thick gnarled root of a tropical plant.

Glacé - fresh ginger root preserved in sugar syrup; crystallised ginger can be used if rinsed with warm water and dried before using.

Ground - also known as powdered ginger; used in puddings and cakes; cannot be substituted for fresh.

Powdered ginger
Powdered ginger Image Credit: Shutterstock

GLACÉ CHERRIES: Also called candied cherries; boiled in a heavy sugar syrup and then dried.

Glacé Cherries
Glacé Cherries Image Credit: Shutterstock

GLACÉ FRUIT: Fruits that have been preserved in sugar syrup.

Glacé fruit
Glacé fruit Image Credit: Shutterstock

GLUCOSE SYRUP: Also known as liquid glucose, made from wheat starch. Available at most supermarkets.

Glucose syrup
Glucose syrup Image Credit: Shutterstock

GLUTEN: It is a combination of two proteins found in wheat (including spelt), rye, barley and oats. When liquid is added to the flour, these two proteins bind to become gluten. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape; it also gives the final product a chewy texture.

GOLDEN SYRUP: A by-product of refined sugarcane; pure maple syrup or honey can be substituted.

Golden syrup
Golden syrup Image Credit: Shutterstock

GREASING/OILING PANS: Use butter (sweet baking), oil or cooking-oil spray (savoury baking) to grease baking pans. Use paper towel or a pastry brush to spread the oil or butter over the pan.

JAM: Also known as preserve or conserve.

JELLY CRYSTALS: A combination of sugar, gelatin, colours and flavours; when dissolved in water the solutions sets as firm jelly.

MACADAMIAS: Native to Australia; fairly large, slightly soft buttery rich nut. Used to make oil and macadamia butter.

Macadamias Image Credit: Shutterstock

MAPLE SYRUP: Distilled from the sap of maple trees. Maple-flavoured syrup or pancake syrup is not a substitute for the real thing.

MARMALADE: A preserve, usually based on citrus (most commonly orange) and its rind.

Marmalade Image Credit: Shutterstock

MARZIPAN: A paste made from ground almonds, sugar and water; sweeter and more pliable than almond paste. Easily rolled into thin sheets to cover cakes.

Marzipan Image Credit: Shutterstock

MILK: Full cream and homogenised.

Buttermilk - originally the term given to the slightly sour liquid left after butter was churned from cream; today it is made similarly to yoghurt. Despite the implication of its name, it is low in fat.

MIXED DRIED FRUIT: Made from a combination of sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel and cherries.

MIXED PEEL: Candied citrus peels

MIXED SPICE: A classic mixture generally containing caraway, allspice, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and ginger, although cinnamon and other spices can also be added.

NUTMEG: A strong and pungent spice ground from the dried nut of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Usually found ground but the flavour is more intense from a whole nut, available from spice shops, so it’s best to grate your own.

Nutmeg Image Credit: Shutterstock

OIL, VEGETABLE: Any of a number of oils from plant rather than animal fats.

PECANS: Native to the US and now grown locally; pecans are golden brown, buttery and rich. Good in savoury as well as sweet dishes; walnuts are a good substitute.

Pecans Image Credit: Shutterstock

POMEGRANATE: Dark-red, leathery, skinned fruit about the size of an orange, filled with hundreds of seeds, each wrapped in an edible pulp with a unique tangy, sweet-sour flavour.

PRUNES: Commercially or sun-dried plums; store in the fridge.

Prunes Image Credit: Shutterstock

RAISINS: Dried sweet grapes (traditionally Muscatel grapes).

READY-MADE WHITE ICING: Also known as soft icing, ready-to-roll and prepared fondant.

ROASTING: Nuts and dried coconut can be roasted in the oven to restore their fresh flavour and release their aromatic essential oils. Spread them evenly onto an oven tray then roast in a moderate oven for about 5 minutes. Desiccated coconut, pine nuts and sesame seeds roast more evenly if stirred over low heat in a heavy-base frying pan; their natural oils will help turn them golden brown.


Brown - a soft, finely granulated sugar retaining molasses for colour and flavour.

Caster - also known as superfine or finely granulated table sugar.

Demerara - small-grained golden-coloured crystal sugar.

Icing also called confectioners’ sugar; has a small amount of cornflour added.

Pure icing - also known as confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar

Raw - natural, brown granulated sugar

White - also known as crystal or granulated table sugar

SULATANAS: Dried grapes also known as golden raisins

Sultanas Image Credit: Shutterstock

TREACLE: Thick, dark syrup not unlike molasses; a by-product of sugar refining

Treacle Image Credit: Shutterstock

VANILLA: Bean dried - long, thin pod from a tropical orchid; the tiny black seeds inside the bean are used to impart a luscious vanilla flavour in baking and desserts.

Vanilla bean
Vanilla bean Image Credit: Shutterstock

Vanilla extract - made by extracting the flavour from the vanilla bean pod; the pods are soaked, usually in alcohol, to capture the authentic flavour.

Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract Image Credit: Shutterstock

Vanilla Paste - made from vanilla pods and contains real seeds. Is highly concentrated – 1tsp replaces a whole vanilla pod. Found in most supermarkets in the baking section.

Vanilla paste
Vanilla paste Image Credit: Shutterstock

VINEGAR, WHITE - made from distilled fermented grain.

WALNUTS - as well as being a good source of fibre and healthy oils, nuts contain a range of vitamins, minerals ad other beneficial plant components called phytochemicals. Each type of nut has a special make-up and walnuts contain the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

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