21 Essential Baking Recipes Every 20-Something Should Learn

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bryan Gardner

Baking is a science. It's crucial to follow a recipe closely when whipping meringue, forming chocolate chip cookies, or building a layer cake. If you're a new baker or just want to get back to basics, these essential recipes are the ones you want to spend some time perfecting.

Let's start with the ultimate in basic baking recipes: the Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies pictured here. Some recipes promise a thin and crispy texture or extra-cakey chocolate chip cookie, but this version offers the perfect balance of both. When prepping your ingredients, make sure to use room temperature butter and eggs, which will help them to incorporate more evenly into the cookie dough. Another classic cookie recipe is Snickerdoodles, the cinnamon-sugar duo that's a guaranteed winner in this sweet, spiced, and everything nice treat.

Of course, there are a couple of classic pie recipes that everyone should master. Our Old-Fashioned Apple Pie is standard, but absolutely spectacular. A combination of spices and the zest and juice of a lemon build all the flavors of fall in the filling. Another autumnal classic is our Perfect Pumpkin Pie, which has the creamy texture everyone at your Thanksgiving table will love. Achieve the perfect crimped edge, crispy bottom, and golden brown crust with our versatile pâte brisée recipe.

From perfect sugar cookies to all-star chewy brownies to Classic New York-Style Cheesecake, become a master baker with these essential baked good recipes.

01 of 20

Pound Cake

pound cake

Early iterations of pound cake were made with exactly what the name suggests—one pound each of sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. Nowadays, recipes like this one are a bit more sophisticated, but just as simple and pleasing as ever.

02 of 20

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Armando Rafael

If you're a fan of soft, chewy, and completely decadent chocolate chip cookies, you need to commit this recipe to memory. These buttery cookies, which use a combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar for moistness, have a sweet surprise hiding on the inside—each cookie is stuffed with an individual caramel.

03 of 20

Test Kitchen's Favorite Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread

banana chocolate chip bread
Marcus Nilsson

The secret to perfect banana bread? Freezing chopped bananas, then thawing and mashing before mixing them into the batter. This technique adds extra moistness and sweet banana flavor to an all-time favorite quick bread.

04 of 20

Vanilla Sheet Cake with Chocolate-Ganache Buttercream

vanilla cake ganache frosting in pan
Alpha Smoot

This is one of the easiest and most crowd-pleasing desserts that you can bake. The yellow cake batter gets a double dose of vanilla from both the bean and extract. Plus, spreading the easy chocolate frosting on a sheet cake is much easier than frosting a layer cake.

05 of 20

Classic New York-Style Cheesecake

New York Style Cheesecake
Bryan Gardner

Learn how to master rich and silky cheesecake with this all-time favorite recipe. From the simple graham cracker crust to the luscious cream cheese-and-sour-cream filling, it's a dessert that's sure to impress.

06 of 20

Old-Fashioned Apple Pie


Keep this apple pie recipe in your back pocket for days spent at the orchard or fall holidays. This recipe calls for using exclusively tart Granny Smith apples, but feel free to mix it up with whatever kind you've picked.

07 of 20

Vegan Chocolate Cake

mandy vegan chocolate cake
Bryan Gardner

We've said it before and we'll say it again—dairy-free is so delicious. In this vegan version of classic chocolate layer cake, neutral vegetable oil helps to keep the cake super moist and instant espresso powder enhances the chocolate flavor.

08 of 20

Perfect Citrus Bars

Lemon bars

Make sweet and tangy lemon bars every time with our readers' go-to recipe. The crust is made with a combination of all-purpose flour, wheat germ, confectioners' sugar, and butter, which work together to create a crispy, textured crisp.

09 of 20

Milk-Chocolate Pudding Pie

milk-chocolate pudding pie
Kate Mathis

This chocolate pie is a particularly easy recipe for beginners because the press-in crust is made with just three ingredients—vanilla wafer cookies, granulated sugar, and butter. That's right: No rolling required!

10 of 20

Chewy Brownies


Our favorite brownie recipe is easy and tastes so much better than the boxed mix. A few tablespoons of coconut oil in the batter gives these treats a shiny, crackled top and super fudgy interior.

11 of 20

Angel Food Cake


This light and airy cake gets its heavenly texture from 12 egg whites and cake flour. Serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, powdered sugar, and macerated berries.

12 of 20

Perfect Sugar Cookies

Perfect Sugar Cookies assortment of three
Lennart Weinbull

Use our all-star recipe to make these classic cookies. They're the perfect combination of crispy, chewy, soft, and sweet. Best of all, they're made with just a handful of basic ingredients, so you can whip up a few dozen whenever a craving strikes.

13 of 20

Better-Than-Basic Muffins


Can't decide between baking blueberry or chocolate chip muffins? With this all-purpose muffin recipe, you don't have to. Divide the batter into separate bowls and mix in chocolate chips, cherry and pecans, raisins, blueberries, or whatever your heart desires.

14 of 20

Carrot Cake

Easy Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake
Kenji Toma

The ultimate springtime dessert, this moist, spiced cake is made with an entire pound of shredded carrots, which add subtle orange color, plenty of moistness, and a bit of texture. And what would carrot cake be without cream cheese frosting? We have a recipe for that, too.

15 of 20

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake


Start your morning off on a sweet note with this beloved breakfast treat. Sour cream gives the cake its signature rich, moist flavor and a double dose of streusel—swirled into the cake and sprinkled on top—guarantee a good morning.

16 of 20



Soft and chewy with the perfect coating of cinnamon sugar, these cookies are an absolute classic. A combination of vegetable shortening and butter creates the signature texture without compromising on flavor.

17 of 20

Lemon Cake

lemon cake
Julia Hartbeck

Everyone should have a light, bright, and zesty lemon cake recipe on hand for easy entertaining. There's fabulous lemon flavor in this delightful cake, thanks to more than a quarter cup of fresh lemon juice and a tablespoon of lemon zest.

18 of 20

Pear Crisp

pear crisp
Bryan Gardner

A crisp can be filled with nearly any fruit that is in season, but we particularly love using sweet, firm pears. The topping, which distinguishes this dessert from cobblers or buckles, is made with rolled oats, light brown sugar, sliced almonds, flour, and butter.

19 of 20

Perfect Pumpkin Pie


We're teaching you how to make Thanksgiving's MVP—pumpkin pie—using pure pumpkin purée (no mix here!). The creamy, spiced filling is poured into our best pâte brisée crust, which can be made in advance to cut down on prep work on Thanksgiving day.

20 of 20

Flourless Chocolate Cake

flourless chocolate cake
William Meppem

Who doesn't love a decadent chocolate dessert that also happens to be gluten-free? Made with four-ingredient, flourless chocolate cake is rich, romantic, and super easy to prepare. Be sure to use very good quality chocolate, such as Valrhona, for ultra-luxurious flavor.

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