03/20/2012 07:17 pm ET Updated May 20, 2012

For the Love of Baking

By Madison Murphy

I have recently discovered my love for baking. When I tell people this, I get one of two responses, both equally selfish. The first is the, "Oh my gosh, you should totally bake me something" response, in which the speaker attempts to guilt me into wasting my amazing new-found skills on something for them rather than for myself. Let me be honest. If I'm baking, I'm probably not sharing. Get your hands off my chocolate-peanut butter-cookie dough high-calorie, 90 percent sugar brownies.

The second response to my admittance to being infatuated with baking is the, "Oh, you do? I bake, too. I use the KitchenAid Professional 620 Stand Mixer from Williams-Sonoma. It's $1,000. What do you use?" I use a freaking spoon. In this example, the selfish person is not trying to gain sweets from you like the former but, rather, is trying to turn the spotlight onto them. They think they're the superior baker, but, let me tell you, a fancy mixer doesn't make you a good baker, in the same way an expensive set of golf clubs doesn't make you good at golf.

Now you may be asking yourself what does make someone a good baker. There are a few simple ways to succeed without having to be a professional. The tips I offer are far from professional, because I bake to relieve stress and have fun. Regardless, here's a quick list of baking tips from a not-so-professional baker:

1. Ask someone who can bake.

The easiest way to learn how to bake is to ask someone you know who can bake. For me, I always call my mom if I have a question. Another great thing about this is that this person can often be a solid resource for good recipes.

2. Figure out what you want to bake.

I pick what I want to bake based off my mood. I'm not partial to any one thing: cookies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes. I like to try different things, but some people like to pick just one thing and become really good at that. Whatever it is, finding a recipe isn't hard. Just run a quick Google search or browse Pinterest. The only caution I offer is about recipes that lack detail. Make sure there are measurements, oven temperatures and information like that included.

3. Be prepared.

Once you have the recipe, read it. You need to have all the ingredients in the correct amount. The worse thing that can happen is getting half way through a recipe and realizing you don't have the ingredients you need. I buy all of my ingredients cheap. I'm talking about store-brand flour. I don't care. It all tastes the same. The only exception is chocolate, which I firmly believe is only good if it's Hershey's.

4. Don't sweat it.

You're going to screw up, so just accept it now. I've messed up more recipes than I can count. In some cases, they were irreparable. After a taste test of some coconut-hazelnut bars I once made, I threw the whole batch out because they were so awful. In other cases, botched recipes can be saved. A few months ago, I made chocolate frosting that ended up being more like a chocolate glaze. My family ended up loving it. If you make a mistake, try to fix it. If not, go with my motto: It's not you, it's the recipe.

5. Enjoy.

You may not choose to be selfish with your baked goods. In that case, share them with a friend who's having a bad day. Hopefully, you'll get to enjoy a serving or two yourself. After all, you worked hard.

Remember, bake for the love of baking and not to be a snotty professional.