Tips for Baking in the U.S.

3 minutes

There are tons of baked treats you can enjoy during your time in the USA including cookies, cupcakes, and brownies. Creating your own baked goods is simple if you have the right recipe!

Most American baking recipes have their ingredients listed by volume using the unit "cups" and "spoons" rather than by weight in grams.

You can pick up measuring cups/spoons from most stores that sell other kitchenware.

How do you measure cups?

Generally speaking, you will need a set of measuring cups for dry ingredients such as flour and sugar and a measuring cup for liquid ingredients such as water and milk.

The liquid measuring cup usually looks like this:

These measuring cups typically have markings for both the metric system and the U.S. system of measurements. The chart below is a great resource for converting units between the two systems.

Measuring using a liquid measuring cup is pretty straightforward. Set the cup on a flat surface and pour the liquid in slowly to the desired marking.

If the recipe calls for less than the smallest marking on the measuring cup then you will have to use a measuring teaspoon/tablespoon. 

Measuring ingredients with measuring cups and spoons is also pretty simple. You will need a set of measuring cups/spoons like this:

These can be found on Amazon or at most stores that sell other kitchen items.

Each cup and spoon has a marking on it that indicates how much of a cup or tablespoon it is. For instance a recipe may call for "1/3 cup" of sugar, you would use the cup with the marking "1/3 cup".

Measuring spoons can be used for dry or liquid ingredients.

When a recipe calls for a "packed" ingredient such as brown sugar it means that you will have to fill the specific measuring cup to the brim and pack it down to fit more before leveling off any extra.

One thing to note is that ingredients should always be poured or spooned into a measuring cup. If a measuring cup is used to scoop out an ingredient from the bag it will pack down too densely. This is especially true for ingredients such as flour.


U.S. ovens use the Fahrenheit system for measuring temperature. To convert your favorite recipes in Celsius to Fahrenheit just use this formula: °C  x  9/5 + 32 = °F

Elevation changes 

Depending on where you are in living in the U.S. you may need to adjust your baking temperatures to take elevation into account! If you are baking at high altitudes you may need to make additional adjustments. Here are some helpful tips for high altitude baking.

Uncommon Ingredients

Here is a list of ingredients that may not be as commonly used outside of the U.S. for baking purposes:

Buttermilk is a dairy drink that was traditionally the liquid leftover after churning butter out of cream. If you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk you can either buy this in a store or make an easy home-made substitute. Adding an acid such as lemon juice or white vinegar to regular milk can work as a substitute:

  1. Measure 1-cup of milk (whole milk, or 2%)
  2. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar
  3. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. The milk will curdle and slightly thicken. You can now use this mixture as you would use buttermilk in a recipe.

Baking Powder: Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is commonly used in baking recipes all over the world, however, baking powder may not be as popular. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and a weak acid.

  1. Measure 1-teaspoon of baking soda and 2-teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl.
  2. Mix until thoroughly combined and use right away.
  3. If you're an avid baker you can continue to make homemade treats while you are in the U.S.! Baking is all about having fun and experimenting.
Nabil Yafai Nabil Yafai

A Brooklyn native, Nabil loves traveling, cooking, and riding his bike to the beach. He joined InterExchange in 2014 and currently assists international participants with obtaining J-1 Visa sponsorship as the Admissions Coordinator for Career Training USA.

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