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12 Baking Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Christmas Cookies

Don't let a simple slip-up derail your holiday baking plans. With our help, you can easily avoid a dozen common baking mistakes.

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Mixing butter and sugar in bowl with mixing machineShutterstock / Chalermsak

Mistake #1: Not thoroughly creaming the butter and sugar

Creaming together the butter and sugar is a crucial first step when making cookies. Though it sometimes takes a while to achieve that smooth and fluffy batter, it must be done so the resulting cookies are light and lofty rather than flat and dense. Practice your technique with our best cookie recipes of all time.

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Close-up view of raw chicken eggs in egg box on white wooden backgroundLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Mistake #2: Not using room temperature ingredients

When a recipe calls for room temperature butter or eggs, it’s important to follow that direction. You’ll find it much easier to cream softened butter, and eggs that aren’t so cold will incorporate into the batter more readily.

Here’s a trick to soften butter quickly.

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metal measure cup of white flour for bakingShutterstock / farbled

Mistake #3: Measuring ingredients incorrectly

Many a batch of cookies has failed because the flour was measured incorrectly. Too little flour will give you flat discs and too much flour will produce tough pucks. Take your time and weigh out the flour like baking pros do.

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Mixing paste inside bowlShutterstock / leungchopan

Mistake #4: Not scraping the bowl

Doing a thorough job of mixing the cookie dough is essential. Leaving bits of unincorporated butter or flour on the sides of the mixing bowl will affect the consistency of the final product, so be sure to scrape the bowl at least once before putting away your mixer.

Is your hand mixer really clean?

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Preparing sugar cookie dough for holiday baking season.Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

Mistake #5: Not chilling the dough

Some recipes specifically call for chilling cookie dough before baking, anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day. You don’t want to put too-soft dough into the oven, as it will spread quickly and aggressively. If your dough seems extra sticky, chill it for a little while before proceeding.

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Close up on rows of chocolate chip cookie dough balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheetShutterstock / VDB Photos

Mistake #6: Not lining the cookie sheet

Most cookies have the potential to stick to the pan like glue, even if it’s nonstick. Be sure to line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat if you want to be able to remove your cookies in one piece.

Don’t have a Silpat? Find one here.

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Baking tray with burnt gingerbread cookiesShutterstock / A. Aleksandravicius

Mistake #7: Overbaking

It’s so easy to overbake cookies, especially since they continue to cook even after they’re removed from the oven. Follow your recipe’s instructions, always erring on the side of taking them out too early rather than too late. This is especially important for treats that are supposed to be chewy, like sugar cookies.

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Baking cookies with plums/fruits and prunes on the baking sheet.Shutterstock / Inna Gritsinova

Mistake #8: Overcrowding the pan

Though there are some exceptions, most cookies spread as they bake—and some spread a lot! Place the balls of dough a reasonable distance apart on the cookie sheet; it’s better to have to bake an extra tray than to end up with a giant blob of cookie.

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Old oven thermometer in the kitchen at homeShutterstock / Niradj

Mistake #9: Using the wrong oven temperature

Even though your oven readout says a particular temperature, there’s a very good chance that the actual reading is different. Go ahead and invest in a small oven thermometer (like this one) so you know your oven is at the right temperature to bake unburnt cookies. Also, remember to put your pans on this oven rack position.

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Pan of raspberry thumbprint cookies sitting on baking sheet being placed in oven to bakeShutterstock / Teri Virbickis

Mistake #10: Not rotating the pans

Ovens also tend to heat unevenly, so your best bet at achieving cookies that are uniformly baked is to rotate those cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. Yes, you’ll let some heat out of the oven, but it will be worth it. Be sure to check out these tips to make sure your oven is in tip-top shape.

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Cookies on a cooling rack over a marble tableShutterstock / Ramon L. Farinos

Mistake #11: Skipping the cooling rack

Because cookies continue to bake on the still oven-hot cookie sheets, don’t dilly-dally in removing them to a cooling rack as soon as you can safely scoop them off. A perfectly baked cookie can quickly morph into an over-baked cookie as it cools on the tray.

Don’t have enough space on your cooling rack? Try this trick.

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baking soft chocolate chip cookies in oven.Shutterstock / chaechaebyv

Mistake #12: Using a warm cookie sheet

For the impatient among us, it can be very tempting to place balls of cookie dough on a cookie sheet that’s still warm from the last batch. Don’t do it! This will affect the baking process, melting the butter and resulting in flat and not-so-lovely cookies.

Here’s more advice from a cookie-baking expert.

Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.