# How do I reduce baking recipes to a single serving recipe?

As a single person, I am looking for single serving dessert recipes, a mini cake or pie, a couple of cookies or brownies. I have found a number of recipes on the internet, but was hoping someone could tell me formula ratios for reducing the ingredients, as well as the baking times. Thanks.

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sonya August 10, 2015
@ Nancy, Thank-you!!!!!!!!!!! I will try with one beater - I never thought of that! Truth me told it didn't even occur to me to use my hand beater for many many years, either! I appreciate your advice :)

sonya August 10, 2015
PS I just realized that I only talked about baking (so typical :) but I also routinely divide savory recipes by two, four, or even eight. They almost always turn out fine. If you're reducing a sauce, you'll have to watch it like a hawk if you're cooking with a small amount, and probably turn down the heat a bit, and go more with how the food looks than the cooking times in the recipe, but I mostly use America's Test Kitchen recipes which tell you exactly how the food should look before you move on to the next step, so that's not a problem. Pan sizes are important to be appropriate to the recipe so that your food isn't too spread out or too crammed in, so if the recipe calls for a 12" skillet, and I divide it by two, I'll use a 10" skillet. If I divide the recipe by four, I'll use an 8" skillet. For whipping cream or egg whites or anything that just looks too tiny in your kitchenaid mixer bowl, I've found that a simple hand beater (I have the kitchenaid 3-setting one) inside of a 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup beats tiny amounts PERFECTLY. Another random thing is that I use the Oxo cooking scale and will routinely divide an egg by two for a recipe - lol. A large egg weighs about 1.75 ounces so divided by two is 7/8 ounce. I even have a cheat sheet of 1/2 yolk and 1/2 white in my kitchen 'cause sometimes I just need the white or egg. You can find all sorts of weight measurements here (including egg/white/yolk) if you get into that type of baking: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html

Baking times are almost always much quicker, but once in a while something will turn out to take nearly as long as the original size recipe! Just in general, I start checking it after half the time written in the recipe (actually I rotate my pans about 25% of the way into the recipe). You always want to take things out based on the baking cues of doneness and not the time of the recipe, anyway, so that's generally not a problem. I do hate recipes that don't tell you anything but the time, though, because it really means nothing, since everyone's ovens are a little different and even just ingredients or pans will change baking times. If you're unsure of what those cues are, contact the cookbook author (I've done that with great success) or blogger before you start cooking :) King Arthur Flour has a wonderful baking hotline that you can call daily during normal hours and I know they'd help you with any baking question, even if it is not for one of their recipes.

Again let me know if you have any specific questions 'cause I'm just sort of trying to hit all of the general things I've learned. I LOVE to make smaller servings for my husband and I :) Not all that different from single servings 'cause everyone needs a little leftovers especially if it turned out fabulous!

sonya August 10, 2015
PS I just realized that I only talked about baking (so typical :) but I also routinely divide savory recipes by two, four, or even eight. They almost always turn out fine. If you're reducing a sauce, you'll have to watch it like a hawk if you're cooking with a small amount, and probably turn down the heat a bit, and go more with how the food looks than the cooking times in the recipe, but I mostly use America's Test Kitchen recipes which tell you exactly how the food should look before you move on to the next step, so that's not a problem. Pan sizes are important to be appropriate to the recipe so that your food isn't too spread out or too crammed in, so if the recipe calls for a 12" skillet, and I divide it by two, I'll use a 10" skillet. If I divide the recipe by four, I'll use an 8" skillet. For whipping cream or egg whites or anything that just looks too tiny in your kitchenaid mixer bowl, I've found that a simple hand beater (I have the kitchenaid 3-setting one) inside of a 2-cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup beats tiny amounts PERFECTLY. Another random thing is that I use the Oxo cooking scale and will routinely divide an egg by two for a recipe - lol. A large egg weighs about 1.75 ounces so divided by two is 7/8 ounce. I even have a cheat sheet of 1/2 yolk and 1/2 white in my kitchen 'cause sometimes I just need the white or egg. You can find all sorts of weight measurements here (including egg/white/yolk) if you get into that type of baking: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html

Baking times are almost always much quicker, but once in a while something will turn out to take nearly as long as the original size recipe! Just in general, I start checking it after half the time written in the recipe (actually I rotate my pans about 25% of the way into the recipe). You always want to take things out based on the baking cues of doneness and not the time of the recipe, anyway, so that's generally not a problem. I do hate recipes that don't tell you anything but the time, though, because it really means nothing, since everyone's ovens are a little different and even just ingredients or pans will change baking times. If you're unsure of what those cues are, contact the cookbook author (I've done that with great success) or blogger before you start cooking :) King Arthur Flour has a wonderful baking hotline that you can call daily during normal hours and I know they'd help you with any baking question, even if it is not for one of their recipes.

Again let me know if you have any specific questions 'cause I'm just sort of trying to hit all of the general things I've learned. I LOVE to make smaller servings for my husband and I :) Not all that different from single servings 'cause everyone needs a little leftovers especially if it turned out fabulous!

Nancy August 10, 2015
Sonya - among your many suggestions is beating tiny amounts of egg white or heavy cream using a hand mixer & a 2 cup glass measure. I've done that often and had great results.
Further refinements:
a) if the amount or the container is very small, you can whip using only one ONE whip from a two-whip hand mixer.
b) I find even better results with a mini stainless steel bowl, rather than glass.
c) For whipping cream, chill the bowl and metal whip before using.

sonya August 10, 2015
I learned so many great ideas from the Cooking for Two series, which might be at your library, if you want to get lots of ideas. I am really into baking and really into smaller quantities, so I am excited to see your question, albeit a month later :)

First thing I focused on was getting my mini baking pans, most of which I found on Amazon. For cake pans, I have two 6" round Fat Daddio pans from amazon, and I divide any 9-inch single-layer cake recipe by two. Divide any 9-inch double-layer cake by two to make a 6-inch layer cake (also perfect for small family gatherings), or divide by four and make one 6-inch single layer cake. For quiches I have a 6-inch quiche pan (Fantes) and divide recipes by 3; if it is more convenient math-wise you could get a 7-inch pan and divide recipes by 2. For cheesecakes, I have a mini springform pan (Nordic Ware 4-cup Springform Pan) and also two 4.5 inch springforms (Kaiser). I divide any recipe by three, and that will fill either my 4-cup pan or both 4.5-inch pans. I haven't been able to find something more convenient where I can just divide the recipe by two. I also use a 6-cup mini bundt pan (NordicWare) and a 7.5" mini tube pan (Bundy); both of those are really easy because you just divide any recipe by two. The only mini pan I have that seems to be discontinued is the Marinex 6-inch pie pan, and I can't find a replacement that would hold the same volume (to easily divide pie recipes by two). I also bought the Emile Henry "Individual Pie Dish, 8 ounce" and have actually divided pie recipes by four, many many times! I bought two of them, so sometimes I just divide the original recipe by two and make two mini pies. They are adorable :)

Mini loaf pans are great for baking any quick bread recipe is; just divide by two and make two mini loaves instead of a 9x5 or 8.5 x 4.5 pan.

As far as making the actual recipes, I hope that I can help you simply by saying that I've probably baked over 1,000 dessert and quick bread recipes miniaturized, and very rarely have a problem with them! So go forward in confidence!

A few more things that I hope will be helpful.... some good mini measuring spoons are really helpful. I have the Progressive GT-3520 International 19-Piece Measuring Cup and Spoon Set which actually goes down to 1/32 tsp, and I use that one rather often. I really like the Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons Set and Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set, Odd Sizes, and use both of them all the time; they go as small as 1/16 tsp.

I also found it helpful to make myself a cheat sheet about 5 years ago when I started this, which I have taped inside my kitchen cupboard. Once I make a recipe, I write down the measurements to divide it by 2 or 4, right into the cookbook, for next time: This will look a little wonky because it's an excel file, but you get the general idea:

My Cups & Spoons Original Measurement / 2 / 3 / 4
2 cups 480 ml 6 cups 2c & 1c 2c 1 1/2c
1 3/4 cup 420 ml 5 cups 2c & 1/2c 1c & 2/3c 1c & 1/4c
1 1/2 cup 360 ml 4 cups 2c 1c & 1/3c 1c
1 cup 240 ml 3 cups 1 1/2c 1c 3/4c
3/4 cup 180 ml 2 cups 1c 2/3c 1/2c
2/3 cup 160 ml 1 cup (or 4 eggs) 1/2c 1/3c 1/4c
1/2 cup 120 ml 3/4 cup (or 3 eggs) 1/4c & 1/8c 1/4c 1/8c & 1T
1/3 cup 80 ml 2/3 cup 1/3c 1/8c & 1T & 1/2T & 1/8t & 1/32t 1/8c & 2t
1/4 cup 60 ml 1/2 cup (or 2 eggs) 1/4c 1/8 c & 2 t 1/8c
1/8 c 30 ml 1/3 cup 1/8c & 2t 1T & 1/2T & 1/2t & 1/4t & 1/16t 1T & 1t
1T 15 ml 1/4 cup (or 1 egg) 1/8c 1T & 1t 1T
1/2 T 7.5 ml 2 T (= 1/8 c) 1T 2t 1/2T
2 t 10 ml 1 T 1/2T 1t 1/2t & 1/4t
1 t 5 ml 1/2 T 1/2t & 1/4t 1/2t 1/4t & 1/8t
1/2 t 2.5 ml 2 t 1t 1/2t & 1/8t & 1/32t 1/2t
1/4 t 1.25 ml 1 t 1/2t 1/4t & 1/16t 1/4t
1/8 t ("dash") 0.625 ml 1/2 t 1/4t 1/8t & 1/32t 1/8t
1/16 t ("pinch") 0.3125 ml 1/4 t 1/8t 1/16t & 1/32t 1/16t
1/32 t ("smidgen") 0.15625 ml

That's all I can think of for now, but let me know if you have any other questions!

Sam1148 July 14, 2015
Oh...geeze. I just thought something.
An EZ Bake Oven.
It's right out of the box a solution to the problem.

and here's a site dedicated to recipes:
http://eborecipes.com/

Maybe you could ebay the little pans etc and do it in your oven/toaster oven.

Sam1148 July 14, 2015
A good appliance to have is a mini prep.

I use mine all the time. I for bread and pizza I go with: 1 cup flour, salt, sugar, yeast (about 1/2 tsp each). And drizzle in water until it balls up.

For pie crust 1 cup flour and 1 stick of butter cut up...salt and sugar. Then drizzle in cold water until it forms 'cornmeal'..and finish up by hand.

klrcon July 14, 2015
You can totally bake in small pans in the toaster oven. I do it all the time in the summer as I don't have AC and I shut my oven down in June and don't reopen until September. It will take some experimentation but if you have a convection function on yours, I find that helps a lot as toaster ovens are not necessarily the most even-heating ovens around. Good luck.

Jean P. July 14, 2015
Also, I have a number of the mini baking pans, such as the ones Wilton sells. I was hoping that Wilton would have some recipes, but they don't. I am also hoping when the weather cools off that I can try using those mini pans, in my toaster oven, so as to not have to light the big oven. Once again, thanks for your advice.

Jean P. July 14, 2015
Thanks for all the advice. I do need to check on the mug recipes, as its too hot right now to use the oven. I am trying to avoid making whole recipes or batches of dough for 2 reasons. The first is that I live in an apartment, and have a very small freezer. The second is that I just don't want all that hanging around. I will check out that cookbook though, the ratios are my biggest problem. I know you can divide eggs, but other ingredients, like baking powder, are tricky. Thanks again for your help.

PieceOfLayerCake July 14, 2015
Leavening is the only thing I ever have trouble scaling down...however, I took to writing everything down when I cook/bake, especially the first few times I make something. If you work in weight measurements, you should have no problem just slashing the yields. If you do feel like there's too much action from the leavener, just reduce it a little next time. I don't know about you, but the experimentation part of cooking can be quite fun. Especially since not all recipes are tested or foolproof, anyway.

Nancy July 13, 2015
In addition to all the good advice so far, I have found that many baked goods (not just cookies or cookie dough) can be frozen, either baked or raw, for later use...either thaw and warm, or bake from freezer. Yeast-based cakes and sweet breads are good for this, as are quick breads like carrot cake.
Many recipes will also have "make to this point and freeze" directions, which are helpful. Once you find a few of these, you can apply the same directions to similar recipes.
Another good approach is the recent fad in "cake in a mug" or "cake in a jar" recipes, popular among families of army personnel, college students and those who have only a microwave oven.. You can use packaged mixes as a base, adding good ingredients and garnishes to taste, or mix from scratch. Bake in either a microwave or a conventional oven.

klrcon July 13, 2015
I have this problem too but with a little experimentation I find I can usually come up with something. For cookies, I'll often do a half-batch and then freeze the dough and only take out two or three at a time and bake them off fresh. Or I'll do slice and bake cookies and just slice off what I want when I want it. For cakes I'll often bake in muffin tins and then freeze the left-overs or if I can't figure out how to make the timing work I'll do the whole cake and then freeze slices of it.
One thing that has helped me a fair bit is Michael Ruhlman's book on cooking ratios, I think it's called "Ratio" but it's been a while. It gives basic ratios for lots of different kinds of basic recipes and then you can scale them up or down as you see fit. This has helped me come up with lots of small batch recipes for things like pancakes and cookies of my own design and understanding the underlying ratios has helped me adapt lots of other people's recipes as well. So you might want to check that out.
Good luck!

PieceOfLayerCake July 13, 2015
If you use metric recipes, you would simply have to divide the amounts. That's my suggestion. Get a cheap kitchen scale and use weight measurements. I have a recipe on my page for a simple French pound cake that you could literally make, by hand, with one egg. You could make it chocolate, add fruit, zest, spice, etc. Top it with whipped cream (a single serving is a cinch to beat up by hand), and you have dessert.

Baking times would completely depend on your baking vessel and its depth/volume. When in doubt, just use a 350F baking temp and check on it often.

Monita July 13, 2015
Mostly what you need to do to reduce a recipe is make sure that you reduce all the ingredients by the same amount. For example, if you want to half the recipe; then each ingredient is reduced by half. Sometimes this is tricky when eggs are involved. So if a recipe calls for just one egg it's difficult to half that kind of recipe. Or if it's an odd # of eggs. Sometimes you can use just a yolk but it will depend on the recipe. If you have a kitchen scale then you can weigh the ingredients and cut them by half, 1/4 or a different amount. Most cookie and cupcake recipes can be easily cut down. You can cut down some cake recipes too. One thing you could do is make a full cake recipe but bake them in smaller loaf pans and freeze the cakes (certain kinds). You can do the same with cupcakes or muffins.

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