Fortunately, you can replace these mistakes with safer, natural options for your baking.
Many pans, baking sheets, and cupcake trays on the market are coated with the nonstick chemical Teflon. This type of chemical has been linked to thyroid disease, ADHD, male infertility, and high cholesterol. Scientists have even linked it to rheumatoid arthritis. While it’s not economical to throw out all of your nonstick kitchen supplies, we recommend replacing them with safer alternatives when you start to see nicks and scratches in the finish. Chefs like using uncoated aluminum baking sheets, pans, and trays because aluminum is prized for its even heat distribution. Acid foods can cause metal leaching, so it’s best to be extra safe and cover the sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Some good alternatives: cast iron, stainless steel, stoneware, enamel-covered cast iron, and glass (Rodale’s offers tons of safe bakeware).
To prevent sticking, bypass nonstick bakeware and use an old-fashioned trick: Before pouring in the batter or dough, dip your clean fingers in organic butter and evenly rub over the tray’s surface—the warmth of your fingers will soften the butter.
We all love a little color, especially during the winter holidays. But if you’re coloring frosting or using sprinkles or other culinary decorations, be sure your food dyes are not synthetic. (Many harmful synthetic food colors are banned in Europe.) Artificial colors are in many baking and decorating products, and the petrochemical-derived colors have been linked to brain cancer, allergic reactions, and ADHD.
To know your colors are safe, turn to Mother Nature’s ingredients to give your baked goods some holiday hue: Nature’s Flavors offers certified-organic flavors, extracts, syrups, and food coloring. India Tree’s Nature’s Colors line features vegetable-based food dyes and sprinkles. You can add color to plain frostings and sugar by mixing them with a few drops of natural food coloring in a bowl. Use them immediately, or in the case of the sugar, spread it out, allow it to dry, and then put it in an airtight container.
When it comes to cupcakes, you don’t really need baking cup liners at all, but if you still prefer to use them, opt out of dyed, bleached versions that put carcinogenic dioxins into the environment, and go with the earthy unbleached baking cups, such as the ones from If You Care. All If You Care paper products are Forest Stewardship Council-approved, which means they come from forests that are protected from overharvesting. The company’s cupcake liners are also compostable.
Instead of baking in throwaway aluminum baking pans or dangerous nonstick bakeware, why not get creative? You can bypass standard bakeware altogether and bake a cake right in wide-mouth glass canning jars using cake jar recipes that differ only slightly from regular cake recipes. Or whip up single-serve cakes in jelly glasses or half-pint wide-mouth glass jars.