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Best for Beginners: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion at Amazon
"Meet your new baking bible."
Best for Bread: The Bread Baker's Apprentice at Amazon
"An essential for professionals and at-home bread bakers alike."
Best for Cake: The Cake Bible at Amazon
"An encyclopedia of cake types, techniques, and recipes."
Best for Gluten-Free: Gluten-Free Flavor Flours, A New Way to Bake with Non-Wheat Flours at Amazon
"Unique, delicious recipes that just happen to be gluten-free."
Best High-Altitude: Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes at Amazon
"Great recipes that have been tested and written for varying altitudes."
Best for Kids: The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs at Amazon
"Practical, fun, and easy to follow recipes that kids will love to make and eat."
Best for French Baking: The Art of French Pastry, A Cookbook at Amazon
"A master class in the fundamentals of pastry."
Maybe you’re new to baking, with one or two easy cookie recipes up your sleeve but still unsure of the differences between baking soda and baking powder. Or, maybe you’re a seasoned pro, whipping up cakes and croissants with ease. Either way, a baker is never done learning, and a new baking book can help inspire you and give you new techniques and ideas to try for your next baking project.
Best for Beginners: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook
No matter where you are in your baking journey, the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion is a crucial reference that you’ll use for decades to come. One reviewer said that she was on her second copy after wearing out her first. That’s because, drawing on decades of testing recipes, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion breaks down the techniques of baking science—you’ll understand what to do, why to do it, and how to do it.
There is a section on flours, sweeteners, leavens, and fats, plus how to use them all. There’s a troubleshooting section. And, of course, there are wonderful recipes, ranging from flatbreads to fruit tarts. Bakers, buy this book!
Best for Bread: The Bread Baker's Apprentice, 15th Anniversary Edition, Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
Peter Reinhart has written ten bread books in his three decades teaching and learning in the artisanal bread industry. His Bread Baker's Apprentice gleans from his time apprenticing with the master bakers of Paris, sharing the classic 12 stages of making bread, complete with more than 100 step-by-step photographs.
Food history, science, and high-level technique come together into 50 master formulas. Reinhart’s most famous recipe from the book is pain à l’ancienne, but you’ll also find instructions for poolish focaccia, pizza dough, ciabatta, bagels, brioche, pain de campagne, and more. The writing is clear and captivating, making this book a great read as well as a guide to becoming a master bread baker in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Best for Cake: The Cake Bible
Almost every baking book list on the internet includes something by Rose Levy Beranbaum (we also think her ceramic pie pan is the perfect gift for any gourmet cook). Beranbaum’s chemistry background and obsession with the mechanics of baking—she wrote her master’s thesis on the effects on the quality of a yellow cake when its flour is sifted—gives her an edge when it comes to baking, and her Cake Bible lives up to its name.
It offers an incredible range of recipes and techniques that will turn any beginner into a cake master. You’ll learn how to make an incredible chocolate cake with three ingredients, use less sugar but keep the flavor, and make the perfect layer cake in under five minutes. This is a reference book you’ll use for years and maybe even decades to come.
Best for Gluten-Free: Flavor Flours, A New Way to Bake with Non-Wheat Flours, Including Rice, Nut, Coconut, Teff, Buckwheat, and Sorghum Flours
All too often, gluten-free breads, cakes, and cookies just end up being disappointing versions of the gluten-full versions. This book turns that possibility on its head, using the flavors and textures of non-wheat flours, including rice, nut, coconut, teff, buckwheat, and sorghum.
Written by Alice Medrich and Maya Klein, the chapters are organized by each alternative flour, complete with notes on its flavor and texture, which other flavors go well with it, how to store it, and how to work it into your favorite recipes. It’s less about low-carb or allergen-free baking and much more about making genuinely delicious gluten-free pastries that won’t bum you out: think buckwheat gingerbread, chocolate chestnut soufflé cake, blueberry corn flour cobbler, and more.
Best High-Altitude: Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes
Even if you don’t live at a high altitude, this volume by cookbook author Susan Purdy is a great reference. She tested recipes in five different locations across the United States, coming up with 100 cakes, pies, cookies, breads, and pastries, each of which can be made at sea level (tested in Connecticut), 3,000 (North Carolina and Virginia), 5,000 (Idaho and Colorado), 7,000 (New Mexico), and 10,000 feet (Colorado).
Not only are adjustments made based on the various altitudes, but Purdy explains why each change is made. The drool-worthy recipes include Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Icing, Vail Lemon-Poppy Seed Loaf, Celestial Challah, and Sour Cream Streusel Coffee Cake. A must for any high-altitude baker!
Best for Kids: The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs
America’s Test Kitchen is beloved by cooking and baking adults for its never-fail recipes and easy-to-understand technique—it explains the best way to do things, and more importantly, why. The baking book for kids is no exception. It features more than 100 recipes, tested by more than 5,000 kids, with detailed instructions, photos, and techniques.
Kids learn how to melt butter, how to roll and shape dough, and tips like “ovens range in temperatures, so when you see a time range for a recipe, set your timer for the lowest number and check your oven when it rings. If it’s not done, keep baking it!” The results: Tasty dishes that kids will love—think cupcakes, soft pretzels, empanadas, brownies, pies, pizza, and more.
Best for French Baking: The Art of French Pastry, A Cookbook
If most of your baking is cakes and cookies, making eclairs or palmiers can feel daunting. There’s a reason for that—it’s a whole different set of skills and techniques than most of us use for our more regular baking.
There are plenty of great pastry books out there, but what makes by Jacquy Pfeiffer and Martha Rose Shulman's The Art of French Pastry: A Cookbook so effective is that it starts with those techniques, from pastry cream to pâte à choux, and then shows you how to use them in your favorite patisserie items. You’ll be making brioche, mille-feuilles, and cream puffs in no time, thanks to the clear instructions and gorgeous reference photos.