Kitchen Basics: How Do You Bake In A Tiny Kitchen?

by moderndomestic on May 5, 2010

“God, that’s small.” Yup. That’s usually what people say when they see my kitchen for the first time.

Tiny kitchn 11

There it is. In all its tiny, tiny glory.

My stove has four burners, but three of them are tiny, I bake everything in a half oven, and my only work surface for chopping and mixing and what not is an Ikea kitchen cart. Cooking usually involves an intricate balancing and shuffling act – moving bowls of ingredients to balance on the coffee pot, proofing dough on top of the oven, and cooling things on my coffee table.

Tiny kitchen 8

There's rarely room for the cook book.

One of my friends recently asked on the ModernDomestic fan page how I manage to bake anything in my tiny kitchen, let alone anything complicated. So I decided to document some of my space-saving strategies when I made my hot cross buns.

Tiny kitchen 5

The stove is where ingredients go before I add them to the mixer.

Whoever told you to never put anything on the burners unless it’s a pot? Yeah, they never had to cook in my kitchen. As far as I’m concerned, the stove is totally another work surface.

Tiny kitchen 7

Brioche dough proofing - waaay up high (in the blue bowl).

So, when I don’t immediately need something – like, say some proofing dough – I try to get it out of the way. Sometimes I’ll stick a bowl of frosting that I need at room temperature in the living room, but in this case, I wanted my brioche dough to proof in a warm spot near the oven. So I put it up high – almost out of reach, and certainly out of the way.

The open shelving is also another great space saver – it’s compact and high, and it’s where I store the utensils I need to access frequently, all my flours and sugars, as well as my microwave, toaster oven, and pans. I got it from from Amazon and I love it – like, it’s the only way I can fit all my appliances in my kitchen.

Tiny kitchen 4

The spice rack has many functions.

I actually rarely have room for actual cookbooks, so I like to write out my recipes on notebook paper and tape them to my spice rack. I guess the spice rack mounted to the wall is itself a space-saving tip – it’s one of my very favorite Ikea finds.

Tiny kitchen 1

Seriously, I am constantly putting things on top of the coffee pot. And very rarely have they fallen off.

So, I included this photo mostly because I needed to demonstrate that the top of the coffee pot is an excellent place to put stray items – like, in this case, a measuring cup. Also, while storing my food processor out in the open takes away from my work space, I use it so often that I think it’s worth it. If I had to haul it out of a cabinet then I guarantee you that I’d never use it, and that would be an awful shame.

Well, those are some of the best “tricks” that I used in my small space when I made brioche. And I hesitate to even call these strategies “tricks” – it’s just what I have to do to bake or cook anything in my kitchen.

So, do you cook in a small kitchen? What are some of your space saving tricks? Do you also have to do a balancing act in your kitchen?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Alejandra May 5, 2010 at 9:48 am

I do all the same things, and this summer I’ll be taking a few items to the walls a la your spice rack. The stove, the top of my fridge, the top of the microwave, my coffee table and tv stand are all extensions of my tiny kitchen. And the top of my dresser is my favorite spot to cool cookies or cakes fresh out of the oven…as it is right in front of the air conditioner LOL


mary May 5, 2010 at 9:51 am

This is hilarious. I have had many tiny kitchens, and by most standards even my new kitchen would qualify as small. I’m surprised you don’t have more things hanging on the wall.


Evie May 5, 2010 at 10:19 am

When you can’t move outward, move upward! That shelving unit is a brilliant solution.


Helena Himm May 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

My kitchen is actually smaller I think and I clean every single surface so I can use them, even more when making several batches of Bread that require space for resting, but in winter it was more difficult because it couldnt be too closed to the window haha!

The things you have to do to find solution! I’m thinking on buying an extra folding table for those baking days… also for Tamalada!!



Olga @ MangoTomato May 5, 2010 at 10:32 am

Great write up and love all the photos!
My kitchen is pretty small too (and old!). The cabinet doors are metal, so I use magnets to attach my recipes to them.


Kenneth Moore May 5, 2010 at 10:47 am

I place my cutting board over the sink to act as a countertop. I use my bed, sometimes, too. The bedroom set’s nightstand has been drafted as the veggie/cooking utensil storage unit. I occasionally place large bowls of dough on the floor to rise, especially if I need to cook or prepare something else.

I can’t wait for a real kitchen again! I swear I’ll never take it for granted.


Brooke May 5, 2010 at 10:57 am

Brilliant! So fun to see where all the magic happens – you’re not alone in your small kitchen club – just look Julia Child – she had to make hers work for her and all her height issues. Making it work is half the fun :)


natalie May 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm

My kitchen is 10x smaller and I manage to bake to my hearts desire. Well…that is a lie. A bigger kitchen WOULD help, but a small, no TINY kitchen has not hindered my efforts at achieving baking genius.


Margarita May 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I have a tiny kitchen too, my best “tip” would be to be organized. Whenever I have a recipe I get all the ingredients prepped – then put the huge bag of flour, the milk and everything else back where it came from. Once everything is mixed, poured and put in the oven – I HAVE to take my big mess, throw it in the dishwasher (I don’t know how I lived before one, but it’s possible, I waited 25 years for mine) and clean up everything.

Otherwise I’ll lose everything, spill it and get upset :( lol, love your kitchen.


Phil May 5, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Thanks for answering my question! It’s all about the counter space. I think cooking in a small space prepares you for a larger space. There are plenty of normal-sized kitchens where the space is not used efficiently and cooking is difficult.

I like the recipe on the spice rack idea. I know there are cookbook stands for the counter, but wonder if there is a “cookbook rack” for the wall…


baji May 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm

the sink is a good storage space too until you start accumulating dirty bowls — then again, varying sizes mean you can nest each dirty bowl in the other and while waiting for something to rise/proof/set you can quickly wash everything so your sink is empty again and ready for storage.

love the Wayne Thiebaud painting!


Quynh May 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I have that Ikea kitchen cart too! I wish I was as organized as you. great post.


Aimee May 5, 2010 at 8:34 pm

It’s not really a space-saving tip as much as an organizational thing, but I alphabetize my spices and it totally saves me from going crazy when I’m looking for, well, anything.


Deb (Doyle) Cullinan May 6, 2010 at 6:57 am

Great post Jenna! While my kitchen isn’t quite as small, I hate cluttered counter tops! I purchased a dish drainboard from Lowe’s which is only about a foot wide and sits inside the sink. That would free up the space where your drainboard currently sits. Sometimes I have to remove it if I’m washing several large bowls or pans, but then I just sit it on the counter with a towel under it and it still takes up less space than the average dish drainboard.

Congrats on your new career path….I’m quite envious! I wish you much success and happiness in all you do!


michelle May 6, 2010 at 8:32 am

Ahhh the tiny kitchen, I know that all to well. My kitchen isn’t *as* small as yours but the lack of counter space definitely makes things tricky when your recipe requires making a giant mess :)


k8 May 10, 2010 at 9:33 am

My kitchen is teeny as well. I often put dough in the cupboard (on top of the plates) to get it out of the way. And you’d better look before you sit on a chair around there.


Shannon May 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

haha – I live in Arlington, and my tiny kitchen looks exactly the same after a baking/cooking experiment! :)


Jordan May 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I have the same print hanging in my kitchen! I love it.


K May 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

Thanks for the “tour”! I have a small kitchen too (more narrow than anything) and I have a pretty good system (and a kitchen cart, haha) going after some trial and error :o)


Spice Rack May 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I also do have a small kitchen but i put all the spices into one conventional Spice rack. It maximizes space even if my kitchen is tiny just like this.


Bren June 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I pull out a drawer and put one of my cutting boards or a cookie sheet across it. Love your blog!


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