Let me let you in on a secret: Instant ClearJel is a game-changing baking ingredient — in more ways than you think. 

It's best known for thickening fruit pies and crisps, giving structure to pies with creamy fillings, and stabilizing whipped cream. But beyond being a thickener and stabilizer, this simple ingredient is shockingly versatile: I've been adding a spoonful to everything from Doughnut Muffins to Buttery Snickerdoodles recently. 

Why? Because Instant ClearJel actually enhances the texture of cakes, cookies, muffins, and quick breads — and keeps them all fresh-tasting and soft for days longer. Some recipes, like our wonderfully moist German Chocolate Sheet Cake, already call for ClearJel to take advantage of its benefits. But you can also add it to recipes that don't include it in their ingredient list, like mixing into Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies to make them even softer and extend their shelf life. 

So don't let its label of "pie thickener" fool you — there's a lot more Instant ClearJel can do.

Doughnut Muffins Photography and styling by Liz Neily
Prepping for a bake sale or volunteer breakfast? Instant ClearJel adds flexibility to your schedule by extending the shelf life of many baked goods, including these Doughnut Muffins

How Instant ClearJel works 

Instant ClearJel is a corn-based starch that absorbs and retains liquid, turning it into a gel-like substance with increased stability. That's why it's so good for thickening fruit pies: It soaks up excess juice and makes the filling stable enough to slice.

But that ability to hold onto liquid can also be helpful in other bakes. By adding Instant ClearJel to cake batter, for instance, you can increase the liquid without weakening the cake’s structure. This additional liquid adds moistness, promotes tender texture, and prolongs shelf life. (If you're familiar with tangzhong in super-soft yeast breads, like Japanese Milk Bread, ClearJel performs the same function). 

In cakes and similar baked goods, like muffins and quick breads, this means a softer, more tender crumb and added moistness. In soft cookies, this means an even softer texture, which the cookies will retain noticeably longer. In addition, ClearJel is an excellent solution for cookies that spread too much (read: baking into a big puddle on your cookie sheet): ClearJel will stop that spreading in its tracks.  

How to add Instant ClearJel to cakes, muffins, and quick breads 

For each cup of flour in your recipe, add 1 tablespoon Instant ClearJel, increasing the amount of liquid in the recipe (water, milk, juice, etc.) by 1 tablespoon. To prevent potential clumping, mix the ClearJel with the recipe’s flour before adding.  

Two squares of Chocolate Cake Pan Cake showing how Instant ClearJel can affect a cake's rise if used in excessive amounts. PJ Hamel
For even softer cake, can you increase the suggested amount of ClearJel? Don't go there! Too much ClearJel can stiffen a cake batter's texture so much that it can't rise fully, as shown with two squares of Cake Pan Cake. The square on the right includes the correct amount of ClearJel; on the left, double the amount. 

How to add Instant ClearJel to soft cookies 

Cookie dough usually doesn’t contain any liquid beyond that found in its eggs or butter, but it’s critical that you add liquid to cookie dough when using ClearJel. Why? Because ClearJel without liquid creates too much structure, preventing cookies from spreading into nice flat rounds as they bake. The added liquid solves that. Add 1 tablespoon ClearJel and 1 1/2 tablespoons water per cup of flour, mixing the ClearJel with the flour before adding it to the recipe, and adding the water last.  

If your cookies tend to spread too much as they bake, add 1/2 tablespoon ClearJel per cup of flour, skipping the additional liquid. Adjust up or down as needed (in succeeding bakes) to create a cookie with perfect spread.   

Chocolate chip cookies on a baking sheet; without ClearJel they spread into a puddle; with ClearJel, they spread perfectly. PJ Hamel
Same recipe, two results: The cookies on the right include ClearJel. 

And finally, are you trying a brand-new recipe from an unfamiliar source? There’s no need to experiment (and potentially ruin) an entire batch of cookies. Measure out a portion of the dough by weight: say, one-eighth of the dough. Use that dough to bake a few test cookies. If they spread too much, adjust with ClearJel as necessary, doing a bit of math to account for the portion of dough you’ve already baked. 

To add, beat the ClearJel right into the dough; there's no need to combine it with anything else first. Clumping only happens when mixing with something fairly liquid, and any cookie dough that's stiff enough to scoop will absorb the ClearJel without problems.

Looking for additional ways to improve your home-baked cakes? See our complete guide: How to Bake Cake. 

Cover photo and food styling by Liz Neily.

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Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
4.4 out of 5 stars 262 Reviews
26 mins
32 to 36 cookies
A headshot of PJ Hamel and her dogs
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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