Whether you want to bake a towering frosted layered cake that will impress people or a simple bread to snack on at home, there are some tools you need to bake a cake. A good spray, for example, will ensure that your cake does not stick to the walls of a mold. Proper set of baking tips will keep you from making a huge mess when frosting. A bench scraper can lift, smooth and level. We’ve spoken to several experts about these must-haves and more, so read on for all of their recommendations. And if your fall and winter baking goals go beyond cakes, you can find our cookie baking guide here and our pie baking guide here.
Two of our baking pros, recipe developers Claire Saffitz and Samantha Seneviratne, say straight-sided cake pans are a must. âSome cake pans have slanted or rounded edges,â Seneviratne explains, âso when you go to layer them you can’t lay them down properly. It’s not something you want to achieve when it’s too late. Saffitz suggests buying anodized aluminum instead of untreated aluminum. Either type âheats up quickly and evenly,â she says, âbut the fact that the metal is anodized makes it super unreactive. Sometimes standard aluminum pans change color over time and you can get some original flavors. And if you’re tempted by nonstick pans, don’t be, Saffitz says. âThey are terrible. You get a burnt-out exterior with a huge dome that’s undercooked in the center.
If you want your finished product to look a little different from your standard cake, cookbook author Odette Williams suggests this small, high-sided cake pan. âIt makes the sweetest cake you can imagine – so cute that people have a gut reaction every time they see a cake I made in it,â she says. âYou can frost it as is or cut it in half to make a layered cake. If you’re going this route, Williams notes one important thing: use a thicker dough and line the pan, because it’s a springform pan and you don’t want it to leak. She says many recipes will create more dough than you can put in the pan, but instead of wasting it, she recommends making cupcakes.
You can of course go very easy with your Bundt cakes, but baker and cookbook author Vallery Lomas has a soft spot for these Nordic Ware decorative pans, which come in a myriad of beautiful designs. âThey are so well made,â she said. âThey distribute the heat evenly, so you get even cooking, no matter how intricately designed. “
You might already have a serrated knife in your kitchen for cutting bread, but if you don’t have one (or if yours is a bit small or old), Saffitz and Melissa Funk Weller, pastry chef and author of kitchen, agree that you really need it. âThe best thing you can do to set yourself up for success when baking a layer cake is to make sure all of your layers are even,â says Saffitz. “I prefer a 10 inch knife, perfect for slicing round cake domes, which are about the same size in diameter when you made standard cakes.” (Standard cake pans are usually 9 or 10 inches in size.) She notes that there is a tool such as a designated cake leveler (it basically looks like a saw) but doesn’t think it makes sense as a single-use tool when this multi-use instrument will come in handy time and time again.
Saffitz says that a pastry brush has two main purposes. First, you can gently brush the crumbs off the top of the cake layers as you work, ensuring a clean surface for the frosting. Second, you can use it to soak your diapers (i.e. brush them with liquid – whether it’s flavored syrup or coffee or even just milk, if you don’t want to add flavor) so to add moisture. âThis step makes a big difference, especially if you do the said layers ahead of time,â says Saffitz. âJust make sure you have a brush with natural bristles, so the little bristles don’t fall out. And when you are done, wash it thoroughly with hot soapy water, so that it does not dry stiff.
Saffitz uses this must-have tool to lift the layers, smooth the frosting around the sides and top of the cake, and – with the ruler edge of this one in particular – find out if each layer is relatively even. Seneviratne says it’s also useful for leveling flour balls if you’re using measuring cups instead of a scale.
âThese are the best tools in the world,â says Seneviratne. âI like that this set has two sizes, because I usually use the shorter one for the top of the cake and the longer one for the sides. But it’s the one that feels comfortable in your hand. In addition to spreading the frosting, they are useful for penetrating the corners of the molds to loosen the cake and press the crumbs of breadcrumbs. Saffitz agrees, âThese are often the only tools I use to decorate a cake. You can make the icing smooth or swirled. The smaller one gives you a lot of precision if you are not a pro. If you know what size you want, you can buy them individually.
Lomas says every baker needs cooking spray that contains flour, because it’s a quick and efficient way to cover a pan so your dough doesn’t stick to the sides after baking. âUnlike regular cooking spray, the flour is already mixed,â she explains, âwhich means it gives similar results to buttering a cake pan and then sprinkling with flour, which is a big advantage. additional and much heavier step. This spray is especially useful with complex cake pans, where it can be difficult to get soggy butter in every nook and cranny – and that’s crucial so your cake doesn’t stick.
Williams thinks a sieve is essential. Besides using it to sift flour (a designated sieve being another one of those single-use tools that isn’t really worth the money or the space it takes), she also uses it to “sprinkle the flour.” over icing sugar or cocoa cakes. and strain the curd for cakes or syrup for naturally colored dyes.
Building and frosting your cake on a cake board is a must if you are going to be transporting it, as it gives the entire build a solid base (just imagine trying to lift a finished cake without any bottom supports). But that’s not the only thing they’re useful for – if you buy boards the same size as your cake pan, they can also serve as a handy reference for how much frosting to add. Because the dough contracts very slightly as you bake, you will be left with a thin ring around the base of the cake that will help guide you.
If you’re going to freeze right on a cake stand, Seneviratne likes this one from JK Adams, which spins “really smooth,” she says, “but is also pretty enough to serve.”
Weller prefers a fixed cake stand. âI just iced directly on mine,â she said. “If icing gets on the edges, I just wet a paper towel with lukewarm water and wiped it off thoroughly.”
If you want to be whimsical in your decorating, Seneviratne says a huge set of baking tips is your choice. âJust make a bunch of frosting and play with them,â she advises. (If you like this idea but want less advice, Saffitz recommends this smaller set for decorating cookies of the same brand.) Whatever number you choose, make sure you have a coupler as well. âIt’s the little piece that connects the pastry bag to the tip,â says Seneviratne, âwhich means you have more control, and if you want to change the design or size to a new one, you can do that. without having to empty the entire piping bag. For her part, Weller says she uses disposable pastry bags. “It might not be the most environmentally friendly, but I don’t have a dishwasher. home and it saves me a lot of trouble, “she says. If you want a reusable one, you can find different sizes here.
âSprinkles and edible flowers are your friends,â says Weller. They hide imperfections. We’ve got a ton of sprinkling recommendations in our roundup of the best tools for baking cookies, and while Weller typically picks up dried flowers at their local farmers market, you can find them online as well.
The strategist is designed to bring out the most useful expert recommendations for things to buy in the broad landscape of ecommerce. Some of our latest wins include the best acne treatments, wheeled luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural remedies for anxiety, and bath towels. We update links where possible, but note that offers may expire and all prices are subject to change.