I must admit… I’m a cake tool (read: TOY) junkie. I really am. But one thing I’ve learned through all the fun things I’ve bought is that there are still a handful of staple tools that I couldn’t live without and that still get 90% of the play in my cake kitchen.
They are tools I think everyone should have in their arsenal because they are so versatile and easy to use. We get so distracted often by the latest cool tool or toy and we convince ourselves that this one thing will revolutionize what we are capable of doing with our cakes. Like it will magically create new skills or design abilities or that we will be able to make cakes like our favorite cake hero.
It doesn’t work that way, I’ve learned. Learned after countless hundreds, if not thousands, spent on the new shiny cake toys to hit the market.
I’m going to stop you right there.
This is the time of year that we want to indulge in the fun stuff. But I want to advise (really more like beg) you to save your money and not get those crazy toys. Get yourself some standard, hardworking, all around tools that will do more for you than all of the others put together.
I’ve written out my “If I were starting over and had to get the tools that made a difference daily in my caking” wishlist for you.
Here’s my top 11…
11 Top Cake Tools Wishlist 2016/2017
1. A Simple Clay Tool Set
These tools are simple, incredibly cheap, can be found at your local craft store or on Amazon HERE and are the single most loved sculpting tool in my collection. The one all the way to the right? I use it so often that I constantly lose it and have to buy another pack. It’s good that this set is so cheap (a couple bucks). 🙂 The flat, rounded end is perfect for smoothing out areas that have been sculpted or the bottom edge of fondant on a tier of cake. I can’t live without it!
2. Artist’s Painting Knife
The painting knife. This little tool I use endlessly to lift and move thin flower petals after cutting them out. Sometimes they just stick a bit to the surface they were cut on and no matter how delicate our fingers are, they can still damage the petals. This guy slips right under them without the slightest damage. It’s also great if you place a piece of applique or decor on your cake in the wrong spot or need to lift it without harming the cake below. It’s my righthand man. Check it out HERE.
3. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
This is a must. A. Must. And this size is the best (in my humble opinion) and let me tell you why: I have a 4.5 qt Artisan, and a 6qt Pro Series. The 6 qt has the arms that hold and raise the bowl while the Artisan has a base that you twist the bowl into. That twist int the base idea is right on. It can handle heavy duty stuff like mixing homemade fondant or dough. The one with the arms tends to lose it’s balance and pop off of it’s snap thingy on back. It’s fine for batters, but can’t manage fondant. If I were to get another (because who doesn’t need a third Kitchen Aid?!?) I’d get a 5 qt Artisan. In Cranberry Pink. Because Pink.
4. The Best Baking Book Ever – “How Baking Works” by Paula Figoni
This book is transformative. Paula Figoni is a genius who explains all of your ingredients on such an understandable level! This was a text book when I was at The Culinary Institute of America and I still use it at least once per week to refresh my memory or just because I want to stay in touch with what I do. This has answered countless questions about substituting ingredients, troubleshooting, and in figuring out how I can tweak my recipes. “How Baking Works” should be in every caker’s kitchen.
5. A Quality Camera – Starter Kit
I’m putting my foot down with the cake world. If you want to have your cakes appear in print… If you want to take the best pictures possible to document your hard work… If you want to have your work taken seriously and be among the best of the best… You can only do this by taking professional quality photos at very high resolutions with a real DSLR camera. No cell phones. I don’t care what anyone tells you. about smart phone photos – they cannot compare to the quality a real camera will provide. This is mine currently and the one I gave away as part of my Cake Success Mentor Series. This camera is a great starter level DLSR. Get your feet wet with this one before going crazy on the bigger, badder models. You get a number of extras with this kit. It’s exactly what I bought and what I love 😉 Do yourself a favor and click HERE to check it out.
6. Photographer’s Backdrop Paper
Yes I know that second image looks like a white box. It’s trying to illustrate the color white. But that company listed, Savage, is my favorite brand to use for paper backdrops. I use a medium gray and a white one. I love these as they are always able to be renewed by tearing off the bottom and they are always flat and without reflection. See the full range of colors and sizes HERE.
7. Straight Icing Spatula
Yep. A straight edged spatula. And the reason I specify “straight” is that the ones with offset handles (like the artist’s knife above) tend to have a slight curve to the extended portion of the blade. This one does not. If you need to spin or drag your spat over the top of your cake for a level surface, this one will do t for you. Nice and long, nice and straight… 😉 Get it HERE.
8. The Small Acrylic Rolling Pin
A small acrylic rolling pin is essential for the small pieces of fondant that we need to roll to hand cut, make thinner for the pasta roller, or to press into molds. The big rolling pins are just too much. Save room on your work table. Get it HERE.
9. Shelf Expander
Not all the extra stuff. Just the shelf. This is the thing that I thought was some magical, only for big name cake decorators like Ron Ben-Israel and must be bought from some closed door specialty store… Nope. Bed Bath and Beyond. Target. Or HERE on Amazon. Flower drying. If you don’t have one, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
10. Heavy Duty Turntable
The plastic things just won’t do. I love my heavy metal turntable. The smooth spin, the solid construction, and the professional look of it… *sigh* While this isn’t the model I have (mine has been unfortunately discontinued) I was brought up in the cake and pastry world with this exact turntable. It’s a well loved and reviewed tool for very good reason. Have a look HERE.
11. Baking Strips
These things are sanity savers! Dunk the baking strips in cool water and wrap around your pan before baking… Your doming will be a thing of the past. No more over baked edges. Want sides of your cake like THIS, then you need the baking strips. And I’d suggest two sets if you bake multiple layers at once.
That’s it. These are the tools I think every caker should own. Things I cannot live without and that have made everything about caking and being in the kitchen much easier, faster, and more enjoyable 🙂 When you don’t struggle with little annoyances for lack of a good tool or system, it takes longer to do everything and becomes the bane of our cakey existence.
Let’s stop the insanity. Smart tools, not just toys 🙂