I thought it would be helpful to share a guide to some essential tools for cake baking and decorating since most of my recipes involve layer cakes! I’ve collected all the items below throughout my own baking journey and I use most of them every single time I bake a cake. Be sure to stock up your kitchen with these essential tools if you want more cake in your life!
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Cake Pans: An obvious one, right? But if you’ll be baking layer cakes regularly, you should keep multiple pans in different sizes on hand. I think it’s ideal to have three of each size. That way, you can easily get three layers, or up to six by slicing your layers in half. Most recipes call for either six-inch pans or eight-inch pans.
Wire Cooling Racks: For decorating purposes, cake layers must be at minimum room temperature, if not chilled. Removing the cake from its pan to let it cool completely on wire cooling rack is the proper procedure and I always transfer my cakes about 15 minutes after removing the pan from the oven. These cooling racks will also be perfect for when you get the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies!
Kitchenaid Stand Mixer: Okay, I recognize these are a big investment. I grew up with only a hand mixer, and from experience, you can absolutely bake a cake and make a good frosting without a stand mixer. However, I have to say that my Kitchenaid is one of my favorite tools for baking. And for something like a Swiss meringue buttercream, it’s really going to be very beneficial. Plus, there’s so many other fun attachments (like the pasta maker, spiralizer, ice cream maker, etc.)!
Parchment Paper: There’s nothing worse than baking a beautiful cake and then ruining it trying to get it out of the pan! To combat that problem, every time I bake a cake, I line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Parchment paper rounds are also a great option; they come in pre-cut circles.
Springform Pan: A springform pan is of course traditionally used for cheesecake, but did you know they are also great for ice cream cakes? Or a cookie dough brownie cake, perhaps? If you’re not familiar, it is basically a cake pan with siding that can be separated from the base using a spring mechanism. The removable siding makes it really easy to get delicate cakes out of the pan.
Decorating Turntable: Of all the essential tools for cake, this is one of my favorites! I was so excited when I purchased my own cake decorating turntable – it felt so professional! I highly recommend using the Revolving Cake Decorating Stand by Ateco for smooth buttercream, sharp edges, and fancy piping work. It spins like a dream, has a clean/simple design, and also comes with a non-slip mat to keep your cake in place.
Cake Boards: Building your cake on a cake board makes it easy to move around. I’m always transferring my cakes in and out of the fridge/freezer, or between a turntable and cake stand. I often tape a cake board the same size as my cake on top of a larger cake board. That way, I have something to hold onto to move my cake around. But then I can also detach the larger board so it doesn’t get in the way of presentation.
Offset Spatula: Early on in my cake-baking journey, I tried frosting cake with a butter knife, because that’s what I had on hand. Unsurprisingly, my presentation was lacking! An offset spatula is what you really need for successful frosting. I have both a small and a large size. I generally prefer the smaller one because it provides a little more control, but the larger size is helpful when dealing with bigger surface areas.
Cake Scraper: You’ll also want a cake/bench scraper to smooth the sides of your cake. In conjunction with a turntable, this essential tool is the secret to getting perfect, smooth buttercream. Some scrapers have decorating combs in addition to a smooth edge, which can give you a nice design on the side of your cake.
Cake Leveler/Serrated Knife: Leveled cake layers are necessary for stacking a cake. This cake leveler and cutter makes it easy to get a perfectly level cake and/or to slice layers in half. But a sharp serrated knife will also do the trick if you are seeking a more versatile tool. You just need some good knife skills! I use this serrated knife by Calphalon.
Piping Tips: For basic cake decorating, I recommend at a minimum having these two tips: a large open round piping tip, and a large open star piping tip. The round piping tip is good for creating a dam of frosting around the edge of the cake when using a filling. And the open star tip creates beautiful swirls of buttercream for the top of your cake. If you want to get fancier (buttercream flowers, ruffles, borders, etc.), I recommend a larger set of decorating tips. Oh, and make sure to get a few couplers too, so you can easily switch out your tips.
Pastry Bags: Speaking of pastry bags… you’ll want to make sure to have some! I keep a bunch of disposable ones on hand, but I also have this reusable pastry bag. I was very dubious of these at first, but with some hot water and soap, they actually clean up pretty easily. And they are more environmentally friendly! Most piping tip sets (like the one I mentioned above) will come with one or two.
Gel Food Coloring: Normal liquid food coloring can easily ruin the texture of your baked goods or frostings. But gel food colorings, like in the AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Kit will solve the problem! I don’t use a ton of food coloring, so I just have the junior kit. However, the student set and the complete set both offer a wider range of colors if you’d like!
Cake Carrier: When I got married, a friend gifted me this cupcake and cake carrier and I am obsessed with it! Sadly, it took me two years (sorry Erin) to realize that the lid expands so it can hold two tiers of cupcakes, or a fairly tall cake. When you’re finished, just fold the top down for easier transport/storage. Seriously, this carrier is amazing. I always bring it when I’m on the go with a cake. Pro tip: tape your cake board to the bottom of the carrier so the cake doesn’t slide.
Cake Stand: Finally, you’ll want a pretty cake stand to show off your lovely cake! I am slowly gaining a small collection of cake stands, and I have a marble stand with a wood base that is my favorite. It’s unfortunately no longer sold, but this stand is very similar. There are so many cute stands out there, so I recommend finding one or two simple cake stands that fit your style. Then, you can also use them as a decorating piece even when you aren’t serving cake!