Starting off baking can be hard. There are so many things you can buy, and if you’re anything like me, you’d probably just be attracted to all the glittery, sparkly cake toppers and fun sprinkles. I thought I’d compile a guide as to what I think you need for when you’re baking, whether you want to start right at the basics, start cake/cupcake decorating, or you’re into baking and you feel like there’s something missing, and you just don’t know what.
When you’re just starting off with baking as a hobby, you’re not going to need much. Above all, the most important thing I would recommend is to invest. There are a couple things that you can skimp cheap on, but there are some things that you should definitely invest in, as those are the ones that are going to stick with you through your experimental stage, and they’ll definitely grow on you.
Mixing bowls are a necessity that are an invest item. You can’t really bake anything without bowls. I would recommend glass bowls in various sizes, as well as a few metal bowls in various sizes, especially a really big one. I say glass because they’re the most versatile, as well as easily accessible. They retain an even temperature, preventing your batter being spoiled in really cold/really hot environments. Because they’re transparent it also ensures you won’t miss anything at the bottom. I would also keep some metal ones handy (if you don’t use them already when cooking), because they heat up/cool down a lot quicker than glass bowls, which is great if you want to make something cold/hot quickly, but bad if you’re working with a temperamental mixture. They’re also a must if you’re beating meringues, especially for macarons.
Measuring materials are necessities when baking. You’ll need measuring cups, spoons, jugs and if you have money to spare, an electrical scale. They’re quite self-explanatory items, and you can often skimp on these (with the electrical scale as an exception). If you are getting measuring jugs, a glass one and a plastic one would be good if you need to heat up something. The plastic one is versatile, and great if you need to measure whilst mix all of your dry ingredients all in one.
I can’t stress enough how useful a good spatula is, and it’s something you should definitely invest in. A good spatula should feel sturdy, have flexible ends and quite light to hold. Spatulas are so versatile, because you can scrape the bottom of your bowl effortlessly with one, fold, mix and so much more. There are also some recipes where a good spatula in essential like macarons, and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and time by investing in good ones. If you do so, I can guarantee that they’ll come in a whole lot more handy than you anticipated.
I would say another important piece of equipment is a good hand mixer which you should invest in. Electric hand mixers aren’t as efficient as handy stand mixers, but they’re more efficient than doing everything by hand. Sometimes you just need it for small jobs too, and it’s just extremely handy. Get a good one too, because nothing’s worse than a $20 hand mixer that dies on you in a couple months time, whilst not even doing well in their short lifetime. I own the Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9 Speed Hand Mixer in Empire Red, and I quite like it.
Cake tins, cupcake tins, brownie tins, loaf tins, muffin tins, there’s so many out there. So which ones do you get? I would recommend investing in a few, not all. No matter how tempting it looks to get everything in mini sized, it’s not worth it. Get a good non-stick muffin tin, a cupcake tin (or get two muffin tin and use it for cupcakes like I do), a non-stick springform tin (for cheesecakes) and one or two non-stick loose bottom tin for bigger cakes. Get a reasonable size, I like 8 inches/20cm in diameter.
- Balloon whisk
- Sieve (to get rid of lumps and aerate mixtures)
- A variety of spoons (wooden spoons are great)
- Kitchen scissors
- Grater/Zester (for grating citrus rind/chocolate)
- Citrus Juicer
Additions for Cupcake/Cake Decorating
Palette knives are great when smoothing icing onto cakes or cupcakes. I’d recommend investing in one flat palette knife and one offset palette knife. They’re useful for icing cakes of course, transporting cakes, loosening the edges of a cake and much more.
Piping bags and piping tips are a must if you’re getting into cupcake decorating. I like using disposable ones, as they a lot more fuss-free. As for piping tips, there’s hundreds out there from all sorts of brands. If you’re going to start off, I’d recommend getting a set like this Wilton 4 piece Starter Set which I started off with. It has a big open star tip, small round tip, a small open star tip and a long round tip for filling the centres of pastries and cupcakes. Besides this set, I’d recommend getting a big round tip so you can achieve that nice round piping top like in my Oreo Cheesecake Velvet Cupcakes
Gel food colouring is something you should invest in. They’re a lot more versatile than liquid food colourings are are more worth it in the long run. They’re more pigmented, come in a wide variety of colours, are easier to mix, easier to measure and can be used in water based and oil based mixtures. You can get them in pastes like the Wilton Icing Colour Set or liquid gel food colouring individually by Americolor. A food-dedicated paintbrush is great if you want to get into striping techniques. You’ll want one with a flat tip, and you can read all about striping in my Colour-Swirled Macarons: Recipe + Tips on Achieving a Perfect Macaron blogpost.
A rotating cake stand is your best friend when it comes to cake decorating. It allows you to achieve a nice smooth icing edge and not all haphazard, unintentionally messy and uneven. You can get one like I have from eBay for around $10, or invest in one made out of wood or one that’s better quality if you wish. Honestly my eBay one is fine, because all I wanted is one that spins so it’s easy to decorate with.
For cake tins, if you’re going to be making layer cakes, rather get individual, flatter tins rather than baking in a big tin then cutting it into levels. It saves you from having to handle a huge cake, having an unevenly cooked cake in the centre, and a huge cake is something that a cake leveller just won’t cut through, which means using a knife and risking uneven layers.
- Cake boards/cake drums (for ease of transporting cakes)
- Icing scrapers (eBay sells plastic ones for around $1)
- Cake leveller (so you don’t have domes on top of your cake as layers)
If you think you’ll be baking quite often, and in big batches, you can invest in a stand mixer. They do all the work for you, are quite powerful (which you do need to watch out for as it can lead to over-mixing batters), are absolutely amazing when baking in big batches and super fun to use. Look for one with a large variety of speeds for better control. They’re quite expensive and definitely an investment, but if you think you’ll make good use out of it, go for it!
That’s about it! Really hope this post helped you, and if it did please let me know in the comments below. It would make my day! Hope you’re having a lovely day wherever you are!