For the Bakers: My Favorite Equipment

I'm putting together an inventory of my baking equipment, as I'm in the process of choosing a new commercial kitchen space that's more convenient. A lot of the equipment I now own was originally recommended to me by other cake designers and experienced bakers. It's been lovely to form friendships with my peers in the industry - most commonly through online forums, like CakeCentral. In the spirit of sharing, here's a brief list of some of my most indispensable cake-making gear:

1) KitchenAid Professional 5-Plus 5-Quart Stand Mixer (in Empire Red, of course):

There's not much to say about this beautiful machine, except that I wouldn't even consider making a cake to serve more than 12 people without it.  It's the way of the world: my upper body is puny from a lifetime spent using machines instead of muscle.  And that's fine - I accept that I cannot make five batches of Italian meringue buttercream in a single afternoon with a hand-whisk and a prayer.  I needed a KitchenAid, so I bought one.  No regrets!

2) Baking Cores:

I have several of these, and I use them when baking any cake of 10 inches in diameter or larger. Honestly, I couldn't make large cakes well without baking cores - they attract heat to the very center of the cake, which is the coldest part, thus helping to cook the batter evenly. The core itself is half-filled with cake batter before being inserted into the batter-filled cake pan, so you're left with a plug of cake that is used to fill the gap that is left when the cake has been baked and cooled, and the core is removed. Once the cake has been torted, filled, and frosted, no-one will know the difference!

3) Silicone Fondant Mat:

This is a wonderful surface on which to roll out fondant. It takes more muscular effort, because there is more friction than if you were rolling the fondant on a counter-top dusted with powdered sugar. However, I like this mat for two main reasons: firstly, the side of the fondant that becomes the top surface of the cake is pressed against the smooth mat during rolling, which effectively keeps it protected from the air (thus minimizing cracks in the final surface) and adds to its smoothness. Secondly, for large tiers (10 inches or greater), I roll out the fondant and simply pick up the mat and invert it over the cake before smoothing the fondant out. I therefore don't have to handle the fondant directly in the initial process of moving it to the cake and applying it - no stretching means less tearing and cracking. 

4) Stainless-Steel Bench Scraper:

Sharp buttercream or ganache corners are much easier to achieve with a good bench scraper, held against the side of a cake that is centered on a good turntable (and on that note - the heavy Ateco cake turntables are the best). I use a stainless steel bench scraper, because it's more durable and hygienic than plastic, and doesn't bend or buckle as I work. I dip it into hot water, dry it off on a paper towel, and smooth my buttercream. 

5) Bubble-Tea Straws:

For light-duty stacking of cakes, I find bubble-tea straws entirely adequate. I tend to use wooden dowels as a central support that goes through all of the cake tiers, preventing lateral movement of the layers during transport. But to provide support for a two-tiered cake (or as support for just the top tier of a three- or four-tiered cake), bubble-tea straws are great - they're cheap, food-safe, hollow, and wide (and thus don't tend to lean to one side while inside the cake, unlike a narrow wooden dowel).

Those are some of my favorites. The quality of my cakes would suffer without them! Certainly, making pretty cakes is an art, but all artists need the right tools.