Need v Want: Essential Cake Tools - what you REALLY need.

Need
v
Want.

What tools do you
REALLY need?

If I sat down and estimated how much I had spent over the past 5 years on cake decorating tools I think I would have a heart attack (my husband sure would!). I probably could have treated the family for multiple overseas holidays for the money I have spent (and I am not even exaggerating a little!). Trying to squeeze all the equipment into my new studio and set up class kits has got me really thinking, do we REALLY need all this stuff?

As with all things we cakers have a want to have the newest toy, the shiniest and often most expensive bit of plastic that promises to save us time, worry and produce an amazing outcome we apparently couldn’t have otherwise achieved. How often do these new tools and gadgets end up in the back of the bottom drawer in the kitchen, and also in the bargain bin at the local supplier in a couple of months time (much to our horror because we bought them full price!)? Annoying isn’t it.

So, here it is. A list of cake tools and equipment I cannot live without, the must haves as I see it.
Everything else is optional! NB. This is NOT a sponsored blog!

1. A good spatula
My all time favourite is a 4” cranked spatula from LOYAL. I can’t do anything without it, cupcakes, cakes, buttercream, ganache - it is perfect for all applications. Plus I put mine in the dishwasher!

2. A good scraper (x 2)
Essential for achieving straight edges on cakes (and also stella for scraping the bench at the end of serious caking or pastry sessions). Again, my fave is from LOYAL, the Long Edge Scraper. The corners are a true 90° which means proper straight edges without too much effort plus the handle on this baby means I can heat it up under hot water to assist in smooth edges and I don’t burn myself nor do I get my fingertips in the frosting. Being so long they are awesome for your taller than average cakes, which are becoming the norm. I suggest acquiring two for when you ganache with the lid method.

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3. Sharpies and a handled smoother
If you are doing fondant work you need a strong handled smoother to help get those sides down and straight. I don’t use anything fancy, just the standard one with the little handle on the back. I use it in conjunction with Sharpie smoothers to get sharp edges and clean bottom lines. I know plenty of people who cut up Ikea chopping boards or who even use old X-rays (although that kinda freaks me out tbh) - whatever works for you but I do love the flex they give and how great they are on cakes where the standard smoother can’t cut it.

4. A decent turntable
It just makes life easier. You don’t have to spend a heap of money on one, something that spins will do the job. However there is a difference when decorating a cake (especially a heavy one) on a Kmart Lazy Susan to a professional quality spinner. I use one that was given to me a while back from the amazing Kaysie Lackey (she couldn’t fit it into her suitcase for the trip home so abandoned and re-homed it with me). It has a gorgeous heavy base and it sure beats the plastic Aldi number I used for years prior. Don’t get me wrong, the Aldi one works just fine.. but it is like going from my old Corolla (aka “The Crapolla”) to a new Mercedes.. its just better. The one I use is from Innovative Sugarworks but is comparable to the LOYAL 360 (which is more readily available here in Oz).

5. A good rolling pin
Rolling pins… Get a good one - whether you like one with handles, one without, steel, plastic, wood WHATEVER, make sure it is decent quality. Also make sure it is size appropriate to what you are doing. I covered 12” cakes for years with a 8” rolling pin before realising that life didn't have to be so hard. Don't be like Zoe, get one that is appropriate for what you do! I have a couple of sizes and love the non-stick one from LOYAL. It is so easy to clean, always produces a smooth finish (no dints and seams) and the guides it comes with come in handy too (although I do often take them off to prevent the tracks I make with them in my fondant).

6. A couple of sculpting tools
I do a lot of sculpting and have a LOT of tools, like seriously, LOTS. I think I probably now own almost every brand.. some I love, some I well, back of the bottom drawer. What I think what you really need to do most things are a few key tools, doesn't really matter the brand but make sure they aren’t too cheap and nasty (those things break super easy and it is false economy to keep buying them over and over again!). It is useful to look around and see what you already have available to use, toothpicks, straws, forks.. lots of things can be repurposed and a fraction of the price of buying new tools.

A Balling Tool - if you choose only one, pick one in the middle size wise. Great for thinning flower petals, making frills but also adding texture and shape. I prefer my stainless steel set from LOYAL.

A Dresden Tool - it is the best damn tool EVER! Perfect for texturing, sculpting (super dooper for eye sockets and nostrils). This tool touches most projects I work on, it is my favourite and I love the one I have from Martellato (it came in an amazing set).

If you are after a decent set of tools however and have got some money to invest, check out the set from Cake Dutchess. They are a little on the upside of cheap but are amazing quality, super nice in the hand and they are dishwasher safe! Win!

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7. A generic set of letter and number cutters
One set, you don’t need every single font known to man. If you have a printer and a paint brush/piping bag you can create any inscription on a cake you want without spending hundreds on press and cutter sets. One generic set will get you out of trouble and give you options for quick inscriptions. I love the set I have from Wilton though I believe Bakegroup also have a comparable set. It has letters, numbers and also punctuation marks in a really plain font. Honestly, save your dosh and learn to transfer and paint/pipe and inscription, don’t spend it on lettering systems you “might” (not) use.

8. Basic circle cutters
Because circles are hard to cut perfectly! I adore my stainless steel set from LOYAL as it gives me loads of size options. Cheaper plastic sets will also do the job (and I think LOYAL have a great set of these too!.. this is not a sponsored post, they just happen to have the best stuff!).

9. A small sharp knife
A short sharp knife is a must for cutting, well, everything. If you invest in a sharp one you can use it for carving/sculpting then also on fondant and smaller details. Keep one just for cakes, it is a must in the cake kit. I have a variety from Victorinox but also have some short parring knives I scored at the local IGA which are super sharp - they don’t have to be expensive, just good.. and ditch them when they stop being awesome, life is too short to be stuffing about with a blunt knife.

10. Good quality paint brushes
Maybe 3... say a 0, a 2 and a larger dusting brush. That is really all you need (says she with around 100 of them). These ones will allow you to paint fine details onto figures but also paint inscriptions (that you have transferred rather than embossed!) and also dust petals and lustred details. Make sure they are GOOD ones and NO hairs fall out. Even a hair from a paintbrush is still a hair on a cake! Look after them, wash them and keep them in shape and they should last forever. Oh and don’t be tempted to use them in Flower Glaze.. unless you want to kiss them goodbye!

11. Basic Piping Tips
I am NO piper but a few basic tips in the kit will get you got of trouble. My faves for basic buttercreamness (and I mean BASIC) are the 1M, 2D and a Round No 2. With these I can do most BASIC things and can keep cupcakes looking decent plus add details to cakes as I need. I will leave the fancier stuff to those who can do it but I always have these on hand. Again, I prefer to use LOYAL (teamed with their disposable piping bags).

12. An extruder
I nearly left this one off the list but on further consideration have thrown it in as it is a game changer. It is basically a clay gun that shots out fondant or sugar paste in the shape of the disc you attach to the front of it. Pretty basic stuff but so good for lines, ropes, hair, borders etc. Don’t go with one of the old school push ones, you will destroy your hands (speaking from experience!). Get yourself a twist action extruder, you won’t regret it. The one I have is again from LOYAL, it is a dream to use and also to clean.

And thats it! Everything else can really be substituted for stuff already in your kitchen. Have a look around, you would be surprised what you can use and don’t be shy to experiment. Good tools can be expensive so why not try to use them for more than one purpose?

It is nice to upgrade to better tools as you can and it sure is soooo very nice to use an Agbay for torting, a Fondtastic Mat for rolling fondant and an Iwata Airbrush for colouring cakes, so very very nice. These things will inevitably save you time and perhaps even improve your end result and/or cake experience. Are they super amazing products? Absolutely. Are they essential? Yeah, probs not. At the end of the day it always comes down to what you are doing and how much you do it.

If you have the cash grab them and go for it. If not, stick to the basics and what you really, honestly need. Don’t feel pressured to have all the fancy stuff straight up. Work towards it, if and when you need it… as you might not.

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Sure, some cakes will require particular moulds or whatever, buy them if you have to but try to repurpose them if you are able. Even better, chat to your cake friends, chances are they have bought just the thing you need and you can borrow it... although first they will have to dig it out of the back of the bottom drawer.