Baking Aid: Top 10 Basic Baking Essentials

baking essentials

Baking in all its beautiful glory can be very intimidating whether you’re a beginner, or advanced. I’m by no means advanced but like to think I have made and overcome enough mistakes in my baking life to have some wisdom to share in hope of making your baking lives that little bit easier.

To many of you what I share may seem like obvious facts, but, we learn from each other and you never know hidden beneath the obvious may shine a revelation. More importantly I want this series to encourage and inspire baking beginners to get in their kitchens, so without further ado, welcome to “Baking Aid”

When I moved out of my family home in 2014 and settled into my little flat in Surrey, I was left with the daunting yet exciting task of filling my empty kitchen with brand new baking equipment.

With baking such a huge part of my upbringing I was leaving behind a kitchen full of tools we had collected over the years, so in haste and anxiety my immediate reaction was to replicate everything immediately. Reality sunk in the moment I realised I only had one kitchen drawer in a kitchen that felt crowded the moment a second person stepped foot inside.

With this I had to sit down and deliberate over what tools and equipment I needed to buy immediately, and to be honest I was completely intimidated by it all. After some time however I came to conclusion that I didn’t need the fancy tools straight away, in fact most recipes only call for a limited amount  of equipment, or as I call them “The Essentials”. For 6 months I managed with those essentials and by the time a recipe that called for a new tools came along I had organised my kitchen to be able to accommodate them.

Whether you’re a baking addict, or it’s something you are looking to simply dabble in, below you will find all the essentials you need to create perfect cakes, cupcakes, cookies and traybakes.


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Mason and Pyrex mixing bowls


My mason bowl is one of my favourite tools to use when I’m not using my KitchenAid. I love being able to beat or rub together butter and sugar for cookie dough with my own hands and a large mason bowl is the perfect partner for that. The large rim around the edge also keeps anything from spilling.

I own at least 12 pyrex bowls in a mixture of different sizes and I use almost all of them with every bake.  I use them to weigh each of my ingredients when preparing for a bake, and as a cake decorator they come in handy when colouring icing and batter. The smaller bowls are also perfect for holding small ingredients like spices, and as they are heatproof they’re perfect for melting butter and chocolate.

Measuring jug


You cannot measure liquid out accurately without a jug so they are an absolute must. However aside from the obvious they are also super useful for whisking eggs or pouring milk into a batter.

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Spatula


One of the most important tools I rely on is the spatula. Unlike the wooden spoon a spatula will scrape out large quantities of batter or buttercream with ease meaning no waste. Look for one like this that is sturdy, otherwise you will find that it bends with weight of heavy batter which isn’t at all helpful.

Whisk


One of the cheapest tools in my kitchen drawer, yet the one I use most often. A large whisk is perfect for blending big quantities of liquid ingredients and gently folds sugar into beaten egg whites without deflating them.

Cake Tester


It took me a long time to get a proper cake tester, yet it wasn’t until I finally got one that I realised just how important they are. When baking cakes one of the vital stages is checking that it has baked through. Testing this requires poking something sharp through the cake to see if it comes out clean. My ‘something sharp’ used to be a knife, but this just left a unslightly slash in the top of my cake so after a while I stopped doing it. Big mistake. My cakes thereafter were either under baked, resulting is a sinking centre or slightly over baked so they went dry.

As much as I like to think I have a pretty good ‘sense’ of when my cake is fully baked, nothing tells me better than when it’s been tested. You can find most cake testers in leading supermarkets or baking stores, but as a Lakeland advocate I recommend getting a cute cupcake one like mine here.

Off-Set palette knife


An offset spatula is your best friend when it comes to smoothing cake batter, frosting cupcakes, and loosening cakes and bar cookies from their pans. The smaller size will be used more often, but when you want to frost cakes a much large size gives you a smooth, more professional finish.

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Spoons/Cups/Scales


The beauty of this internet is that we can find recipes from every corner of the globe. As a proud Brit I am passionate about baking in grams however many US recipes will give you the ingredients in cups. Quite often depending on the recipe I will convert the cups into grams and weigh it out, however occasionally if it’s a bake I’m not familiar with I will use the cups to be sure I’m following the recipe letter by letter. When buying cups and spoons, look for ones with clear easy to read measurements on the handles.

With scales while the old-fashioned do make your kitchen beautiful I cannot recommend digital ones enough as they allow you to measure ingredients out to perfection.

Regardless of what you use, it is SUPER important to weigh everything out accurately as it can make all the difference between perfect and utter disaster.

Baking Parchment


Baking parchment will be your best friend in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking cakes. Lining your cake with parchment paper allows it to bake more evenly and protects the edges from catching. It also saves you from tin removal disasters which I am forever grateful for.

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Baking Tins/Trays


My weakness when it comes to baking is tins and trays. There are so many to choose from I literally want them all. Take a step back however and you’ll find you only need 4 key styles; two 6inch or 8inch sandwich cake tins, a cupcake tray, a brownie tray and a flat baking sheet. If I had to push it to 5 I’d add in a loaf tin for good measure. Lakeland do such an amazing range of bakewear. Their premium range is made from heavy duty carbon steel that is oven safe up to 240°C so it will never twist, warp or bend. They’re also super space-saving and when stacked neatly nest inside each other. Shop here for yours.

Cooling Racks


Every baker needs a cooling rack and they are handy for more than just cooling. Aside from the obvious, once my bakes are cool I use the rack to decorate my cakes or cookies so that any unwanted drips fall away leaving me with the perfect decoration.

Easter Bunny Bark

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It goes without saying that when we hear the word Easter, our minds turn to thoughts of Chocolate. In my case there are no specifics, be it milk, white or dark I have no preference but at Easter fun and colourful are my priority.

Growing up Easter tradition was to get creative, whether this meant Papier-mâché eggs, cardboard Easter bonnets or cupcakes there was always something to be made and I liked it that way. I always intended to keep this tradition going well into my adult life so when I started baking Easter soon became my favourite holiday of the year.

Chocolate Bark is perhaps one of the easiest Easter creations you could ever make and keeping my family tradition in mind I wanted to share this as the perfect opportunity for getting creative with children. These also make the perfect gift option when stacked and wrapped up in cellophane paper and tied with a bow.

Happy Easter baking everyone.

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Makes: 1 slab/approx 10 pieces of bark

Preparation time: 40 minutes


200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

1 bag mini eggs

1 bag mini malteser bunnies

20g mini marshmallows

20g mini smarties


Put the milk chocolate and white chocolate into two heatproof bowls and either microwave or heat over pans of bowling water until melted.

Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of waxed paper or a non-stick baking sheet liner. I get mine non-stick liner from Lakeland and its the perfect tool for this and many other bakes such as meringue, cookies and macarons.

Pour the melted milk chocolate onto the baking liner and spread out to around 3ocm by 15 cm. Spoon the melted white chocolate on top and gently swirl it around to create a marble effect.

Decorate as you wish with crushed mini eggs and whole mini eggs, malteaser bunnies, mini marshmallows and mini smarties, then leave in the fridge to set hard for 30 minutes.

Once set break into bark pieces with a sharp knife then pop back in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.

They don’t last long believe me.

Hot Cross Bun Macarons

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When it comes to Easter, while I could happily spend all bank holiday stuffing my face with chocolate eggs, these days what I find even more indulging is settling down with a cuppa and a warm, sticky, Hot Cross Bun toasted straight from the oven.

The rich, spicy smell is so comforting that filling my house with the scent of buns baking is almost a necessity at this time of year. However after much deliberation I decided this year I would try something a little different.

Macarons are one of my favourite things to bake and have become somewhat of a staple since the launch of My Kitchen Drawer Made to Order business, therefore they became an obvious choice for my “something a little different”.

For those of you unfamiliar, Hot Cross Buns are traditional English Easter treats which are baked and eaten on Good Friday to commemorate Jesus who died on the cross: hence the recognisable cross along their tops.

If you like cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus zest, and in the case of these beauties, macarons, then these are most certainly worth indulging in this Easter! They are also perfect as gifts and make a fantastic alternative to the more commonly gifted chocolate eggs.

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Makes: 12 Macarons 

Preparation time: 1 hour 

Baking time: 10-13 minutes 


Spiced Macaron Shells

70g flaked almonds

140g icing sugar

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

50g caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp all-spice

1tsp orange zest

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar filling

50g light Muscovado Sugar

70g unsalted Butter

200g icing sugar

1tsp ground cinnamon


Spiced Macarons Shells

Place the flaked almonds in a food processor and blitz for about a minute until as fine as possible. Add the confectioner sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and allspice then process until combined.

In a super clean bowl pour one egg white and whisk in the tsp of vanilla bean paste. Beat this mixture into the almond icing sugar to make an almond paste. Set aside and cover with a tea towel.

In another super clean bowl whisk your second egg white until it holds soft peaks. Continue to whisk at a medium speed while adding the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time.

Beat on a medium speed for 2 minutes then increase to high for a final 2 minutes until the egg whites are holding stiff, glossy peaks.

Add the almond paste to your meringue mixture then using a spatula slowly fold them together from the bottom up. Continue this motion around 35-40 times until the mixture is fully incorporated and flows like molten lava.

Using a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle, pipe rounds of mixture onto 2 heavy baking trays lined with baking parchment. Tap the trays on the work surface to remove any air bubbles, then leave them to dry for 30 minutes. They will be ready to bake when they are no longer sticky or wet when touched.

Preheat the oven to 140-150 degrees/Gas Mark 2 and bake on the middle shelf for 8 minutes. Open the oven to let out any steam and turn the sheets around then bake for a further 8 minutes until the tops are crisp. Leave them to cool fully before removing from the baking sheet.

To create the iconic cross, melt your white chocolate in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water then transfer it into a heat resistant piping bag (available at Lakeland). Pipe the crosses onto each macaron and leave to set in the fridge for 20 minutes before adding the filling.

Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Filling

Blend together butter, brown sugar and icing sugar to create a smooth buttercream. Add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon and combine then spread the filling over one macaron shell and sandwich together with another.

These will store in an air tight container for a few days if kept in the fridge.