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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.