Want to create something as beautiful and mouthwatering as the cake you see above? For all you aspiring pastry chefs out there, we’ve got a flurry of gadgets to recommend that will take your skills to the next level. As a baking enthusiast and a pastry school grad, here’s a list of the gear that’s used on the regular in my kitchen. Some may be upgrades to what you already have, some will help to optimize the simplest of tasks like scraping a bowl, and others may be used less frequently, but are essential to amping up your presentation. Check out the shopping list below, and to create the beauty above from food stylist Judy Kim, click here.
1. Stand Mixer
If you have the counter space, it’s totally worth it. It will do all the hard work for you—mix up batters, doughs, meringues and frostings—so that you can clean as you work.
Kitchen Aid | $300
2. Candy thermometer
When a recipe calls for this tool, there’s a good reason why. Not only will it help you hit the right temperatures for your more sensitive projects (like marshmallows or caramels), but it also clips to the sides of your pot, making it much easier to use than a handheld thermometer which can just get in the way.
Wilton | $15
Any baking pro knows that for the most consistent results, you gotta measure by weight. Escali's easy-to-clean digital options come in a range of colors that will suit your kitchen decor.
Escali | Starting at $24
4. Valrhona Cocoa Powder
There is no excuse for compromising quality when it comes to cocoa powder for your chocolatey creations. Valrhona is the brand that pastry chefs favor across the board.
Valrhona | $14
6. Microplane Grater
This super sharp grater delivers the finest grind results from citrus zests, whole nutmeg seeds, and blocks of Gruyère—the latter for whipping up addicting gougères. Plus, they barely take up any space on and off the counter.
Microplane | $15
7. Narrow Measuring Spoons
Narrow “spice” measuring spoons actually fit in the openings of all your spice containers, making measuring all those wintery spices, like nutmeg and cinnamon, a breeze. This set even comes with dash, pinch, and smidgen amounts.
Norpro | $21
8. Marble Slab
Sugar cookies and pie crusts are actually quite sensitive to temperature--that’s why you need to keep returning them to the fridge. This marble slab fits in your fridge and freezer, so you can chill it before rolling your shape-sensitive doughs on it, making them easier to work with.
Williams Sonoma | $130
9. Offset spatula
I use this tool for everything, from icing cakes, to releasing baked goods from the pan, and transferring anything, i.e. cookies to cake layers, from one place to another. I have it in every size available and they all come in handy for sweet and savory occasions.
Williams Sonoma | From $13
10. A Baking Bible
This book published by my alma mater is basically the whole curriculum I went through at pastry school, and I’ll revisit it often to recreate the recipes. It’ll teach you how to make sculptural croquembouche cakes for your next event, temper chocolate for fancy bonbons, make croissants from scratch, all with detailed step-by-step photos.
Stewart Tabori & Chang | $55
11. Textured Rolling Pins
These artful rolling pins will churn out beautiful cookies in a snap. Use them to roll out your sugar or cookie doughs and then cut shapes out.
Etsy | $22
12. Restaurant Bowl
These bowls are lightweight, quick to adapt to various temperatures (which is great when melting chocolate, making whipped cream, and making ganache) and wider than traditional mixing bowls, making it easier to fold ingredients together. The latter is especially important when dealing with sensitive batters, like for macarons.
Williams Sonoma | $9
Acetate is so helpful when it comes to stacking trendy naked cakes, Momofuku Milk Bar style, and also for ice cream cakes. Line the edges of a cake ring with acetate before assembling your dessert, let it all chill in the fridge to set, and simply slide the ring off without disturbing your creation. When ready to present and serve, simply peel the plastic off the dessert.
JB Prince | $10/roll
14. Pastry Blender & Pastry Wheel
Guilty confession: I like to whip up pie and tart doughs in my food processor. But scones still get the royal treatment and require a pastry blender because a fork just doesn’t do it for me. The pastry wheel I love for trimming any kind of crust before baking. Also, it’s used often to trim fondant and marzipan when decorating cakes.
Williams Sonoma | $35
15. Parchment Paper
This makes baking life so much easier. Use it to line baking trays, and the bottom of cake pans for super quick release and cleanup. I also like to sandwich a disk of sticky cookie dough between it before rolling it out. If space allows, flat sheets are way easier to work with than curly rolls.
Amazon | $10 for 100 sheets
16. Hand Blender
If you don’t have the space for a stand mixer, invest in a good hand version. This new model from OXO can stand on its own, can be stored easily with the blades attached so you don’t lose them in a kitchen drawer, and has a light that illuminates when it’s in use so you can always see what’s happening inside the bowl.
OXO | $40
17. Quality Butter
Favored by chefs, this flavorful, European-style butter is far superior than any generic brand. Just make sure you’re reaching for unsalted.
Plugra | $4
18. Flavored Sugars
Lucky friends will love the subtle flavors that are achieved with flavored sugars. Use them to toss homemade donuts, or sprinkle them on iced cookies for a sweet surprise.
La Bella Terre | $26 for 2
19. All-Purpose Scraper
Rather than metal bench scrapers, which are prettier, I love the easy going plastic options that have a flat edge on one side for scraping flat surfaces, and a curved edged on the other so you can use it to efficiently get every last drop from mixing bowls.
Ateco | $4
20. Flour Sifter
Sifting dry ingredients can be so frustrating when the strainer you’re using is too small, or the sifter keeps getting jammed. This large sieve makes the whole task a breeze: Plop it in a wide bowl or on a flat piece of parchment, toss in all the dry ingredients, and make it snow.
Amazon | $8
21. Gel Paste
I always prefer gel paste over the runny, liquid food coloring you find at the grocery store. The paste allows you to achieve a more saturated color, which is great when you’re trying to make something really dark and adding too much liquid changes the consistency of whatever you’re mixing. Plus it comes in tons of shades.
Americolor | $3
22. Vanilla Bean Paste
More powerful than vanilla extract, this pantry staple infuses real vanilla flavor into your baked goods and gives you the beautiful black speckles of real vanilla that you don't get from using extract.
Nielsen Massey | $12
23. Piping Tips
An array of tips comes in super handy obviously for decorating cakes and icing cookies. Some unexpected uses for them include: using a large star tip to make homemade churros, or a large round tip to quickly and evenly frost the icing layers in a layered cake.
Ateco | $27 for 55 pieces
24. Serrated Knife & Cake Slicer
Want perfectly even cake layers every time? This nifty set will do the trick. It includes a serrated knife for cutting, a slit ring to guide your knife, and a large disc spatula to help you transport layers.
Zenker | $59