I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to most things (if “minimalist” means wearing jeans I bought in college and using my Danskos as winter boots)—but not when it comes to baking tools.
I am powerless in the face of a tiny spatula. I neeeeed another Bundt pan—can’t you see that one has a swirl design while the other is a series of peaks?! And you can bet that one of the first things on my...I mean “our”...wedding registry was a kitchen torch.
So when the holidays come around, I’m not dreaming of scented candles or scarves I’ll never wear: I want a baking tool (or five!) that’s going to make my experience more precise or more fun or more beautiful. (If it also makes my cabinets just a little more cluttered, so be it.)
Since “baking tools” is a huuuuge category, we’ve divided it into three: the stuff you need (for bakers just getting started), the stuff that can take you to the next level (for baking 2.0), and the stuff that’s a little extra (for the person who already has everything else). Get yourself what you want or put together a lil’ package for the sugar fiend in your life.
All products featured on Basically are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a small affiliate commission.
Flexible rubber spatula
Flexible rubber “spats” (as the kids say) are the new wooden spoons. Use for stirring butter as it browns, scraping batter out of a bowl, and spreading frosting across a cake. Also: tapping your partner gently on the butt.
If you’re generous, get your friend two different colors and tell them to save one for caramelized onions and the other for chocolate, sugar, and butter: This eliminates any cross-contamination and takes care of the Lingering Odor Problem.
Forks can’t do what whisks can! Whisks not only combine and lighten dry ingredients, eliminating pesky lumps, but they also aerate eggs and cream for maximum fluffiness. I recommend a slender whisk—either mini or French-style—so that it can fit in as many different vessels as possible. Unless someone is whipping eggs for 50, a big balloon whisk will gather dust.
I’m not confident enough in my estimation skills to eyeball a teaspoon of salt without screwing up my entire cake. Are you? Two sets is best so that you don’t have to constantly wash between vinaigrette and brownie batter.
Try baking without these and see how far you get. And baking from a mix doesn’t count, so don’t start with me.
Liquid measuring cup
What, you didn’t know that a liquid measuring cup is different than a dry measuring cup? Who are you, my dad? (This is a true story from the last time I asked him to pass me the liquid measuring cup and he wa s flabbergasted.) For water, milk, cream, juice, and [insert 5 other liquids you might bake with here], these are more precise (and less likely to result in a spill). I like the flexible Silicone ones from OXO, which stay cool to the touch, even right from the microwave.
Rimmed half sheet tray
Metal mixing bowls
Sure, you could bust your budget buying a pricey set of nested ceramic mixing bowls. But why? Metal bowls are inexpensive and nearly indestructible—meaning they’re a lot more likely to get used rather than displayed.
List of those who lie to you: parents, teachers, meteorologists, landlords, your oven thermometer. If you think that setting the dial to 350 means the temp is 350, you’re living a lie, my friend. If you already have one (good for you), buy one for the friend who serves you flat cookies or burnt cake—maybe they’ll get the hint?
For getting lumps out of cocoa powder without sifting. Or showering a cake with powdered sugar. Or smoothing a pudding that’s lumpier than intended. Also good for straining pasta or grains or blanched vegetables.
8x8 or 9x9 square pan
I don’t care which size you get—but you need one. Brownies, blondies, lemon bars, crumble bars, all the sorts of “humble” and “low-maintenance” desserts that you take to “bake sales” (or just hoard for yourself).
8-inch or 9-inch round cake pan
How else will you make a birthday cake? If you don’t have a birthday cake, how can you have a birthday? Will time simply stop? I, for one, don’t want to find out. I like a pan with high sides: It’s less likely for batter to spill over and make a mess.
Comes in handy for sheet cakes and big batches of blondies, but also for DIY ice cream bars (hey, it could happen) annnnnnnnd lasagnas, baked pastas, enchiladas, slow-roasted veg. Don’t forget kugel! If you’re only going to buy glass or metal, go with metal: It’s more versatile and will give you crispier edges and better browning. I love that this dish from Nordic Ware comes with a cover because it means I don’t have to waste single-use plastic wrap or aluminum foil when I’m toting a cake to a friend’s house.
If I see you trying to skim off the outer layer of a piece of citrus with the big holes of a box grater, I may forcibly remove said box grater from your hand and replace it with a Microplane, the only tool for the job. Also nice for grating ginger, garlic, chiles, and cheeeeeese. I bought one of these for a friend when I saw what her “minced garlic” looked like. I swear that sounds more passive aggressive than it was!
Nice To Have
We live in a world where our phones can plot our GPS and show big companies exactly where we go in the day—so why would we take the risk of 1 cup of flour being anywhere between 115 grams and 140 grams? That’s not precision! That’s not 2019 technology! Keep a set of measuring cups for chocolate chips and nuts, grated cheese and frozen peas, but use a scale for ingredients whose density can determine how much “1 cup” really is. Not only will it save you from washing measuring cups (boring!), but it will also guarantee that the texture of your desserts—tender cakes, chewy cookies, melt-in-your-mouth brownies, squishy banana bread—are as intended.
Mini offset spatula
Your new best friend. Use it to make dramatic whirls of frosting on cakes and cupcakes (don’t even get me started on the wonders it can work on whipped cream), but also to swoop hummus, smear butter, jam, and cream cheese, and pry muffins out of their tins.
This one squeezes, strains, and measures. A one-stop shop! Lemon pound cake, here you come.
The easier it is to scoop cookies, the more cookies you’ll make—and that’s a fact. A scooper also creates cookies of the exact same size, which will prevent your roommates from fighting over who gets the biggest one. Also great for portioning meatballs.
Fine, you can use an empty wine bottle—but wouldn’t it be nice to graduate? A French-style rolling pin, which is essentially a big stick, gives you the most control. Buy for yourself or give to the friend who bakes sugar cookies every year.
For applying glazes and egg washes gently and evenly. (No, a toothbrush is not an acceptable substitute.)
The baker who multitasks is not satisfied with a phone timer alone! These come in a pack of two, which means you can do at least three things at once (and four if you borrow your roommate's phone, too!).
Hand mixer or stand mixer
You might be strong, but you can’t cream butter and sugar as well as an electric mixer can. Investing in a motor-powered mixer will open up a whole new world of baking for you (and allow you to save your arm strength for tasks that really matter, like opening the pickle jar). If you can’t decide between hand and stand, Jesse Sparks breaks it down for you here.
Plastic dough scraper
Use it to scoop the last bits of a clingy dough out of the mixing bowl or to transfer a pile of chopped chocolate or nuts to the awaiting brownie batter. Sort of like the flat side of a knife, but without that scary blade getting in the way.
Not necessary, but very welcome. Especially if you like to make muffins in big batches over the weeknight, stick them in the freezer, and then microwave one for a warm, comforting breakfast every morning. Just a thought!
Above & Beyond
You have a pie plate (see directly above), so now you need super sharp scissors to trim away the excess dough before you get to crimping. These little guys from Joyce Chen are powerful and precise. Use them to cut dried fruit, snip herbs, or even break down a chicken, cleaning between each use, of course.
Raise your hand if you have an obsessive attention to detail! These rulers are the only way to guarantee that every section of your sugar cookie dough is exactly 3/16-inch thick or that your pie dough is ¼-inch thick all over. Eyeballing will just not do.
Fancy loaf pan
When you’re sick of people thinking that your banana bread is cute and you want them to think it’s sexy and glamorous instead. The difference between kitten heels and stilettos, if you will.
Ever heard of CHEESECAKE? Any time when you’re baking a cake that needs to come out of the pan but cannot be flipped—maybe it’s fragile or layered or both!—you need a pan that you can unbelt, removing the girding sides while leaving the cake upright and in tact. This particular springform pan is lovely because the glass bottom doubles as a serving plate, which saves you from the often-scary and sometimes-fatal task of scooting the cake off its base.
Tart pan with removable bottom
Not all tarts involve pastry cream. Not all tarts are complicated. But almost all tarts are beautiful. It’s something to do with that fluted edge, I think. Be sure to get one with a removable bottom so that you can slip away the sides of the pan, like magic.
There’s nothing special about a bundt cake except for its shape. But that’s good enough for me! They’re especially wonderful-looking when glazed.
Nested biscuit and cookie cutters
A set of cutters in different sizes are great for cookies, biscuits, scones, cobbler, and decorating the top of a double-crust pie.
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit