Supplies for making cake:
Electric Mixer – The gold standard for home bakers is the kitchenaid stand mixer. I use this one while baking at home, and it’s easy to use and clean up. Since moving away for college and medical school I’ve used a hand-held mixer. After trying different mixers, I recommend the kitchen aid handheld mixer and the Hamilton Beach handheld mixer. Both have graded settings so you can stir at different speeds or turn it up to high to whisk egg whites if you’re making a sponge cake (both come with a whisk attachment). I currently use the kitchenaid one, but really enjoyed the hamilton beach one in the past.
Rubber Spatula – They key to picking a rubber spatula is making sure the spatula is very curveable. That way it will form to the shape of the bowl you are scraping and get the cleanest scrape. When you test out spatulas, bend the tip to see how pliable it is. It should bend almost all the way back on itself and also be soft. I’ve tried a variety of spatulas, and my favorite by far is the Kitchenaid Classic Silicone Spatula.
Bowls – One very large mixing bowl and one smaller one is enough. Anything in between is supplementary. Personally I like bowls with handles, because they are easier to hold on to when you are pouring.
Cake Pans – The basic pans for cake making are round pans and a cupcake pan. For the round pan, you can choose between a 6 ” pan, a 8″ pan, and a 9″ pan. Most birthday cakes are 8″ to 9″ so I recommend one of these if you choose only one size. Which size you get does not really matter between the two. If you want a very tall looking cake, you need 3 layers for a 8″ or 9″ cake in which case it may save you time to get three of the same pan so you can bake it all at once. However it is totally okay to just have one pan and then bake three separate times if you don’t mind the wait. I have the Wilton Aluminim 9″ pan and love it. Bonus it comes in a set of two on Amazon! I also have the same Wilton aluminium pan in 6″. For a 6″ cake, 2 layers is enough for a very tall looking cake.
Cupcake pans come in two sizes ~ the regular size and the mini-cupcake size. There are 12 cupcake holes in the regular and 24 in the mini. The baking time is lower for the mini, but the tradeoff is that the cupcake is smaller and less decoratable. If you invest in one cupcake pan, I recommend the regular size pan. I have both, but use the regular size one far more often. For the pan I use the good cooks 12 cupcake pan, but most all are very good (just make sure it is non-stick!)
If you want to go above and beyond, you can look into bundt cake pans, square cake pans, heart shape pans, all sorts ~ whatever you like!
Parchment paper and Cupcake liners – It is absolutely necessary to line your pans with parchment paper for baking round cakes (and to use cupcake liners for cupcakes). Otherwise the cake gets stuck and you’ll scratch your pan trying to dig it out. Any parchment paper will do, as will any cupcake liners. I like the white cupcake liners the best, but silver is also very pretty. I’ve tried cupcake liners with designs on them, but the baking process makes the liner more translucent so it doesn’t come out as pretty as the white or silver liners. If you don’t want to trace cake circles each time you bake, you can consider these cake liner rounds on amazon. They are pre-cut, so you just have to take one for each cake layer.
Supplies for decorating cake:
Cake turn table – the single most important tool to get flawless looking icing. You need to put the cake on a turn table and turn as you decorate. Here is a good video on how to use a cake turn table to frost cake. The video was made by Sweetapolita. I highly recommend the Wilton trim and turn ultra turntable. The smaller, trim and turn plus does not turn nearly as smoothly. The Trim and Turn caddy is overkill. And you need to clean your caddy afterwards : / meh.
Cake leveler – you want to level the cake before you start icing it so the cake is nice and flat. This way when you cut into the cake, each layer is flat and of the same height. See my cake and cupcake tutorials page on how to use a cake leveler.
Off-set edge, 4.5″ spatula – An off-set edge spatula is necessary for flawlessly decorating the top of the cake. The off-set makes sure the handle does not scratch the top of the cake. Some people like using a larger say 7″ off-set spatula for the top, but I like the smaller 4.5″ off-set spatula for better control.
Long straight-edge 10″-15″ spatula – This is important for icing the sides of the cake. As you turn your turn table, you use this spatula to keep the sides looking smooth and flawless. Here you want a really long straight edge spatula. Otherwise the handle will hit the top area of the cake as you ice the sides.
Wilton 1M and 4B Open Star Tips – needed for the classic swirled cake icing appearance. I also love the Ateco 827 open star tip for an even fuller swirl. The Ateco tip comes in a set of rather large tips.
Wilton tip 3 – needed for writing words, piping shapes.
Every other tip is supplemental and depends on what style of decorating you want to achieve. Wilton has great kits that come with many tips, and this can be a good investment if you decide you want cakes decorated primarily with butter-cream shapes. For small tips, like wilton tip 3, you will need a tip coupler to use it. See my cake and cupcake tutorials page for directions on how to use a cake coupler.
Piping bags, 24 inch. – Wilton makes great ones and I used them for the longest time. However I found a cheaper one that comes in a roll of 100 and have been using that since. I don’t notice much of a difference from the wilton ones. Both have a tough plastic so your icing won’t ooze as you pipe.
Cake Caddy and Cupcake Caddy – Now that you’ve decorated your beautiful cake, you need something to carry it in and keep it fresh! I recommend the Wilton Cake Caddy for round cakes. This caddy is very durable and thick, so it keeps moisture in very well. I’ve taken it on planes, to people’s houses, it’s been a great. For the cupcake caddy, I have Snapware cupcake caddy. I like that it has three removable layers so I can remove layers if I don’t make enough cupcakes to fill it all up. Almost everything I recommended I found amazon has good prices, but for the cupcake caddy you should get it at Costco for half the amazon price 😉
Above and Beyond Items
Paintbrushes – If you want to paint frosted flowers. I’ve found the best paintbrushes for this are the thinnest ones (gives you more control over the flower petals), and nail art paint brushes are actually quite good for this purpose.
White Vanilla Extract – to make your cake super white. This is great if you want the frosting to look pearly white but still want the taste of vanilla.
Food Coloring – To color your cake and most importantly, the frosting. Having a variety of food color colors means you can make one plain white frosting and use the colors to create the rest of your cake by coloring frosting and having a few decorating bags of different colored frosting ready when you decorate.