Cake Basics – Material and Tools You’ll Need to Get Started

I am starting up a list of caking equipment that I typically use, and therefore recommend (though please keep in mind that what I want from my caking equipment may not necessarily be what you want, and that there are many different ways of doing things) … still, I’ve gone through so many products over the last 16 years, I love having a nice dependable list of basics that I know I can trust. I’ll add more to it as I compile more of a structured organized list, and then may stick it into the Files section or something along those lines so people can refer to them, but here are some basics for starting.

Most of these are super affordable (the Agbay I posted is a higher-end product, but I use it for every single cake no matter what). You can find some version of most of these at local shops, and Michael’s even carries cake drums and circles and some basic fondant tools (for the record, I use fondant on every single cake, but still do it with the most basic fondant tool set I bought nearly 20 years ago).

My one exception to the “almost any brand works,” though, is Wilton. It is widely available and cheap, but you always get what you pay for. When I specify that Wilton is okay, go for it (and it’s totally fine for most low-end products). But when it comes to products that you spend a little more money on bcause you want to reuse them and to move cleanly to the next step (cake pans, turntables, etc) if I specifically say not to buy it, please trust that it’s because at some point I BOUGHT IT AND REGRETTED IT. I swear, I’d have a small vacation paid for if I could just save the money from all the mistakes I made in the beginning!

So! First thing’s first!

1.- Cake Pans

Definitely skip Wilton here. It’s just not worth the heartache. The most important features, otherwise, are sharp corners and straight sides. Many of the 8 or 9-inch pans you buy without planning to cake are slightly tapered out, so that the base is slightly smaller than the rim, and that absolutely does not work for caking. My hands-down favorite brands are Magic Line (*sigh*!) and Fat Daddio’s (slightly lower price point and also excellent products, but their square pans are not sharp, stick to their rounds). I have 3-inch side pans in all my sizes, and I have two of each size so that I can bake them simultaneously. I don’t typically do three cake rounds to a tier, since with my torting and filling method, each layer of filling adds significantly to the tier size, and my tiers are always just over 5 inches tall as they are, which works well for me (industry standard is 4 inches, and the sheet cakes you get at your grocery store are 2 inches tall). So two of each size you’re going to want to bake should be plenty if you’re torting.

For the PMC craftalong in May, we’ll be working with an 8-inch cake and a 6-inch cake, only because these are easy sizes to do. Typically, for those of you who are going to want to be stacking more often, the most common (and aesthetically-pleasing) configuration is a 4-inch difference between each tier’s diameter. So a 10-inch cake and a 6-inch would be a great proportion. You’ll see what I mean when we get there.

So! Here are some links to some of the pans I would use (I included 3-inch tall Fat Daddio pans, but 2-inch tall is great, too).

Fat Daddio 8-inch

Fat Daddio 10-inch

Fat Daddio pan set 6-14 inches

Magic Line 8-inch

2-pack

Magic Line 8-inch square pan

 

2.- Cake Circles and Drums

You need a cardboard circle for every layer (so if you torte your cake rounds, have one separate cake circle for each individual torted layer, just so they’re easy to handle and wrap). Ultimately, each tier will be sitting on a cake circle. Wilton is totally fine here. What you want are grease-proof circles (or else, you’ll have to grease-proof your circle yourself, and blech). They sell them in easy packs. Don’t get the pretty gold/silver-foiled cake circles, or the ones with scalloped edges – you won’t see them and it’s not worth the money (plus, the scalloped edges will make icing a BITCH. Make sure you have at least one cake circle of the exact size of each tier (so buy 6- and 8-inch cake circles for our craftalong).

You need a single cake drum for each whole cake. The cake drum is basically a thick cardboard base for your cake, that can withstand the weight. My drums are made of wood, because my cakes are pretty large – you can carve one/build one for yourself, but a cake drum is an easy disposable way to go. Don’t try building your cake only on a cake circle – the last thing you want is a fail right as you’re moving your masterpiece! Cake drums are made by many manufacturers, and they’re always covered by foil or another greaseproof wrapping. Any brand works, as long as it’s nice and hardy!

Cake circles – 8-inch

Cake circles 6-inch

Cake drum

A couple of random, yet frequently-used, tools I have in my arsenal that make my life super easy: A wilton cake lifter, and an Ateco bench scraper. I’ve had my bench scraper for so long, all the markings have worn off, but it’s the bomb. I have two cake lifters, but you really only need one. I also have a very basic Wilton fondant tool set which they no longer make exactly like mine, but I’m including a link for a set by a different brand that has exactly the same heads on the tools as mine. Don’t stress about this – cheap is fine, as long as there are no palpable seams up and down the plastic heads.

Wilton cake lifter

Fondant tools

Ateco bench scraper

And finally, a turntable!!!

I have an Ateco one that I adore. I bought it after my Wilton one rusted and grossed me out when I realized it would come in contact with food. Again, you get what you pay for. I have a turntable extender as well – let me know if you want one, but you only need one if you’re doing something bigger than 14 inches, really. My Ateco turntable is no longer available (and the ones I am finding on Amazon are too similar to my original Wilton design that rusted at the base), or are cast iron, which is soooo heavy to move.

 
Guys. This is the ONE ITEM that I absolutely MUST insist on buying from Wilton. I used to use lecithin, which is awesome but leaves residue that is so hard to clean (and I’m all for the easy, always). No spray has ever come close to working this well for me. No buttering/flouring/parchment paper combo has ever been this incredibly easy and foolproof. Just trust me on this. You’re baking a cake? USE THIS.
 
Any time I’m baking a 10-inch (or larger) cake, I throw in a flower nail to distribute the heat more evenly, so the sides of my cake don’t dry up before the middle has a chance to feel warm. You avoid aaaaaallllllll the problems in the world with these, and they’re super cheap and reusable. I love Ateco because of the blunt ends, but feel free to get Wilton (with sharp ends), or whatever you like.
 
 
I use one bag for each kind of ganache I use (I rarely use buttercream). So two or three bags, tops, per project (and they’re obviously reusable). I don’t use tips, but you must have a coupler to pipe the ganache. Disposable piping bags (or plastic baggies) are much harder to use for the heft of this job.
 

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, here is my Agbay torting and leveling tutorial …

 

 

Posted on February 21, 2019 in Caking Tutorials

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