Decorating a cake to a picture-perfect finish can be a challenge, especially when catering for an important event like a wedding or birthday. Applying icing – be that fondant, buttercream or royal – piping decorations or transporting your creation all require a deft touch, but some wise investments will make life a lot easier.
Our resident baking expert Liberty Mendez brings you nine essential buys for bakers who want to take their cakes to the next level. For more, read our reviews of baking kit including the best stand mixers, cake tins, electric whisks, cooling racks and piping bags, plus discover 8 gadgets every baking lover should know about.
1. Piping nozzles
De Buyer 6 stainless steel piping nozzles, £13.95
Piping nozzles are one of the most versatile bits of baking kit. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and produce different results depending on which one you use. They’re ideal for creating uniform piping – so you pipe the same-sized shape each time – and are great for making different shapes and patterns on your cakes. This pack of six includes the most useful shapes, plus a fine one – perfect for piping intricate designs.
2. Gel food colouring
Rainbow Dust ProGel food colouring, £2.85
Bold, bright colourings in cakes tend to be quite difficult to achieve, and many require a copious amount of product. Gel colourings are ideal as they don’t alter the liquid quantity of your bake or make your icing go runny, and they provide vibrant results with a small amount of the colouring, even with colours like red and black. They are also ideal for colouring baked items, such as delicate macarons.
3. Icing smoother
Tala flat edge icing smoother
One of the many tricks to smooth fondant over the top of your cake is to use an icing smoother. This one is cheap and effective, and will help to reduce air pockets (which you can also remove using a little pin before smoothing over). A smoother also creates a less matte finish on the fondant.
4. Icing turntable
Wilton High and Low cake turntable, £29.99
Turntables are absolutely key if you want to get a smooth, seamless edge around your cake. By being able to spin your cake, you can continually spread the icing around it and save time, as you won’t be manually moving a cake board around.
This turntable is impressive as it has a non-slip base, which means that if you spin it too fast, your cake creation won’t end up on the floor. It also tilts, which is brilliant as it means that you can reach the tricky parts of the cake that you’d normally have to crouch down to see.
5. Piping bags
De Buyer reusable piping bag set, £17.95
When baking, you tend to get through a vast quantity of piping bags, which, if using disposable ones, is expensive and bad for the environment.
This reusable piping bag is sturdier than disposables and also comes with nozzles. It’s simple to wash, is cost effective and also large enough to fit a lot inside – great for when you’re doing a lot of piping, or baking choux and macarons.
6. Serrated knife
Victorinox pastry knife, £57
When it comes to levelling cakes, you should use the sharpest serrated knife you can find. People tend to use a cake leveller as it allows you to cut precisely across, but they can be flimsy. Simply score around the cake with a serrated knife, then cut across with the ease.
7. Cake boxes and extenders
Wilton Cupcake Heaven cupcake boxes, £6.80
The first impression of your cake is very important, and it helps if it hasn’t been crushed on the way to its final destination. These cake boxes are brilliant and come in a variety of different colours and patterns, depending on the occasion.
You can also buy some inexpensive cake box extenders, which are perfect for transporting tall cakes with high decorations. They simply slot along the cake box sides, preventing the lid of the box from touching the top of the cake.
8. Tall icing spreader
Wilton icing smoother, £10.29
Tall buttercream cakes are becoming more popular, but it can sometimes be difficult to get the icing smooth all the way up the cake due to the height. If your small step palette knife fails to reach the top of a tall cake, this metal icing smoother will do the trick. Its straight, firm metal edge creates effortlessly smooth buttercream in one swoop.
9. Palette knife
Wilton angled palette knife, £6.99
Palette knives are essential when it comes to cake decorating as they allow you to smoothly spread icing across the cake surface. Using a palette knife with a step in it is often easier to control. Larger palette knives, like this 13in one, are perfect for icing larger cakes as their wide metal edge helps cover more surface area.
This review was last updated in May 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put those baking gadgets to good use and try a recipe from our cakes & baking section. Or, if you think we’ve missed something, share your equipment tips with us below…