I can clearly remember the day I set out to my local craft store in search of my very first cake decorating tools. I had absolutely no prior cake decorating experience (unless you counted slathering canned frosting onto a casserole dish cake) but I was flying high on inspiration from Ace of Cakes, a cake decorating tv show I was obsessed with. Fifteen years later, I still use the same tools I picked up during that initial craft store run and wanted to put together a list of all the essentials you could need to start your own collection.
Cake Pan Set
While it’s perfectly okay to bake your cakes one layer at a time, it’s much more efficient to have a set of cake pans so you can bake all your layers at once. I always like to make triple layer cakes, so I recommend having at least three of your favorite pan sizes. My go-to size is a 6-inch round pan, but a set of 8-inch round pans are great to have on hand too. And opt for anodized aluminum instead of dark metal – it bakes more evenly!
It’s impossible to get a smooth buttercream finish without a cake turntable. It’s also just all-around easier to fill, stack, and decorate cakes with a turntable even if you’re going for a rustic look. The one thing I recommend is finding a cake turntable with a non-slip pad. This will ensure your cake won’t budge while you’re decorating!
It’s super important to find an icing smoother that you feel totally compatible with. I’ve tried a lot of them over the years, but my all time favorite ended up being this bench scraper by Norpro. I use it 100% of the time! I love that it’s perfectly level, easy to grip, and can be gently heated for a super smooth buttercream finish.
Icing spatulas are extremely versatile. I use them to apply buttercream to my cakes before smoothing them, create sharp edges, add texture to my cakes, and more. It’s best to have a few sizes on hand for different tasks.
Cardboard Cake Rounds
Every cake I make is built on top of a cardboard cake round. This makes it much easier to transfer the cake off the turntable and onto a stand or into a box.
Sure, you can use a ziploc bag for piping buttercream (I have in a pinch!), but it’s so much more efficient to have piping bags on hand. I like to buy the 16-inch size because it holds enough to pipe a lot of buttercream but can also be trimmed down into smaller bags.
If you have zero piping tips in your collection and just want to start with a few, I recommend the two below. They’re both extremely versatile – 1M is great for rosettes and swirl borders, 4B is great for star shapes and swirls borders.
Every picture perfect cake starts with perfectly level layers. Since they don’t always bake up flat, it’s handy to have a cake leveler for cutting off domed or misshapen tops. This will make all of your layers the exact same height as well.
Food Color Gels
It’s so much fun to incorporate color into your cake decorating! My favorite brand of coloring to use is AmeriColor for a few reasons: they don’t add any weird flavor to your buttercream, they’re super concentrated so it doesn’t take a whole lot of food coloring to achieve the color you want, and they come in every single color you could possibly imagine. While they do have Nifty Fifty and Heavenly Seventy kits that include pretty much every color you could want in your collection, they also make a starter kit (below) that has all the basics.
Anyone Can Cake: Your Complete Guide to Making & Decorating Perfect Layer Cakes
My book is written with beginners and those wanting to up their cake decorating skills in mind! It’s essentially everything I know about making and decorating layer cakes. The first half covers how to bake the perfect cake layers, create a structurally sound layer cake, and decorate it in all sorts of ways. It includes full guides and troubleshooting tips on ganache drips, coloring buttercream, and adding finishing touches like sprinkles and piping.
The second half is all recipes you could want to practice everything you learn in the first half of the book. It’s truly an all encompassing handbook that will set you up for success and help grow your skills!
I put together a little Amazon shop with all of these essential tools in one place. Click the link below to shop them all at once!
I’m cheering you on in your cake making and am here to support you however I can. Once you get your collection of tools going, be sure to check out my Cake Basics series to learn all the fundamentals! That series paired with my book will be a game changer. Happy caking!