I've been baking for several years now, and it was only recently that I moved out of my home kitchen to run my cake making business in a professional commercial space. When the big move was happening, I realised just how much stuff I had accumulated - and figured it would be useful to share with you what I consider to be my 'essential survival kit' for baking, and some of the helpful, affordable accessories that I use to produce my baked goods.
There are lots of gadgets and widgets out there which are marketed as 'essential' but with some creativity and natural ability, you don't NEED a lot of it. This guide is mainly taken from my 'home baking' experience, as I can tell you, working in a commercial kitchen is another world!
So if you're looking to start baking goodies at home or already a keen baker, this is the starting place for you - and just in time for Christmas so if you're missing anything, you could always ask Santa :)
ESSENTIALS FOR BAKING:
A mixer will make your life so much easier - it's one of the more expensive items I invested in but as soon as I did, I wondered how I ever survived without it! My recommended mixer for great efficiency is the KitchenAid Mixer, which is widely available in shops such as John Lewis & Lakeland but if you're on a tight budget and want a mixer that will do the job for home-baking use, the Morphy Richards Stand Mixer seems a bargain at well under £100!
Muffin tins are essential if you plan on making cupcakes, and are also versatile for other uses. You can't go wrong with this Pyrex Non Stick Oven Tray & 12 Hole Muffin Tin Twin Set but realistically, any muffin tin would do the job especially if you're making cupcakes and using cases to bake them in. Wilkinsons, Lakeland, John Lewis, or any large supermarkets are good places to find a decent muffin tin.
The best square cake tin I've found is the Alan Silverwood Multisize Foldaway Cake Pan which is amazingly versatile as you can change the size with the inserts to make any size between 6" and 12", and folds up nicely to save essential cupboard space.
For round cake tins you can't go wrong with the KitchenCraft range like this Springform Cake Tin with Loose Base, but Lakeland are also a great source for good quality cake tins.
A good set of Digital Kitchen Scales will save you from baking disasters as they're amazingly accurate - I'd recommend Salter as great value for money and top quality.
Spatulas & palette knives are some of the smallest but most important pieces of baking equipment I own, and you don't need a million different ones - just pick a great quality one and it will become a vital piece of kit. I'd recommend a Wood Handle Palette Knife and a Silicone Spatula. A pizza cutter will also come in handy!
You'll need 2 different types of rolling pins if you're looking to work with icing for cakes etc. The one I use literally every day is a PME Non-Stick Rolling Pin as it's vital for making cake decorations and smaller things. However it's also useful to have a large wooden Rolling Pin for working with pastry and also covering large cakes in fondant icing.
Cutters are extremely useful for both cakes and pastry related baking. I'd recommend these Round Biscuit/Pastry Cutters for your basic kit, along with a mixed set of assorted Mini Shapes Cutters for Cookies, Icing, Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration.
A rolling mat can prevent your worktops from getting messy and is perfect for rolling out icing or pastry; here's the exact one I've used for the past 5 years: WellBake Large Rolling Mat for Pastry, Dough. Superior Quality Nonstick Silicone Bakeware + 10 Year Guarantee
An apron is a must if you don't want to be wearing your food, and I've gathered a few over the years either as gifts or competitions I've won. However I do love this Star Baker apron, it can be personalised with a name so makes a fab gift! Also seems to be available in sizes for children or adults.
You will certainly need a couple of good mixing bowls. You can find them in any large supermarket as well as Wilkinsons, John Lewis and Lakeland. If you're looking for a gift for a special baker, I'd recommend this Mason Cash Ceramic Mixing Bowl as Seen on Great British Bake Off.
Cooling racks make your life easier and I find this Lakeland Folding 3 Tier Cake & Biscuit Baking Cooling Rack the best one for it's quality of support and also super handy as they stack, so it saves a lot of space!
I hope you've found this guide useful, and feel free to comment with requests on more reviews and advice. This is only the tip of the iceberg of what I could share advice on! I'm also working on a cake-making specific guide, and also a biscuit-baking guide so watch this space for more tips...