Around this time each year I begin to get emails from readers asking about my favorite kitchen essentials. Instead of trying to reply individually, I’m going public with my favorites! I use all of these items in my own kitchen. You may even recognize some of them from previous posts on this blog. This is a short list of things that work for me, the “Necessities” keep me functioning and the things “For Fun” keep me inspired.
This is a bit of a departure from my normal posting, but I feel it could be helpful if you’ve got a special baker on your Christmas list.
This highlights some of my favorite essentials, but is by no means a complete list. If you’re interested in a full list of basics I have one in the front of the SprinkleBakes book.
Rubber spatulas: What would we do without these?! Super important. I have about 10 in constant rotation. There’s nothing remarkable about the set I own, but they have lasted a good four years without the head coming off the handle. Some of the more expensive versions I’ve used are already garbage. These seem to be pretty durable.
Nesting bowls: glass heatproof bowls (like the one pictured above) are an absolute essential and they are easy to store. They are not porous like plastic bowls so meringue always whips perfectly and they will not retain odors. I received this set as a wedding gift 9 years ago, and I reach for them every time I bake. They are a little scratched up these days but I don’t plan on replacing them unless they break.
Heat-proof 4-cup measure: I use the heck out of this. Measures liquids accurately and it is heat proof. I love using it to make hard candy in the microwave.
Electric hand mixer: Hand mixers are affordable and convenient to use. I have two: a 5 speed KitchenAid and a 7 speed Cuisinart. I reach for the latter most because I like the digital controls and it is a little more powerful. It’s adorably pink and retro, plus it comes with a whip attachment that I love to use when beating egg whites and heavy cream. It is a little noisy, but performs great. You can see me using it in this video with the whip attachment.
Off-set spatulas: I have several, and you need these to smoothly apply frosting to confections. I own a large 13-inch spatula (though the handle is badly melted from falling on the dishwasher’s heating element) and use it most often. I also use a 9-inch for smaller jobs, like frosting cupcakes when I don’t feel like fooling with the piping bags.
Standing mixer: I use a KitchenAid Artisan 5 quart tilt-head stand mixer. I don’t have many complaints about it besides the little bump at the bottom of the bowl (dry ingredients tend to congregate there) – but I’m just being nitpicky.
This is THE gift for serious bakers and a great upgrade for those with only a hand mixer.
Rolling pin: I prefer a no-handle French rolling pin. I just do. It’s a control thing. I own this rolling pin by Ateco. You could probably also use it as a weapon, as it is very, very sturdy.
Candy thermometer: Okay, pet peeve time. I do not like mercury clip candy thermometers. I’m all for a digital read-out because I can’t see the incremental markings on the sides of a mercury thermometer. Even with my glasses on I somehow end up with burned candy. I like this one.
It’s not technically a candy thermometer but it gets the job done every time. It has a metal probe that can be used to test the doneness of meat, but you can also use it on cakes or pies that need to reach a certain internal temperature. The temperature also registers low enough to be a good chocolate thermometer. I really love it MOST for making hard candy because it has an alarm function. Goodbye burned candy!
Springform pans: If I could only choose one type of pan for cakes, I’d choose springform pans because they are multi-functional. They have straight sides and the collar detaches for easy removal. You can use them for regular cake batters, cheesecakes and other molded desserts. The 9-inch size is most commonly indicated for use in standard cake recipes. I use Nordic Ware springforms in all sizes, but I have three of these and use them often.
I also mention here how much I love my little 7-inch springforms. I love them, I do. They make cakes look a bit more petite, a bit taller and a little more special all around. They’ll hold batter for a standard 9-inch cake, you just have to bake it slightly longer. Consider them if you have the cabinet space to spare.
Pastry rings: Okay, I waffled a bit calling these “necessities” but they truly are multi-purpose. I have eight 3-inch diameter rings, which can turn a standard pie recipe into 8 individual serving pies. Tuiles can be shaped over them and they also perfectly double as cookie cutters. Ateco Stainless Steel Round Forms
Kitchen torch/brulee torch: This isn’t something I use very day, but it’s a lot of fun when making meringue or toasting marshmallow toppings. I own this one – very basic and has a hands-free setting. Makes banana pudding look like a work of art. Super, super, fiery fun.
Fancy decorator piping tip set: this is almost an essential in my book, but a zip-top bag with the corner snipped can work in a pinch. I use this set from Ateco.
I also own a decorator’s essential tool box from Wilton which has lots of useful piping tips and much more inside. I’m including a link to Amazon, but those in the US should look for those “50% off one regular priced item” coupons in the craft store circulars to buy this item. These toolboxes are rarely included in ongoing discounts and using the coupon takes about $50 off!
Rolling pin guide bands: Makes dough uniform. Cookies bake up evenly and look perfect. I use these all the time!
Silicone dessert molds: I love using molds to give desserts a unique or modern-look. Use it to shape cakes and mold mousse. I have this pyramid mold and use it about three times a year. Definitely not a necessity, but so much fun. Consider one if you have the cabinet space.
Pastry comb: You can easily give iced cakes a pretty pattern by using a pastry comb. I own this multi-sided one because you can get multiple effects from one comb.
Matcha tea: Certain brands of matcha can get expensive, so I really like Maeda-En baker’s grade matcha tea. A little goes a long way!
Vanilla bean paste: I love seeing those little flecks of vanilla seeds in my baked goods. This paste is jam-packed with them and I don’t have to worry about the freshness and storage of vanilla beans.
Valrhona chocolate: This is my favorite chocolate of all time. In all the land. Of ever.
It completely changes the texture of chocolate cakes (for the better), and I always try to have it on hand. An 8 oz. block will usually cover whatever chocolate project I’ve got up my sleeve.
Valrhona also makes the best little chocolate pearls. They make a great topping and have a slight crunch because there’s a tiny biscuit inside. I use them here and my pal Darla uses them in this knockout recipe.
Sprinkles: I love sprinkles (this is news?) and I love to find a colorful bottle of them in my Christmas stocking. I always have these two extra special varieties on hand. They make me extra happy.
Edible gold leaf: So, this one is a little expensive, and I accidentally bought more than I needed but I’m kinda glad I did. A little goes a long way and I absolutely love how special it makes desserts look. I’ll surely understand if you’d rather spend $50 on a nice gold pendant for your baker friend, but if he/she’s a sucker for aesthetically pleasing desserts he/she may prefer the former. Yes, it’s a huge splurge (in my book), but I’m seriously set for life with this much gold leaf.
And just for fun…
What I’m asking for this year!
So. This has been on my list for a while and so many hold it in high esteem. I’m looking forward to having this “Best cooking encyclopedia” (Ina Garten), “Bible of cooking” (Anthony Bourdain), “Invaluable tool” (Thomas Keller) on my shelf.
Like I need another hand mixer. The reviews are a little mixed, but I want to try it for myself. Hopefully it won’t be a return.
It sure does look slick!
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links.
Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.