This post contains affiliate links but as always, they are only for the products I love and use, so that you can get the same results as me with your own baking.
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for ages and I really hope you enjoy it and find it useful. It occurred to me just after my birthday last month that if we count standing on a kitchen chair next to my nan, measuring out ingredients and scraping the bowl as baking, I have been baking for more than 30 years. If ever there was a statement to make you feel ancient, it’s one which proclaims that you have done anything for 30 years or more! I used to be very hung up about ageing but it’s eased the older I’ve got and actually, I’m quite proud to be 36 year old me, I’m not ashamed of it.
20 years ago or so, pre-the Great British Bake Off, recipe books or certainly a lot of the ones I had at my disposal, rarely showed process shots and actually, I suspect many had “stock” images rather than true photos of the final bakes, if any picture at all. It drove me mad that even when I followed instructions pedantically, my bakes didn’t look like those deceptive images and when I finally took the plunge and starting sharing my recipes by starting this blog, I made it my mission to write recipes thoughtfully, give all the crucial details and wherever I found a product I loved, share the source so you get the same results as me. Let’s take a look at the kit I really couldn’t bake without:
- PME Cake Tins
My cake tin collection is embarrassingly large. Some of that is due to thoughtful friends and family gifting me them but also, as you can pick a cake tin up for under a tenner mostly, even when I was an impoverished student, I could pick one or two up on a fairly regular basis. It wasn’t until some professional cake maker friends kept bringing up PME as the brand to use that I caved and I haven’t looked back.
They truly are the best kept secret in the baking world and I’m here to reveal all about them! I’ve never seen my cakes bake more evenly, have completely straight sides with astonishingly flat tops and gloriously pale golden browning all over. You can get them in almost any size or shape but I to start off, a couple of sandwich tins and two 8 inch round, 3 inch deep ones will see you straight. These alone can revolutionise your home baking.
2. An Oven Thermometer
I say this time and time again – it’s boring but it’s true. If you want to be confident that your cake is cooked as per any recipe (not just mine!) having an oven thermometer on the same shelf as the cake is the best thing you can do. You’ll be shocked how off the display on your oven can be and how much variation you get between the top and bottom shelves of the oven. If you frequently undercook or burn your cakes, this is the piece of kit which will change everything for you. They will be the best £5 investment in your baking.
3. Reusable Silicone Liners
Have you seen me mention these in, like, all of my cake recipes?! Bake-o-glide is the brand I use and trust and some of the liners I own are a decade old! They only get better with age. Wash by hand or in the dishwasher then pop in the still warm oven after finishing baking and they dry out, ready for another bake in half an hour. Silicone gives slip and is the reason baking parchment is nonstick (as it is sprayed with silicone). I use the sheet versions on baking trays and the pre-cut circular base and sideliners in all my round tins.
4. Ceramic Baking Beans
For years, I used a tub of red lentils to weigh down my pastry whilst blind baking. One Christmas, Hungry Hubby bought me a pot of ceramic baking beans and after one tart, I was converted. The extra weight prevents any bubbling up of the pastry and the ceramic disperses the heat beautifully. I do find that for 9 inch tarts (the pretty much standard tart size) need more than a standard pot of ceramic beans to ensure a flat bake, so buy two pots – you need enough so that there are absolutely no gaps between the beans or there’s no real point in bothering to use them at all.
5. A Welsh Bakestone
This was a tip I got from my day of baking bread with my baking hero – Dan Lepard (swoon!). If you struggle with soggy bottoms on your pastry, pizza or bread, then this is the piece of kit for you. It is a circular piece of steel that can be used on the hob (to make Welshcakes) or popped in the oven as it preheats to guarantee you a crisp base to your pastry and bread. Honestly, I rarely take mine out of the oven these days. They are pretty much indestructible too so are often passed down through Welsh families for generations.
6. Top Quality Baking Trays
Dexam is a brand I’ve only just noticed as I think they may have recently had a bit of a facelift so are more noticeable on the shelves. As it turns out, I have drawers full of their fabulous products and I hadn’t even realised! These baking trays (or “cookie” trays as they are sold) are very large, heavy duty and don’t warp.
Do measure your oven before you order but with baking trays, the bigger and sturdier the better and these are pretty much the full size of a shelf in my oven. If you order from Amazon, they sell thick silicone mats to match them which are also excellent quality and having subjected both to the ultimate test – macarons – I can vouch for them performing to a very good standard.
7. A Thermapen Thermometer
If you want to make perfectly soft and creamy fudge, Italian meringue buttercream and jam with confidence, then this piece of kit is one to save up for. I bought a load of cheaper candy thermometers over the years and the cost came to way more than the cost of the Thermapen, which is usually no more than about £30 these days. It reads the temperature in under 3 seconds and has been calibrated to perfection – this is the Swiss Quartz of the thermometer world! Pop one on your Christmas list if it’s a little out with your budget right now.
8. Alan Silverwood Multi-size Tin
Another investment piece but it’s got so much going for it. The sides all disassemble so it can pack away flat, saving on valuable cupboard space plus you can make multiple square or rectangular cakes at once in it. Great for Christmas or weddings but also everyday baking too as you can set it up to make everything from an 8 inch square brownie to an 8 by 12 inch traybake sized tin. It does need lining in order to be able to use it but I’ve long since given away my square tins, as this is the only one I use now.
9. Heston Blumenthal Digital Scales
You must know by now I’m an English girl and bake in grams. I do have a Measurement Conversion page to help you if you use cups but as I don’t use them regularly myself, I don’t currently include conversions for every recipe – it’s really important to me that my recipes are accurate and I can’t vouch for them if I haven’t made and tested them in cups.
This scale by Heston is brilliant as the display is to the side so easy to see even with a large bowl on and the second, smaller scale is perfect for measuring yeast for accurate bread baking. I use a small plastic bowl that weighs almost nothing and my bread making has only improved for it. Both scales are super sensitive and reliable – I can’t recommend them enough for accurate baking.
10. KitchenAid Stand Mixer with a Flex-Edge Beater
I couldn’t finish this post without a mention to my KitchenAid. An object of desire for pretty much every home baker, I couldn’t be without my Candy. If you’ve only just started following the blog you’ll not know that I hate jewellery so instead, when Hungry Hubby finally proposed to me, he literally did get down on one knee, ask me to marry him and then push the box with my KA in towards me!
As she’s nearly 7 years old now, she didn’t come with a flex-edge beater but I’ve since bought one and use it all the time for cake batters and frostings. (The mincing attachment is ace too and I have my eye on the pasta attachment but it’s super spendy!).
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post. If there’s ever something you want to ask that I’ve not made clear, then just fire away – I really do love hearing from readers and I’ll help in anyway I can :D
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will earn a little commission if you chose to buy items I’ve advertised, helping me to bring you all these recipes for free!
Like this post? Then why not try these related ones: