The Great British Bake Off returned to our screens this week, and you might feel inspired to whip up your own gravity-defying mini rolls or cakes in the kitchen.
whether you’re a novice or an avid baker, having the right equipment is important.
“If you want to enjoy baking, the only way to do it is to have the right tools,” says Tara Menzies, owner of Mallow-based baking studio Broken Spoon Cakes.
“Otherwise you’re going to drive yourself crazy wondering why that cake fell?” Why did it fall in the middle? Why hasn’t it increased?
Here we collect all the equipment you need to put on a real show at home.
For the preparation
Our experts advise buying a digital scale to weigh ingredients, to ensure greater accuracy. Charlotte Leonard Kane, co-founder of Scéal Bakery in Dublin, names the Escali Primo digital scale (from €30, Amazon) as her favourite.
“Battery life is really good and they have a good flat surface so they’re stable. If you put a mixing bowl in, it’s not going to wobble,” she says. “It will weigh in grams, ounces, and fluid ounces, and it’s very accurate.”
For a budget, check out the Salter range (from €18, Argos), recommended by Clare Anne Taylor, founder and pastry chef of Clare Anne Taylor Couture Cakes in Wicklow.
For mixing or scraping your bowl, Tara praises Le Creuset’s dishwasher-safe silicone spatulas (from €10, LeCreuset.ie) as particularly resistant, while Charlotte suggests spatulas in TK Maxx (from €5.99).
When choosing a rolling pin, Clare favors a plastic roller, such as the Wilton non-stick roller (€26.95) or the PME non-stick version (€28.97, both Stuff4Cakes.com).
“I like using a plastic rolling pin, especially for fondant, as they are smoother and give a cleaner finish when rolling,” says Clare, noting the PME guide rings (from 2, 95 € the set of three, Stuff4Cakes.com) are a useful addition.
“They standardize the thickness of any cookie, pastry, or fondant that we might roll.”
Pastry shop viewers will be familiar with the pastel-colored KitchenAid stand mixers used in the tent, and Tara and Clare hail the 4.8L Artisan version (£449, HarveyNorman.fr) as the ultimate baking staple, giving you the freedom to move around the kitchen while your buttercreams or eggs fly away.
“It’s very sturdy – they’re built to last,” says Tara. “I think I’ve had mine for at least 10 years and it’s made a million cakes. It does the majority of the batter for my wedding cakes and all the buttercream, so it works consistently and I don’t never had any problems with the motor.
Saundra Drew Larsen, co-owner of Danes Bakery in Limerick, uses two mixers at home: a KitchenAid and a Kenwood Chef (€339, HarveyNorman.fr). “I use them for different things,” she says.
“If I’m making royal icing, I find the Kenwood has a more powerful motor and it runs better.
“It’s a sturdier mixer, for heavier things like kneading dough, because it can handle the heaviness of the dough, whereas if you want to whip something light and fluffy, KitchenAid is definitely the better of the of them.”
The Kenwood Chef is available in a standard 4.6L size or an XL size, which has a 6.7L bowl (£439.95, instead of £479.95, Arnotts). Patrick Ryan, owner of Firehouse Bakery and the bread school in Wicklow, recommends going for the larger size if you can afford it.
“It’s a bigger bowl and the balloon whisk catches the whole bowl, whereas I know the average chef can sometimes miss that little bit,” he says, noting that it will be a one-time investment because the blender lasts a lifetime.
“You see others that come in different colors and they’re nice to look at, but the engine in them wouldn’t be as strong as in the leader. This makes the leader a bit more versatile.
Your choice of mold or tray can make a huge difference in the success of your baking. Tara highly recommends spending the extra bucks on baking pans made from premium materials that won’t warp or bend at high temperatures.
“You could have the best blender in the world and do everything right with your recipe, but if you don’t have the right pan, it won’t conduct heat properly,” she says.
His top pick for an all-rounder is the eight-inch Prestige springform pan ($9, instead of $22, Arnotts).
“All you have to do is release the sides and the cake comes out nice and clean,” she says, adding that Prestige boxes “last for years.”
“Every recipe will call for an eight-inch can no matter what, so if you get a couple of eight-inch cans, you’ll be sorted.”
Saundra prefers a sturdy box to ensure the heat dissipates evenly through the mix, recommending the brand’s Invicta (eight-inch round box, $13.50, Squires-Shop.com) and Silverwood (eight-inch round box with solid bottom, €8.75, Silverwood-Bakeware.com). “These are really good quality pans and they’ll last you a really long time,” she says.
For the bread, Patrick recommends a Pyrex casserole dish with a flat lid (from €15.99, Nisbets.fr). “It’s a great alternative to the proofing basket, but you can also bake bread in it, even if your oven is rotten,” he says.
“It’s basically like a Dutch oven, so it creates a dome that you can steam bread in, which is a great way to bake bread at home.”
For icing your cakes, many of our experts have recommended a crank paddle (from €7.95, TheKitchenWhisk.com) to obtain an even distribution.
“They have a 1/4 palette knife-height step, so you can level any mixing or topping tray, or decorate a cake beautifully and smoothly, with ease,” says Clare.
“It will give a much better result than if you were to use the back of a spoon, for example, and all without your fingers touching the mixture.”
For modeling or fondant icing work, Saundra names PME as the best brand.
“I bought a set from my dad about 30 years ago and I still use the same set every day. I’ve never had to replace them,” she says, explaining that while you can buy an unlimited number of different pipe tubes, two will suffice for most jobs: the No.2 Writer (€3.23) and the No.5 Star (€3.23, PMECake.com).
Best Baking Buys
Ideal for rolling dough: PME guide rings (from €2.95 for a set of three, Stuff4Cakes.com)
It can be difficult to judge the thickness of your dough or fondant with the naked eye, so pastry chef Clare Anne Taylor suggests getting guide rings, which you can slide on either side of your roller to pastry to ensure even thickness.
Ideal for baking bread: Pyrex dish (from €15.99, Nisbets.fr)
Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bakery notes that this dish can be used both as a proofing basket and for steaming bread in the oven, similar to the Dutch oven baking method.
Ideal for spectacular cakes: Crank paddle (from €7.95, TheKitchenWhisk.com)
Don’t bother fiddling with spoons – this tool’s angle is designed to create an even, smooth finish in your tray mixture, icing, ganache or toppings, and will prevent your fingers from touching the mixture too.