What utensils are essential for cake making?
I've been bought far too many gadgets over the years that have collected dust in the cupboard. Melon ballers, unusual-shaped tins, ice cream makers and masses of microplane graters to name a few...
You need to be smart about what you spend your money on. Only buy tins and equipment that you're going to use - if you never make a 12" (30cm) flan, don't have a 12" tin; if you like making loaf cakes, get loaf tins. There's no set collection of tin shapes and sizes that every cake maker should have. Wait until you've found recipes that you like the sound of and buy the appropriate sized tin before investing. I have just a small selection of baking equipment that I keep in the kitchen...
- Hand-held mixer
- Silicone spatula
- Good-quality solid (and appropriate) cake tins
- Stack of mixing bowls that fit into each other
- Measuring spoons and measuring jugs
- Wooden spoons for stirring hot mixtures
- Baking parchment, foil and cling film
I think it's an enormous help to have a hand-held mixer. They cost anything from £15 upwards and are well worth it as they save a huge amount of time. OK, a wooden spoon will do, but if you plan to spend a lot of time baking, you'll thank me! I always use the all-in-one method: you take the baking fat straight from the refrigerator, put everything in the bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it holds together, then put it in the right tin. Easy.
I like a good spatula to scrape the bowls, so there's little waste. Avoid using a metal one as it just won't work as well as silicone or rubber. You don't necessarily need a large metal spoon for folding flour into a mixture - just use the spatula for this.... you'll have less washing up!
It's important to use the right sized tin for the amount of mixture. It's no good looking at a recipe and thinking I haven't got that tin so I'll use one a bit smaller or bigger - it'll be disastrous.
Make things that you have confidence in and that your family will like. It's worth spending a bit of money to buy fairly solid cake tins. If they're too flimsy, they'll warp. If you're making biscuits, buy a solid baking tray rather than a cheap one that will tip up on one side when it heats in the oven
Baking parchment is essential for lining tins. You may also find it called silicone paper or baking paper. This is not the same as greaseproof paper, which needs to be greased; baking parchment is non-stick.
It's not worth trying to save money by getting cheap kitchen equipment. If you spend a little more, your tins will last longer and you'll get many more delicious cakes to enjoy!
So cake-makers, tell us what equipment or utensils you couldn't live without and which gadgets aren't worth bothering with. Do you have any good tips for people making their first foray into the wonderful world of baking cakes?
Baking expert Mary Berry is appearing on BBC Two's The Great British Bake Off, part of Children In Need's Get Baking campaign. Get all the recipes from The Great British Bake Off.