I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to most things (if “minimalist” means wearing jeans I bought in college and using my Danskos as winter boots)—but not when it comes to baking tools.
I am powerless in the face of a tiny spatula. I neeeeed another Bundt pan—can’t you see that one has a swirl design while the other is a series of peaks?! And you can bet that one of the first things on my…I mean “our”…wedding registry was a kitchen torch.
So the best gifts for bakers like me are the kitchen tools and pastry paraphernalia that we both need (you can never have too many Silpats) and want (do you know about rose gold sprinkles?). This holiday season, give me a baking gift (or five!) that’s going to make my time in the kitchen more fun and my sourdough loaves more beautiful. And if it also makes my cabinets just a little more cluttered, so be it.
We’ve divided this list into three sections. Something from the “Extremely Necessary” category would make a perfect gift for bakers who are just starting out. The tools and gadgets in the “Nice to Have” section are for home cooks who already own the basics and want to level up. And for the advanced bread baker or semi-pro pastry chef in your life, check out the gift ideas in the “Above and Beyond” section. Put together a lil’ package for your favorite baker—or print out the list, highlight what you want, and leave it casually tucked under your next batch of brownies for all to see.
High-quality flexible “spats” (as the kids say, I’m pretty sure) are the new wooden spoons. Use them for everything from stirring butter as it browns to scraping batter out of a bowl to spreading frosting across a cake. Also: tapping you partner gently on the butt. If you really want to impress your friend, get them two in different colors so they can use one solely for caramelized onions and the other for chocolate, sugar, and butter. This eliminates any cross-contamination and takes care of the Lingering Odor Problem.
Forks are great—I use one every day—but they can’t do what whisks can. Whisks not only combine and lighten dry ingredients, eliminating pesky lumps, but they also aerate eggs and cream for maximum fluffiness. I suggest going with a slender whisk—either mini or French-style—so that it can fit in as many different vessels as possible. Unless someone regularly whips eggs for 50, a big balloon whisk will just gather dust.
Maybe you’re a nonna who measures by palmfuls, or maybe you’re the rest of us. We like this set made from biodegradable bamboo fiber.
I’m not confident enough in my estimation skills to eyeball a teaspoon of salt without screwing up my entire cake. Are you? Two sets (again in biodegradable bamboo) is better than one so that you don’t have to constantly wash between vinaigrette and angel food cake batter.
The last time I asked my dad to pass me the liquid measuring cup, he was flabbergasted. There is a difference between a liquid measuring cup and a dry measuring cup, Dad, and for precision, you need both. I like the flexible silicone ones from OXO, which stay cool to the touch, even right from the microwave.
One word: cookies. Two more words: roasted nuts. Last words: sponge cake. The baker in your life may already own one, but they will not be mad about an extra baking sheet or two. Our favorite one, by Nordic Ware, always makes a great gift.
You could buy a fancy set of ceramic mixing bowls. But why? These biodegradable bamboo bowls are lightweight, so they’re a lot more likely to get used. They come seven to a set, perfect for everything from beating a single egg to making a jumbo batch of pumpkin pancake batter.
List of those who lie to you: parents, teachers, meteorologists, landlords, your oven thermometer. If you think that setting the dial to 350 means the temp is 350, you’re living a lie, my friend. If you already have one (good for you), buy one for the friend who serves you flat cookies or burnt cake—maybe they’ll get the hint? A cheapo dangly oven thermometer is better than nothing, but if you’re serious about baking, spring for BA’s favorite.
For getting lumps out of cocoa powder without sifting. Or showering a cake with powdered sugar. Or smoothing a pudding that’s lumpier than intended. Get a set of three stainless steel strainers and use the big one for washing grains and the little guy for straining loose leaf tea.
I don’t care if you get an 8″x8″ or a 9″x9″. You need one. Brownies, blondies, lemon bars, crumble bars, all the sorts of “humble” and “low-maintenance” desserts that you take to “bake sales” (or just hoard for yourself).
How else will you make a birthday cake? If you don’t have a birthday cake, how can you have a birthday? Will time simply stop? I, for one, don’t want to find out. I like an 8″ or 9″ pan with high sides: It’s less likely that batter will spill over and make a mess.
Comes in handy for sheet cakes and big batches of blondies and DIY ice cream bars (hey, it could happen), but also for lasagnas, baked pastas, enchiladas, and slow-roasted veg. Don’t forget kugel! If you’re torn between buying glass or metal, go with metal: It’s more versatile and will give you crispier edges and better browning. I highly recommend this dish from Nordic Ware, because it comes with a cover so I don’t have to waste plastic wrap or aluminum foil when I’m carrying a cake to the dinner party.
Do you know someone who zests citrus with the big holes of a box grater? Do the right thing and get them Microplane, the only tool for the job. Also nice for grating ginger, garlic, chiles, and parm. I bought one of these for a friend when I saw what her “minced garlic” looked like. I swear that sounds more passive aggressive than it was!
Nice To Have
We live in a world where our phones know how many steps we take during the day and where we parked the car—so why do we put up with 1 cup of flour being anywhere between 115 and 140 grams? That’s not precision! That’s not 2021 technology! Keep a set of measuring cups for chocolate chips and nuts, grated cheese and frozen peas, but use a scale for ingredients like flour and brown sugar. Not only will you have fewer dishes left in the sink, but also your desserts will come out the way recipe developers like me intended.
Your new best friend for cake decorating. Use it to make dramatic whirls of frosting on tiered showstoppers or humble cupcakes (don’t even get me started on the wonders it can work on whipped cream), but also to swoop hummus; smear butter, jam, and cream cheese; and pop muffins out of their tins.
This citrus juicer squeezes, strains, measures, and features cup-to-oz-to-tbsp-to-ml conversions—a true one-stop shop. I see lemon pound cake in your near future.
A cookie scoop is one of the best gifts for bakers and bakers’ roommates alike: the easier it is to scoop cookies, the more cookies that get made. A scooper also creates cookies of the exact same size, which will prevent said roommates from fighting over who gets the biggest one. Also great for portioning meatballs.
Sure, you could use an empty wine bottle to roll out your dough—but wouldn’t it be nice to graduate? A French-style rolling pin, which is essentially a big, slightly tapered dowel, gives you the most control.
For applying glazes and egg washes gently and evenly. (No, a toothbrush is not an acceptable substitute.)
The home baker who multitasks is not satisfied with a phone timer alone! These come in a pack of two, which means you can do at least three things at once (and four if you borrow your girlfriend’s phone, too!).
No matter how strong you are, you won’t be able to cream butter and sugar as well as an electric mixer can. Trust me, a motor-powered mixer will open up a whole new world of baking for you (and allow you to save your arm strength for tasks that really matter, like opening the pickle jar).
Use it to scoop the last bits of a clingy dough out of the mixing bowl or to transfer a pile of chopped chocolate or nuts to the awaiting brownie batter. Sort of like the flat side of a knife, but without that scary blade getting in the way.
Not necessary bakeware, but very welcome. Especially if you’re into the idea of making a big batch of muffins over the weekend and sticking them in the freezer—and then microwaving one every morning for a warm, comforting breakfast in a snap. Just a thought!
Where overripe bananas and extra carrots go to heaven. But wait, it can be used for so much more than baked goods (do you meatloaf?). Loaf pans come in a variety of dimensions, but the 9×5 won’t let you down.
Above & Beyond
So you got the pie plate (see directly above), now you need powerful, precise scissors to trim away the excess pie crust before you get to crimping. I love these little guys from Joyce Chen, which also work wonders for cutting dried fruit, snipping herbs, and even breaking down a chicken. Just remember to clean them between each use.
Does your spouse need a stand mixer? Not necessarily. Do they want a stand mixer? Absolutely. Get the KitchenAid.
Raise your hand if you have an obsessive attention to detail! Precision enthusiasts know that these dough rulers are the only way to guarantee that every section of your sugar cookie dough is exactly ¼-inch thick all over. Simply sandwich your dough between two of these plastic strips and use that rolling pin to level it out evenly.
This reusable, extremely nonstick silicone mat gives parchment paper a run for its money. It’ll expedite your clean up (no more scrubbing gunk off of sheet pans), provide impeccable heat distribution for perfectly baked cookies, and create a smooth surface for kneading dough.
For when you’re sick of people thinking that your banana bread is cute and you want them to think it’s sexy and glamorous instead. The difference between kitten heels and stilettos, if you will.
Ever heard of CHEESECAKE? Any time you’re baking a cake that needs to come out of the pan but cannot be flipped—maybe it’s fragile or layered or both—you need a springform. This lovely one has a glass bottom that doubles as a serving plate, which saves you from the often-scary and sometimes-fatal task of scooting the cake off its base.
Not all tarts involve pastry cream. Not all tarts are complicated. But almost all tarts are beautiful. It’s something to do with that fluted edge, I think. Be sure to get one with a removable bottom so that you can slip away the sides of the pan, like magic.
There’s nothing special about a bundt cake except for its shape. But that’s good enough for me! They’re especially wonderful-looking when glazed.
You’ve baked the most beautiful layer cake of your life—now present it in equally stunning fashion. A cake plate with a cloche will protect your masterpiece as it moves from counter to refrigerator to table (and this one doubles as a punch bowl).
A set of cutters in different sizes is great for cookies, biscuits, scones, cobbler, and decorating the top of a double-crust pie.
Baking should be fun, not as tedious as a kindergarten craft project. If you’re tired of tracing infinite circles onto rolls of parchment, spring for pre-cut parchment rounds. (These liners also come in half-sheet pan size too for all your cookie baking needs.)
How are you going to safely transport those 24 elaborately frosted cupcakes (thanks, mini offset spatula) to the school bake sale? Cardboard boxes and prayers? This handled storage container will protect layer cakes, frosted cookies, and gooey lemon squares from transportation mishaps.
Now go bake a cake:
This piece was originally published in 2019 and was updated in 2021.