A skilled workman still needs tools. And it’s the same for baking. Years of experience helps to produce the most delicious and beautiful cakes, but even the best bakers need some basic good quality equipment. And the brilliant news for home bakers is that those quality basics are readily available, and relatively inexpensive, for you too. You really can have the same kit as the professionals and they will last you for years and be useful time and again.

>Of course there’s some baking equipment that isn’t small or cheap (hello, stand mixer, you're not as hot as you think you are) but when it comes to decorating here’s our essential list of top 12 cake decorating items that won’t bust the budget or take up too much space and will make sure your cakes are finished to a professional bakery's standard.


Top 12 Cake Decorating Tools

1. Turntable 

To get that professionally smooth look on buttercream cakes with ease and speed, you NEED a cake decorating turn table. It’s literally a turntable on a short pedestal that is manually rotated. They just make cake-decorating so much easier. Not only can they help you decorate quicker as you’re not pausing to shuffle the cake around, you can get a much smoother and more level/consistent finish on your cake, giving them a sleek and polished professional look. It might feel a little strange at first due to the contra-rotary movement of your hands simultaneously. But it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it with just a little practice and you’ll be amazed how much quicker you are (and wondering why you didn’t get one sooner!).


Place a cake board in the middle and pop your layer cake sponges on and spread buttercream using a spatula in one hand and using the other to rotate the turntable. It’s a bit awkward as you get used to the motion, but you’ll soon see how quickly and easily you’ll be spreading smooth and even layers of buttercream to build layer cakes. It is also used to get that perfectly smooth and even buttercream finish on the sides of the cake when used with a palette knife or cake scraper. 

To get a smooth finish along the outer sides of the cake, first smooth on a crumb coat. Crumb coating is like using a primer before you paint the walls or put on your make-up.  Slather buttercream all over and scrape off with a palette knife or cake scraper in one hand whilst turning the turntable against the scraper with the other hand. Repeat until smooth and you’ve got an even surface where all the cake’s pores are sealed. The cake is now prepped and primed for additional layers of frosting applied similarly.

An added bonus is that the turntable can double up as a cake stand too - have a read of this blog post about how you can dress it up to impress. 

2. Angled Palette Knife

Also sometimes referred to as being cranked, an angled palette knife is used to fill and smooth buttercream in between cake sponges and to cover them. Having the angle can help you get a more even pressure, and therefore surface, when spreading buttercream or fillings. 


That little angle on a palette knife is the difference between an even edge, and a SUPER even edge. I’m not even sure why non-angled palette knives exist - they are useless. Angled palette knives allow for more control when spreading buttercream on to sponge cake layers to make an even flush level. Without the angle on the palette knife you’re more likely to apply uneven pressure which will result in an uneven surface on the cake. 

And even levels is what we need when building up layer cakes and tiered cakes, because wonky will make the cake unstable. You can get them in lots of different sizes but for most situations a medium will be what you need.  

Overall it kind of works like a cake scraper too as you can cover cakes with it and get a good finish, but it handles differently given its shape and width. So whilst they’re interchangeable in some situations, if you can stretch to having both in your decorating kit then do.

3. Cake Scraper

After many years of professionally cake-decorating I am a dab hand at levelling and smoothing with just the aid of my cranked spatula. BUT to get that guaranteed perfect razor sharp finish I rely on a handy cake scraper. I prefer a plastic scraper over a metal one as it is lighter on the wrist. Metal ones however are great for colder months as you can warm them up in hot water and smooth buttercream that stiffens up in lower temperatures.


In terms of size, I prefer medium-sized scrapers - 5 or 6 inch size. Bigger scrapers are harder to handle and could risk giving you a leaning cake. So bigger ones are good for super tall cakes.

They are best used with the help of a turntable. They are great for getting smooth stripes on buttercream. You can also find scrapers with patterns to comb onto the buttercream for added textures.

4. Piping Nozzle Set

You can create the most simple, yet professional looking layer cakes, as well as the most impressive and intricately piped buttercream cakes with just a few piping nozzles. Buttercream piping can elevate the most basic looking of cakes to something beautiful and like a pro would produce. They are great for piping dollops or swirls on cupcakes, and stars, blossoms or rosettes on layer cakes, and even other patisserie items like macarons, profiteroles and eclairs.

Piped Cupcakes

Each member of our bakery team has their own set of 12, which may seem a lot but means they’re all ready for anything and once you know what each one can do you really do have endless possibilities to mix and match for fantastic effects.


Good piping does take some practice as each nozzle requires different pressures (and that’ll also vary depending on what you’re piping) but a set like this really will last for years and see you lots of different cake styles.  

If a set of 12 does seem too many for you here’s our shortlist of favourites:

For Cupcakes, tight swirls and rope borders - Jem Medium 2ES fine star nozzle

For piping blossoms or fluffy open swirls - Jem Medium 2J curved star nozzle

For buttercream roses, ruffles or swags - Jem Medium Petal Nozzle (No. 116)

For leaves and multi-dimensional swags - Jem Medium No. 70

Use them with disposable piping bags (we prefer the biodegradable ones as you’ll go through quite a few!). Before decorating your cake do make sure you practice piping first to get a feel of what you’re working with. Simply put some baking parchment down on the bench and give it a try until you’re happy your technique is consistent before embarking on your perfectly frosted layer cake.

5. Piping Bags

Of course piping nozzles are no good without the piping bags. One big one will help you pipe buttercream on to your cake before smoothing over. Prepare a few more and you can alternate colours to create a stripe effect, as you can see on our rainbow striped cake, or use different nozzles for more intricate piping details. Our Regency Wedding cake is a great example of mixing a few different styles together for great impact.


If you’re an every-so-often baker then the disposable piping bags are probably best, but go for biodegradable as you’ll still go through quite a few between practicing and the decorating itself.  If you’re decorating a bit more regularly than catering quality large piping bags are worth the investment, and you can reuse them too which keeps costs low and is much better for the environment (just soak in some warm soapy water, then rinse and air dry).

6. Rubber Spatula

If we’re honest a rubber spatula isn’t just a key decorating tool, it’s one every kitchen should have. Whether it’s for mixing, folding, spooning, or scraping the sides/bottom, the rubber spatula is your tool, and for decorating it’s essential. 


One of the best things about the Hero Sponge and Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipes is how versatile they are with different colours and flavours. When it comes to folding batter or mixing colours and flavours, a rubber spatula does it evenly. Rubber spatulas are also great for scraping up bottoms of bowls to get every last bit of mixture into cake tins and piping bags.

One word of warning though, they’re not all heat resistant so make sure you check - heat resistant is better for everyday kitchen use. And having a couple is handy.

7. Electric Hand Whisk

When you need a little more oomph than you can get with a hand whisk, and you don’t have the budget or counter space for a stand mixer, an electric hand whisk is perfect. It’s perfect for whipping cream, egg whites, meringues, cake batter and buttercreams. Personally, I’d recommend Dualit or Kenwood which are established brands. They pack up neatly so won’t take up much cupboard space and will be easy to grab for when you need it.  

8. Cake Leveller

No matter the recipe, your cake sponge is likely to have a dome or curved tops. To get those straight tops and even layers of cake, you’ll need a bread knife (if you have a steady hand and heaps of confidence in your ability) or a cake leveller. 


A cake leveller is a tight wire cutter, similar to a cheese wire, on a handle shaped like a curly bracket. They can be adjusted against the notches on the handle for your desired depth of sponge. 


To use it properly for torting and levelling cakes, let your sponge layers cool completely and place it on a flat surface. Adjust the cake leveller evenly on either side of the handle to the sponge depth you’d like, holding it at 90 degrees to the surface. Then with one hand on the top of the cake, gently slice through in a zig zag motion, backwards and forwards from one side to the other.  Take it steady and watch out for your hands (and anybody else’s) as you go. 

9. Microwave safe mixing bowls

Pyrex glass or polypropylene mixing bowls is our favoured type, but any sort of microwave safe bowl is useful to have to hand. It’s not just great for mixing the cake batter, but being able to go in the microwave means you can melt chocolate in it, make ganache or even use it to warm up buttercream ever so slightly before re-whipping (you knew you could do that with buttercream, didn’t you?). They’re another example of items that are generally useful around the kitchen, and actually if you can have a few different sizes that’s even better.

10. Digital Scales

Baking is a science, and decorating in an art form! For the science, you have to measure out ingredients. A lot of cake recipes use cup measures but I’m averse to using cup measures as it’s quite often ambiguous - cups come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s difficult to scale recipes up or down. 


So get some digital scales in - they’ll take the guess work out of what needs to be pretty precise!

11. Measuring spoon set 

A teaspoon of this, a tablespoon of that. How many times have you wondered how full the teaspoon should be? Also, how many different types of teaspoons are there?! Having just bashed cup-measures and claiming I prefer measuring out stuff, having a set of measuring spoons is handy and saves time.


Most recipes are a mix of metric and spoon measures eg: teaspoon of vanilla extract, tablespoon of cocoa powder etc. With a measuring spoon set you’ll be sure to always measure out the correct levels of key ingredients like baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

12. Wire Cooling Rack

To cool freshly baked sponges quickly whilst avoiding soggy bottoms they will need to rest on a wire rack.  

Wire racks are made of metal wire in a grid formation so they allow the sponge to distribute its weight evenly across the surface to avoid any deep compressed grooves on the sponge.  It also allows air to circulate over and under to help steam escape efficiently and as quickly as possible.


Cooling the sponges on a wire rack is important to avoid soggy bottoms as the steam can’t turn into trapped moisture on the base which could make the sponge bottom seem claggy and doughy. Most standard wire racks fit up to three 6 inch sponges comfortably but if you are baking more or larger sponges then you’d want to get a few more wire racks - and no, you CANNOT stack warm sponges on top of each other! 

These really are our go-to tools in the bakery, and at home, and soon you’ll start to wonder how you ever did without them. It will take some practice but the more you practice the better you’ll get and you’ll have professional looking cakes in no time! And if you’re looking for tried-and-tested recipes so you can focus on your decorating skills don’t forget our ever popular Hero Sponge variations and Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipes are available to buy and download, plus there’s a selection of other recipes and tips here on the blog and our fake bakes to inspire you too!

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