A Beginner's List of Cake Decorating Supplies
Or, What To Spend Money On First
When starting any endeavor—hobbies, home improvement, parenting, etc—there's almost always an initial cost. Even if you're switching from a similar hobby (such as knitting to crocheting, or card-making or scrapbooking) there's almost always something you have to buy. But if you're just getting started in something completely unknown, how the fudgenuggets do you know what you need to buy and what would just be nice to have? This is my list of things that I loved having when I just started cake decorating, and what I would recommend you pick up if you're interested in starting.
Let me start out by talking about the Wilton Decorating Basics Student Kit. I started out in cake decorating by taking the class, so I bought the kit (and who KNOWS how much other stuff…). It was pretty useful, but there are things in there that I've never used, or only used once or twice. If you're going to take the class and not sure if you'll take the others, I highly recommend it. If you think you'll take the other two Wilton classes, and have the extra dough, I would say spring for the big blue $200 100-whatever piece decorating kit. Just wait until it's on sale… But even the great big $200 kit doesn't have everything on my list!
If you don't want to take the class, and want to just do things on your own and through internet tutorials or whatnot, this is what I would suggest buying. Most of it will be at your local craft store.
- A tip set with case. Kind of obvious—hard to do much decorating without any tips! I definitely recommend getting a prepackaged set, rather than buying the tips individually, and definitely recommend getting a case. It makes life a lot easier when you're trying to find a specific tip, and it will keep your tips all in one place and not squished. If you can find a set that has extra spots in the case (I have no idea if such a thing exists) then that would be helpful.
- A bunch of featherweight bags. I have a few 10-inch ones for decorating, and a 16-inch one for icing. Featherweight bags are reusable, and don't bust or warp like the disposable ones do. Though, I also have a box of disposable bags for royal icing, and for when I don't feel like cleaning up bags afterward…
- A whole mess of tip couplers. These things are fantastic. I've never decorated without them, and hope I'll never have to… Without them, you wouldn't be able to change tips with icing in the bag, so for making stuff like roses you'd have to fill two bags with the same color.
- Wilton icing tip #789. I had always had a hard time icing cakes evenly and nicely, and this icing tip was amazingly helpful. Love love love it! It's usually only $3 or $4, not $6 like on the Amazon listing.
- Cake boards. If you'll be making cakes to bring anywhere else, these are a great way to transport a non-round cake. And if you'll be making a sheet or half-sheet cake, these are much cheaper and easier than buying a giant platter.
- Cake leveler. This thing is magical! It was probably my favorite favorite early-decorating tool. Basically, you just shimmy off the rounded top of the cake and it's a lovely, flat decorating surface. Definitely worth the couple bucks.
- Angled spatula. A good 13-inch angled spatula is essential for smoothing the base icing on a cake, which in turn is essential for having a good decorating surface. Technically you could use a knife, but this is way easier—and way worth the money.
If you want to do roses, mums, or other somewhat complicated flowers, you'll want a flower nail (it comes in the $50 master tip kit, or buy it on its own) and a few pieces of Styrofoam (to stick the nail into).
Parchment paper. Not wax paper, or parchment squares, but parchment paper.
I'm really iffy on the cake lifter. I've made about 6 cakes without the benefit of the cake lifter, but every time (especially with tiered cakes!) I've wished I had one.
And the obvious: cake mixes (or a great recipe, which I haven't found yet), ingredients for frosting, gel colors, etc. You can buy Wilton buttercream frosting in a tub, but it's pretty quick and easy to make some yourself—but you'll die if you try to do it without a strong mixer!
As a beginner, I would not necessarily buy a bag holder, bag ties (gets more important when you're working with royal icing, but I've done fine without them), a cake turntable (yes, I love it when I need it, but it's not something you need just starting out), or any of the fun fondant tools (until you start working with fondant!). Of course, everyone's needs are different, so I'm sure there are plenty of other lists out there… But these are the things that I think separate actually decorating a cake from slapping on some Duncan Hines frosting and arranging sprinkle-letters to say "Happy Birthday!" What do you think?
All images from Amazon.com