Gear Essentials: Building/Finishing

One thing I’m not is a talented decorator/finisher. However I know enough about finishing to know that you can achieve some remarkable things with a little gumption and a handful of tools. Here’s what my finishing arsenal looks like, all this photo is missing is my blowtorch, the pieces of which I hid so well from my kids that now I can’t find them. Oh well, life must go on.

Starting at the top and moving clockwise, my colors are first. I like the concentrated gels which are a lot more versatile than the liquids at the grocery store. Moving to the upper right are my cake building tools. There’s a fondant smoother, a cake comb and an offset spatula (which I plan to be buried with, it’s that useful) all on top of an Ateco cake wheel. All of those are essentials if you like to make American-style layer cakes.

Next are piping bags. I use the disposal kind whenever I can, though I love the antimicrobial Thermo-Silver bags…talk about a great idea! I tend to buy tips only when I really need them, same with collars (get the kind without the notch in the end because you’ll do a lot of piping without tips). That little pink thing is a rubber nipple that fits over a tip if it has to sit around for a while, it keeps the end from drying out. Another bit of genius if you ask me.

Next are stainless rings. I went through a big ring-buying phase a few years ago which nearly bankrupted me. I definitely don’t need all the sizes I have, but they’re great all-purpose forms. You can build all sorts of little multi-layered desserts in them, or just bake in them if you want. They’re definitely an IN-essential in the broad scheme of things, but can be fun. Speaking of plated desserts, squeeze bottles can be a good time as well.

Lastly I have a couple of thermometers which are essential for creating syrups (the kind that go on plates or into frostings), caramel, marshmallow, curds, custards, the list goes on. An instant-read is a must and not expensive. The bigger mercury job is very accurate and great for large quantities and for frying.

13 thoughts on “Gear Essentials: Building/Finishing”

    1. Has it? That’s great, ’cause I wasn’t really sure how useful all this would be…to you or anyone else! 😉

      Happy registering!

      – joe

  1. I’ve never invested in a cake wheel because I do very few layer cakes in a year — we’re much more fond of bundt cakes, quickbreads and cheesecakes. When Im filling and frosting layers I use cheap cardboard cake circles poised on top of an upside down Cambro tub to get it up close to eye level and position it so I can rotate it.

    I also think cake circles are fantastic for all kinds of cakes and pastry gifting because no one needs to be concerned about the business of returning/retrieving things. Besides the utility of being able to manipulate your baking, pull some cellophane up around it and you get the wow factor that only needs a flashy bow.

    1. Hi Rainey!

      I do have a few cake circles as well, and I love them. I especially use them for quiches of various sizes. But you’re right, they’re good for lots of things! Thanks for the note,

      – Joe

  2. Hi Joe, a good tip if you go on another stainless ring buying spree.
    Find a good engineering shop that does pipework, preferably dairy industry, and ask if they can cut down their offcuts to whatever size you want.

    I have rings from 2″ to 6″, all food grade stainless, you may have to do the final smoothing yourself, with some fine sandpaper or emery cloth, but will be a lot cheaper than retail prices.

    I think I have as many toys as you as well, if not more in some cases 🙂


    1. Wow, is that ever a great idea!

      And glad to. Know there’s another mad collector out there on the other side of the world!

      – Joe

  3. Amen for the offset spatula! I have a small one and a larger one and don’t know how I ever smoothed a batter or frosted a cake without them! May yours rest in peace with you, Joe!

    I also love the disposable pastry bags, they are pliable and strong enough for piping a lumpy filling for canapes and firm enough, filled tightly, for writing “Happy Birthday” on a cake without a tip…in a pinch. They are customizable for all tip sizes, cheap and easy to store compared to most baking gear…and there’s no washing. Yay!

    There is so much speciality baking gear available that one could go broke trying to expand their skills. How’bout the price of those graduated circular cutters…even plastic ones? Whoa!

    1. No joke, those things will kill you. Stainless steel is the culprit, of course. It costs a fortune.

      Thanks for the comment and sorry this took me so long!

      – Joe

  4. Hey Joe,
    Thanks for all the gear advice! Any storage tips for all this equipment?

  5. Where did you get the Thermo-Silver Pastry Bag??

    Do you know anything about Arrow-Thermo Pastry Bags or Wunderbag Pastry Bags? Thanks for helping me out!! 🙂 🙂

    1. Hi Barbara!

      I know they’re sorta of hard to get these days, that’s about all. Thermo Hauser sent me that one a few years ago to test run it on the blog. Needless to say I dig it, though the one they sent me was rather small I have to say. I’d like some in larger sizes, but the scarcity has put me off searching. These days I use mostly disposables.

      – Joe

  6. If you don’t have a turntable for your cake you can always use the turning plate of an old microwave.

    1. Indeed! I knew someone who use an old phonograph turntable. Whatever works!

      – Joe

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