Essential Bakeware for Making the Best Cake

Anyone can do it if they have the right tools.

My birthday is next week, and there’s almost nothing I love more than baking birthday cakes (my own included). Some people might think that baking a layer cake is too daunting, but I promise anyone can do it if they have the right tools. Thankfully, my colleagues and I have spent years testing bakeware to determine which is best. A good nonstick cake pan ensures that your cake bakes evenly and that it slides out smoothly when the time comes to remove it. A comfortable and nimble offset spatula means that you can spread buttercream evenly. And our favorite rotating cake stand makes assembling and decorating easier. Happy birthday to all my fellow Cancers! May you bake a delicious cake for yourself to celebrate.

—Carolyn Grillo, Senior Editor, ATK Reviews

This stand was tall, providing excellent visibility and comfort. It was solid but light, and its surface and base were attached. This made it easy to carry but also meant it couldn’t be submerged in water (although we did just to see what would happen; it still spun perfectly). It rotated quickly and smoothly yet stopped precisely where we asked it to, and it had three shallow circles etched onto its surface for easy centering.

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This set was almost perfect: It came with five of our essential tips, including a large open star tip for cupcake swirls and rosettes. The plastic bags were easy to handle, effortless to clean up afterward, and durable (we only once broke a bag, while piping duchess potatoes). Unfortunately, this set lacked a large closed star tip and a coupler. Some pros also thought the 12-inch bags were too small. Most agreed that this is a great starter set if you buy a few extras to round it out.

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The deeply beveled edge of this scraper cut through pizza and bread dough quickly and scraped the work surface effectively. The textured polypropylene handle was easy to hold on to, even with greasy or floury hands, and was thinner than other scrapers’ handles, helping us hold it flat to the work surface for easier, more effective scooping and scraping.

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These precut parchment sheets, which come in a large plastic zipper-lock bag, are the only ones in our lineup that are stored completely flat. They're also sized just right to slide easily into a standard rimmed baking sheet, although we did have to use two overlapping sheets when rolling jelly roll cakes into coils. Their superior convenience made them the runaway favorite. Don't let the purchase price distract you: The per-sheet cost falls squarely in the middle of our lineup.

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Our previous favorite aced every test, whipping, creaming, and kneading quickly and thoroughly to give us fluffy whipped cream and meringue; light, tender cakes; and chewy, rustic breads. We did have a few design quibbles: We'd prefer a handled bowl (KitchenAid sells stainless-steel or glass bowls with handles separately). The tilt-head latch works fine, but it's slightly less convenient than buttons on other models, and we disliked that you could operate it with the head unlocked. A major plus: It fits all KitchenAid attachments, from meat grinder to ice cream maker (sold separately), so it could stand in for several other appliances. 

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This mixer performed exceptionally well. It was speedy, creaming butter and sugar and whipping meringue faster than any other model, and it muscled through dense cookie dough with ease. Its beater heads are the widest in the lineup, making for efficient mixing and zero clogging, and they’re silicone tipped, so they didn’t clang around in the bowl. This mixer is thoughtfully designed with several features that make mixing more efficient and convenient, including a timer, a light that shines into the mixing bowl, a pause button, a well-positioned display screen, and a plastic storage case that locks onto its base.

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