Guest Picks: Essential Tools to Make Crafty Sweets
I have hundreds of cookie cutter shapes, but by far the most essential cutters I own is this set of rounds by Ateco. You can decorate anything on a circle. And it's not just because all of my shaped cookie cutters are two exhausting flights up in my attic while I keep these within reach in my kitchen, but I really prefer simple, straightforward cookies.
I love my Sur la Table bench scraper. I use this often for cutting out rectangles, squares and straight-edged cookies. And the ruler is especially handy for consistent cookie sizes.
While I most often just use my standard rolling pin, this one with the rings is especially handy when you start out baking to make sure you have consistent thicknesses. This rolling pin comes with a ⅛-inch ring (great for pie crust and thin cookies), a ¼-inch ring (my standard for cookies) and a ⅜-inch ring (the perfect height for cookies on a stick).
If you are going to splurge on large copper cutters, pick this shop. They have thousands of choices and just about any shape you can imagine. Because of their high quality and great service, I love CopperGifts!
For more affordable, smaller cutters, I have plenty of go-to shops, but this one offers a great selection of shapes. Given the low cost, I own way too many of these.
You can find lollipop sticks in most craft stores, but I love this shop for its quirky cupcake toppers and other decorating and packaging items too. It's a good place to shop around. I put marshmallows, cookies, cake pops, anything I can, really, on a stick. Note the difference between "lollipop sticks" and "cookie sticks." Cookie sticks are oven safe and should be used to make cookie pops. (But off the record, I prefer the narrower diameter of lollipop sticks, so I bake my cookies with those.)
Whether you prefer cookie sheets or jelly roll pans to bake cookies, make sure to use a solid, good-quality tray. You need a good, well-baked canvas for decorating cookies.
The same can be said about your cupcake pans. When making cupcakes for a party or event, I tend to go for the minis. You get more bang for your buck, and this size is especially handy (literally) for little kids.
I present all my cupcakes in patterned baking cups. To me, having an assortment of baking cups on hand is essential. However, because the batter can show through even the most durable liners, I prefer to bake in white cupcake liners, and then sit the baked and decorated cupcakes in prettier liners to serve.
I have plenty o' spatulas, but I have one from Oneida that I use the most. It's the most sturdy and durable spatula of all that I own, both the more expensive and cheaper ones. Plus, a good bowl-scraping spatula is pretty important.
While many have a distaste for fondant's sugary texture, it really is a perfect decorating surface. Smooth and pliable, it can cover cakes, cupcakes and cookies and then be topped with decorations. You can also make dimensional decorations to top sweets. I splurge on the good stuff when serving sweets with fondant.
You can also find meringue powder in the craft store. I make all my royal icing with a meringue powder base instead of egg whites. It is safer, and you can store the unused icing at room temperature for weeks. It also helps make an icing of perfect decorating consistency.
New York Cake has much, much more than merely parchment paper, so be sure to linger on this site. They carry most of my favorite decorating tools. But parchment paper (widely available in the supermarket too) is a must-have. I line my cookie trays with parchment, and I even use the stuff to practice piping.
I buy boxes of disposable decorating bags by the hundreds because I use them not only to pipe icing on cookies (the 12-inch size) and cupcakes (the 16-inch size), but also to make pancakes, fill cupcake liners, make chocolate pops and so much more.
Couplers are little tools you use with decorating bags to attach decorating tips so that you can easily change tip sizes without making a whole new bag of icing. I have lots of these.
You won't get very far without decorating tips. I buy mine individually because I'm specific with the sizes I use. For cookie decorating, I use round tips sized 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. For cupcakes, I like size 1M.
I only use this brand of food coloring for my royal icing, frosting and fondant. It leaves no bitter aftertaste, blends well and comes in every imaginable color.
I'm about as obsessed as one can be with food decorator pens. I use these almost daily, and this is my favorite brand (though of course, I own about four different brands). Use these to draw silly or serious artwork on marshmallows, fondant, dried royal icing — oh, the possibilities. In fact, there's a whole section on my blog devoted to drawing on food.
I have dozens and dozens of containers of sprinkles. While I have lots of quins (or shaped sprinkles, like circles and hearts), my favorite are the sanding sugars. These fine sprinkles make a fast and easy decorating tool. Pipe icing on a cookie and coat generously with sanding sugar. The sugar adds sparkle and covers any imperfections in the icing.
I own a rainbow of candy melts, aka confectionery coating. They are of a chocolate-chip-like consistency and shaped like disks. Melt them to use as dip for cake pops or for making candy.
Edible wafer or icing paper makes a flawless, beautiful decorating tool. You can cut whatever size you need from the letter-size sheets, and adhere them to frosted cupcakes, marshmallows or iced cookies brushed with corn syrup. This site offers a lot of design choices as well as plain wafer paper so you can make your own designs.
These may not be what you might expect in my kitchen, but small paintbrushes (liners, flat and round) are great for decorating fondant or dried royal icing with food coloring paint. I also use my paint brushes when painting light corn syrup on a surface as glue.
I'm not too fancy in my scissor choice, but I do have these on my wish list. I use scissors surprisingly frequently when making crafty sweets, not just to snip corners from decorating bags, but to cut candy decorations and fondant as well.Next: Kitchen Design: Baking Stations Make Cooking More Fun
This was a purchase, along with the accompanying roll of paper, I made before my daughter could hold a crayon, and it's worth every penny and beyond. I use this not only for large-scale drawing, but to cover surfaces for other art projects.