Holiday Baking Essentials

December 2, 2014 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas

Come December, I've got one thing on the brain: BAKING! This is the one month that I get to indulge my intense love for making desserts (and my unrelenting sweet tooth) to the fullest. I've spent decades making every cookie, cake, muffin and tart under the sun -- not to mention some bettys, buckles, cobblers and crisps -- and learned quite a bit about kitchen tools along the way. I've compiled my list of favorites and essentials below, just in time for the sweetest part of the year.


The Baking Bible
We bow at the pastry alter of Rose Levy Beranbaum! Her incredible attention to detail and flawless recipes hooked us years ago with the release of The Cake Bible. Fast forward many years and many books later (we have bought all of her books and, more importantly, used all of them)… The Baking Bible ($24) is her latest and, dare we say, best! This book includes recipes for everything from humble coffee cakes and scones to scene-stealing desserts like mango cheesecake and pomegranate chiffon meringue pie! If you have never experienced a Rose Levy Beranbaum cookbook, start with this one and pick up a copy or two for gifts. Take our word for it: you won't be disappointed.

KitchenAid Artisan Design Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Glass Bowl
Queen of Queens! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Every serious baker has one and every new baker wants one. This machine is simply the best, and worth every penny. The Artisan Design Series Stand Mixer ($459) is made in the good-old USA, will last a lifetime (or two or three) with proper care, and its design adds class to any kitchen. We’re especially fond of the festive Candy Apple Red color.

The KitchenAid 9-Speed Hand Mixer
When a stand mixer really isn’t needed, this small appliance ($60) not only saves space in your kitchen but is powerful enough for all of your mixing, kneading, whipping and blending needs. Available in six colors.


Nordic Ware Aluminum Commercial Half-Sheet Pans
These are what the pros use, and with good reason! These sheet pans ($19.50) are pure aluminum for even baking, with steel rims to prevent warping. They’ll never rust, and are proudly made in the USA. Perfect for cooking, baking, roulades, brownies and more.

Nordic Ware Aluminum Commercial Round 9-inch Cake Pans
These aluminum pans ($17) will provide even baking for all your classic layer cake recipes, with extra-high sides to prevent overflow and allow you to bake higher cakes.

NordicWare Aluminum Loaf Pan 1.5 lb
This loaf pan ($16.50) is perfect for yeast breads and quick breads.

NordicWare 12 Cavity Aluminum Muffin Pan
More NoricWare...are you noticing a theme? Every kitchen needs a muffin pan for, well, muffins and cupcakes! I'm partial to this one ($12.50), which you can use this pan with or without paper liners.

Pyrex Pie Plates
The holidays would not be complete without lots of homemade pies, and the only plate we would think of using is one made by Pyrex ($6).

Stainless Steel Baking and Cooling Rack
This rack ($20) is perfect for cooling and decorating cookies, cakes, pies and other baked goods -- and makes an ideal trivet for casseroles or roasting pans, too.

Bobby Flay Set of 3/ Non-Skid Stainless Steel Bowls and Extra Large Stainless Steel Bowl
A sleek stainless steel construction and nonskid silicone base are two of the many reasons that we LOVE this bowl ($39.99) (another is because it’s part of The Boss Man's line at Kohl’s!). It’s perfect for mixing large batches of cake and cookie batter, whipped cream or egg whites!

Silicone Baking Mat
There’s no need for parchment paper when you use this durable, reusable, environmentally friendly nonstick baking mat ($27).


OXO Good Grips 1.5" Pastry Brush
We find that you can never have too many pastry brushes in the kitchen, and we love the natural boar bristles on this OXO brush ($7). This brush picks up and holds glaze, egg washes or sauces incredibly well, and the wider width allows you to quickly and evenly baste a larger surface.

Cookie Scoop
How on earth did we ever make cookies for years without one of these ($10)? For easy scooping and consistently round cookies, this tool is indispensible. This cookie scoop is also great for scooping batter into muffin or cupcake tins. Red and green are our favorite colors, of course.

Spice Grater

Step up your baking this holiday season with fresh ground spices instead of using bottles of spices that have been in your cabinet for years! This hand-held spice grater from Kitchen IQ also has a container to store your freshly ground spices, and a cover to protect it when not in use. We love it!

OXO 2-Piece Bowl Scraper Set
These bean-shaped scrapers ($10) provide a wide surface for scraping batters from bowls, and serve double-duty for smoothing frosting over cakes and cupcakes. Easy to clean and dishwasher safe…we love that!

Tovolo Spatulart
Hello, stocking stuffer ($10)!

Bobby Flay Measuring Cups and Spoons
We also love the nesting design of these easy to read measuring cups and spoons ($19.99), which also stay neatly organized in our drawers.

Balloon Whisk
This bowed whisk ($13), named for its hot air balloon shape, is imperative for aerating whipping cream and egg whites.

Large Whisk
Every kitchen needs a whisk like this ($11) to create creamy sauces and perfectly smooth emulsions (and omelets!).

OXO Good Grips Triple Timer
Time three baking events at once, each with distinctive alarm sounds so you know what is finished first? We say: yes please! This just might be the perfect timer ($20). The soft buttons on the number keypad make setting the time easy, the angled face provides better visibility, and the non-slip bottom provides stability.

RSVP Endurance 10 Foot Pie Chain
This stainless steel chain ($13.50) will keep your unfilled pie shells from puffing, shrinking, or bubbling during blind baking, and in a pinch can double as a necklace for a night on the town (kidding…kind of).


8 Piece Baker's Silicone Decorating Bottle Kit
Decorate your gingerbread houses and holiday cookies like a pro this year. These Silicone Decorating Bottles ($20) have large openings and sturdy collars for easy filling, and comes with six different stainless steel tips. Added perk: everything is dishwasher-safe.

Tovolo Ginger Girls Cookie Cutters
Who says gingerbread men get to have all the fun? These ginger girl templates ($9) reverse, giving you 6 characters in 3 plates.

OXO Bakers Dusting Wand
Falling under the category of not necessary but fun, the OXO Bakers Dusting Wand ($10) is perfect for evenly dusting powdered sugar or cinnamon over a cakes and cookies. It will also distribute just the right amount of flour to your buttered baking pans.

Ateco Spectrum Food Colors
All professional bakers know that gel-based food colors ($12) are the way to go for icings and frostings. The colors are vibrant and the gel consistency lets you achieve the perfect color without out adding too much liquid to the final product. Mix and match to make 12 different hues.