12 Tools Every Aspiring Star Baker Needs, According to ‘Great British Baking Show’ Finalist Kim-Joy Hewlett
And why a shower cap might be more useful than you think.
Jam-filled love letters piped with tiny black hearts; honey bee cookies with delicate slivered almond wings; a “Cat Paradise Cake” crowned with a sugar paste rainbow. Kim-Joy Hewlett became a fan-favorite on The Great British Bake-Off last year for her intricate, adorable baked goods, so it should come as no surprise that her debut cookbook, Baking with Kim-Joy: Cute and Creative Bakes to Make You Smile, is full of accordingly lovable recipes. Hewlett told me in a recent conversation that she believes taste starts with how things look, and decorated food can also create social moments—a talking point at a party, or a way to bring the family together for an afternoon of icing and frosting. However, if you’re new to baking, the idea of tackling detailed designs can be daunting.
Luckily, Hewlett shared some staple tools that bakers need for getting started, whether you’re looking to try out bread or make an ombré cake for your friends’ birthday. Piping bags and tips for decorating, Dutch ovens for rustic breads, and high-quality food dye are all on the list—she even included some unexpected baking tools as well, like shower caps. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) We can’t promise that you’ll make a perfect rendition of her Snowy Christmas cake (shown below) on the first try. But at the very least, you’ll have what you need to get started. Read on for her recommendations.
A turntable (or rotating cake stand) is incredibly helpful for decorating, allowing you to rotate a cake as you smooth the frosting and pipe the edges. (Yes, this is how ombré cakes are made.) Hewlett says it’s something you don’t have to splurge on—“I’ve had a really cheap one for ages, like 10 pounds [approx. $12]. That does the job.”
Wilton High and Low Cake Turntable, $35 at amazon.com
Piping bags and decorating tips
For beautiful icing designs, she says you’ll want piping bags and decorating tips—you’ll only need a few of the latter to create different shapes. “I wouldn’t start with too many because I’ve got loads and I don’t know what half of them do,” she jokes.
Good food dye
“The supermarket food dye is really not very good,” she said. “And people end up with muted colors that don’t look great. There’s just certain things you’ve got to buy quality, and that’s food dye.”
The American brand that Hewlett really likes is AmeriColor, which you can find on Amazon,
AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color Student Kit, $26 at amazon.com
Also known as an icing spatula, this tool is useful for applying and spreading buttercream icing, according to Hewlett.
Stainless Steel Icing Spatula, $28 at food52.com
Toothpicks are helpful for little things like fine details in icing, she says, and can also be used to check if a baked good (e.g. cake or brownies) is fully cooked.
NatureCore Bamboo Wooden Toothpicks, $7 at amazon.com
Spatulas are a given when you’re baking, and Hewlett says she’d be lost without them. Use them to scrape down the sides of your food processor, help transfer batter from a mixing bowl to a baking tin, and more.
Sur La Table Flex-Core Silicone Spatula, $11 at surlatable.com
Whether you’re making biscuits, cookies, or pastries, Hewlett says cutters are good to have on hand. This Paderno set gives you the option to pick square or round shapes, with fluted or plain edges, too.
Paderno Stainless Steel Dough Cutters, $26-$36 at food52.com
“I use that for bread and cakes,” Hewlett told me. “You can use [a dough scraper] to get any wet dough off the table, but you can also use it to smooth the edge of cakes. A little one. It’s got two purposes, which is really useful.”
Sur La Table Stainless Steel Dough Scraper, $10 at surlatable.com
Hewlett recommends getting a Dutch oven for breads, which she uses for the no-knead overnight caraway bread recipe found in her book. They trap the steam and get the bread to rise in a similar way to a professional bread oven—the end result is perfectly springy.
“You can get a nice, rustic bread, and it feels like you really, really achieved something,” she says.
Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven, $150-$320 (price varies by size) at lecreuset.com
In order to handle the Dutch oven, which you have to heat “to the maximum temperature,” she recommends owning a pair of good oven mitts. The Williams-Sonoma pair linked below has heat resistance up to 650 degrees Fahrenheit.
Williams Sonoma Ultimate Oven Mitt, Black, $16 (suggested price $20) at williams-sonoma.com
A Banneton (aka a Brotform) is a basket specially made to cradle dough, shaping it and helping it rise before you bake it.
Frieling Brotform Bread Rising Baskets, $29-$44 (depending on size and shape) at food52.com
Before you scratch your head, hear her out—shower caps are stretchy, and fit perfectly over a Banneton while the bread is rising. “I know a lot of bakers who collect them from different hotel rooms,” Hewlett told me. She’s used one for this purpose before, but also has a fabric cover specifically made for Bannetons.
Betty Dain Fashionista Collection Mold Resistant Lined Shower Cap, $7 at amazon.com