5 Essential Tools You Need to Make a Layer Cake at Home, According to a Pro

Trust me, they’re beyond essentials.

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Essential Tools You Need to Make a Layer Cake at Home, According to a Pro

Food & Wine / Marcus Millan

In culinary school, I struggled to make layer cakes. The pressure of perfection and the lack of creativity in the medium was hard for me. It wasn’t until after I’d finished school and worked for a bit that I decided to pick it back up. I realized I didn’t need to over complicate the process. I just needed a few key tools from my kit, plus a turntable of my own. I eventually developed a process I enjoyed coupled with the tips from professionals I’d learned. Now, I make the style of cakes I love — they’re always a little imperfect — with no stress involved. 

If you’re just starting out and want to get into cake-making, but are intimidated by the process, rest-assured, with the right tools and the motivation, you can do it. Below is a list of five non-arguable essentials you’ll want to grab, plus a few extra tips from all of my learnings, and prices start at $9. 

Ateco Cast Iron Turntable

Ateco Cast Iron and Non-Slip Pad Cake Stand


To buy: $62 at amazon.com

A turntable is irreplaceable when it comes to cake making. It turns the cake, allowing you to glide your spatula with ease. This makes everything faster, but also helps get the right motion and momentum for smooth icing finishes, and even many designs if you choose to do them. 

They’re also helpful for when you’re trimming cakes (more on that below). This Ateco one, for me, is the only one to buy. It’s made with a cast iron base, so it’s super sturdy and won’t wobble. It’s the perfect height at 5-inches tall, and the 12-inch stainless steel top is large enough to fit tons of cakes. The top comes off for easy cleaning, and you’ll find that it turns without any skipping. I used these in school and in professional kitchens, and now, at home. 

Mercer Culinary 9-Inch Bread Knife

Mercer Culinary M23650 Renaissance, 9-Inch Bread Knife


To buy:  $55 at amazon.com

Flat cake layers equal a flat cake. But, most of the time, a lot of our cakes bake up with a dome. That’s where a serrated knife comes in — you’ll use it to lob off the domed part of your cake layers. Their jagged shape helps slice through baked goods with ease. This Mercer bread knife is what was included in my original tool kit for culinary school, and I still use it to this day. It’s not too expensive, it’s long enough to cut through a variety of cake sizes, plus since it’s made with German steel it’s long-lasting and sturdy enough to cut through most textures. I also love Kilne and Henckels, too. 

A turntable is helpful for this process. You’ll place your non-dominant hand flat on the cake layer, then place your knife just below the lowest part of the dome. Using the non-dominant hand that’s on the cake, you’ll turn the turntable, while also moving the bread knife up and down (like a sawing motion). This helps you slice through the cake without really moving your knife from left to right. You’d want to do this technique instead of just slicing through because oftentimes our slices can be a bit uneven or at an angle. By keeping your knife leveled, you’ll get an evenly cut, flat cake layer. 

Wilton 6-Inch Cake Boards, 10-Pack

Wilton 6-Inch Round Cake Boards


To buy: $9 at amazon.com

Since you’re using a turntable now, you’ll need cake boards. These are to place under the cake itself, that way you’re able to transfer the iced cake from the turntable to your serving vessel of choice. You’ll place this down first, then add your first cake layer. I like to spread a little icing on the board before I pop the cake on top to keep the layer from sliding. The board adds a protective layer that’s much more stable than the cake itself. 

I’ll usually shimmy a spatula underneath to lift it right up when the cake is done. You’ll want to grab the actual size of your cake layer for this, that way the board doesn’t show (the edges get covered with icing). I make 6-inch cakes the most and always have a pack on hand, but they come in tons of other sizes online, like 8-inch or 10-inch too. Most cake board brands will do the trick for this application. 

U-Taste 4-Piece Silicone Spatula Set

U-Taste Silicone Spatula Set
Courtesy of Amazon

To buy: $25 at amazon.com

This should come as no surprise — a rubber or silicone spatula has long been an essential for baking. These just make it easy to scrape icing from your bowl onto the cake layers or onto the sides of the cake. Their flexible shape not only lets you grab every last bit of icing, but it’s easy to sort of swipe icing onto the sides of the cake with it too. Even if you don’t plan on making a layer cake, you need this anyway. 

This set from U-Taste is great because you’ll get a variety of sizes for tons of different tasks, like a standard shaped one, a thinner, longer one, a mini one, and a spoon-shaped one. I think it’s a great place to start if you want to build up your collection, plus we chose the set as our favorite silicone spatula pick after testing.

Mercer Culinary 4.25-Inch Offset Spatula

Mercer Culinary M18830P Offset Spatula


To buy:, $7 at amazon.com

When it comes to actually spreading icing, the only tool that does the job is an offset spatula. It has a unique shape — it’s a long, flat, thin, piece of stainless steel that dips down from a handle. This allows for more even, smooth surface area than a tool like a knife, or another type of spatula to graze overtop icing. The way it’s angled also helps optimize its surface area to frosting contact too. They’re key for getting the right movement and glide, and it’s best to have a few in your collection.  

I tend to use the 4.25-inch model from Mercer most often because I make a lot of small cakes, and use it a lot for decorating techniques. It’s sturdy and has lasted nearly a decade without staining, rusting or breaking. A mid-size or a larger one is also very helpful, and certain chef’s will gravitate towards different sizes depending on what feels best to them. I love and use options from Ateco, specifically this one and this one, and find them to be helpful for spreading icing both between cake layers, and on the outside of the cake too. They’re lightweight for their size and have lasted me ages as well. I suggest buying at least two different sizes, and practicing with both.

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