Each year, our staff and contributors round up their best gift ideas for cooks, eaters, and the kitchen curious. Read on for the best gifts for bakers.
I consider myself a minimalist when it comes to most things (if minimalist means wearing jeans I bought in college and using my Danskos as winter boots)—but not when it comes to baking tools. I am powerless in the face of a tiny spatula. I neeeeed another Bundt pan—can’t you see that one has a swirl design while the other is a series of peaks?! And you can bet that one of the first things on my…I mean “our”…wedding registry was a kitchen torch.
To me and my baking-enthusiast colleagues, the best gifts for bakers are the kitchen tools and pastry paraphernalia that we both need (you can never have too many silpats) and want (do you know about rose gold sprinkles?). This holiday season, give me a baking gift (or five!) that’s going to make my time in the kitchen more fun and my sourdough loaves more beautiful. If it also makes my cabinets just a little more cluttered, so be it.
Use the list below to put together a lil’ package for your favorite baker—or print it out, highlight what you want, and leave it casually tucked under your next batch of brownies for all to see.
A great stand mixer will knead, whip, and whisk with ease—what more could a baker ask for? We think the best option for most people is the KitchenAid Artisan series tilt-head stand mixer, which is powered by a strong 325-watt motor and has a 5-quart capacity that can mix up to nine dozen cookies at once. Plus, this model comes in approximately one billion colors.
High-quality flexible “spats” (as the kids say, I’m pretty sure) are the new wooden spoons. Use them to stir butter as it browns, scrape batter out of a bowl, or spread frosting across a cake. If you really want to impress your friend, get them two in different colors so they can use one solely for caramelized onions and the other for chocolate, sugar, and butter. This eliminates any cross-contamination and takes care of the Lingering Odor Problem. For the very best silicone spatulas, go with GIR—the silicone spatula we love most.
For some bread bakers, the hardest part of making a loaf isn’t keeping the starter nourished or nailing down my shaping—it’s lowering a ball of dough into a very hot preheated Dutch oven. Le Creuset’s bread oven makes this easy, because it’s essentially an inverted Dutch oven with a shallow base and domed lid. Like the rest of the Le Creuset lineup, it’s made of enameled cast iron and available in many gorgeous colors. She’s a looker you’ll want to store on the counter.
Add this baking extract to your brioche dough and olive oil cakes and you’re halfway to Sicily, no plane ticket required. The specific ingredients are a secret, but all you need to know is that it’s a delicious blend of sweet, bright citrus and lush vanilla—and that it’s made with essential oils rather than distilled extract. It’s super-concentrated, so a little goes a long way.
List of those who lie to you: parents, teachers, meteorologists, landlords, your oven thermometer. If you think that setting the dial to 350 degrees Fahrenheit means the actual temperature is 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re living a lie, my friend. If you already have one (good for you), buy one for the friend who serves you flat cookies or burned cake—maybe they’ll get the hint? A cheapo dangly oven thermometer is better than nothing, but if you’re serious about baking, spring for BA’s favorite.
If you’re sick of people thinking that your banana bread is cute and you want them to think it’s sexy instead, you need this loaf pan. It’s like the difference between kitten heels and stilettos, if you will. I can personally confirm it makes the most glamorous-looking cakes.
Your favorite baker may not need a kitchen torch, but they’d surely appreciate one. It won’t only be useful for their crème brûlée and baked Alaska—it’ll also come in handy for time when they want to make an easy, impressive cake without any frosting, like this torched banana cake.
When it comes to measuring cups for dry ingredients like rice and lentils, we suggest going with high-quality metal sets over plastic cups. This Le Creuset 4-piece set is a BA favorite for its heavy-duty sturdiness and engraved numbers that won’t fade after just a few uses. We also love this three-piece set from All-Clad, which includes the “odd sizes” of ⅔, ¾ and 1½ cups (and eliminates the need for mental math).
One word: cookies. Two more words: roasted nuts. Last words: sponge cake. The baker in your life may already own one, but they will not be mad about an extra baking sheet or two. Our favorite one, by Nordic Ware, always makes a good gift. Feeling extra festive? Get this bold and colorful ceramic half sheet from Great Jones.
To cut perfectly even cake layers, you need a good serrated knife. Food editor Shilpa Uskokovic loves this one from Hedley & Bennett because of its seamless full-tang design: “The blade and handle form a sleek, continuous line, so it’s comfortable to hold and easy to clean—and sturdy enough to slice crusty sourdough and nimble enough for splitting delicate layer cakes.”
We live in a world where our phones know how many daily steps we take and where we parked the car—so why do we put up with 1 cup of flour weighing anywhere between 115 and 140 grams? That’s not precision! That’s not 2023 technology! Keep a set of measuring cups for chocolate chips and nuts, grated cheese and frozen peas, but use a kitchen scale for ingredients like flour and brown sugar. Not only will you have fewer dishes left in the sink, but your desserts will come out the way the recipe developers intended.
Sure, you could use an empty wine bottle to roll out your dough—but wouldn’t it be nice to graduate? A French-style rolling pin, which is essentially a big, slightly tapered dowel, gives you the most control.
Is this the best muffin tin there is? We think yes. It’s made of heavy-gauge aluminized steel, which conducts heat more evenly than stainless steel and bakes whatever’s inside more evenly—no more cupcakes with burnt bottoms and gooey centers. Also, the ends of this tin extend well beyond the baking cups to make it easy to grasp with oven mitts, so you don’t have to worry about thumbprints on the sides of your fluffy, perfectly baked muffins.
The home baker who multitasks is not satisfied with a phone timer alone. The CDN digital kitchen timer is food director Chris Morocco’s favorite for a few reasons: “The buttons are large and easy to press, the count up and count down features are incredibly helpful, and it’s cheap.”
A cookie dough scoop is one of the best gifts for bakers and bakers’ roommates alike: The easier it is to scoop cookies, the more cookies get made. A scooper also creates cookies of the exact same size, which will prevent said roommates from fighting over who gets the biggest one. Throw in a set of quality cookie cutters, too.
You’ve baked the most beautiful layer cake of your life—now present it in equally stunning fashion. A cake plate with a cloche will protect your masterpiece as it moves from counter to refrigerator to table (and this one doubles as a punch bowl).
Forks are great—I use one every day—but they can’t do what whisks can. Whisks not only combine and lighten dry ingredients, eliminating pesky lumps, but they also aerate eggs and cream for maximum fluffiness. I suggest going with a slender whisk—either mini or French-style—so that it can fit in as many different vessels as possible. Unless someone regularly whips eggs for 50, a big balloon whisk will just gather dust.
This reusable, extremely nonstick silicone mat gives parchment paper a run for its money. It’ll expedite your cleanup (no more scrubbing gunk off of sheet pans), provide impeccable heat distribution for perfectly baked cookies, and create a smooth surface for kneading dough.
You could buy a fancy set of ceramic mixing bowls, but why? These biodegradable bamboo bowls are lightweight, so they’re a lot more likely to get used. They come seven to a set, ideal for everything from beating a single egg to making a jumbo batch of pumpkin pancake batter.
Your new best friend for cake decorating. Use it to make dramatic whirls of frosting on tiered showstoppers or humble cupcakes (don’t even get me started on the wonders it can work on whipped cream) but also to swoop hummus; smear butter, jam, and cream cheese; and pop muffins out of their tins.