The Business of Cake Decorating #5
Specialty Equipment and do you need it?

by Earlene Moore

If I had to start all over again this is the equipment that I would find vital. Tips 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 14, 18, 21, 32, 48, 69, 349, 352, 104, 127, and 233. I would also want a coupler to use with the 233 tip. That tip tends to stop up really easy and with a coupler you can remove it, clean it and continue working.

I prefer the parchment paper for bags. Why? They are always clean, not slick, don’t have a stale smell and most important - I can throw them away instead of washing. They can be refilled, torn in half or fourths for smaller bags for little detail work. Versatile and Disposable. The new Kee-seal disposable piping bags are fabulous. The older style of plastic bags were slick and hard to handle. The Kee-seal bags feel great in your hands as well as being very dependable.

Long, short, straight and angled spatulas, paste or gel food colors and a good mixer. From there you can build the rest of your business adding equipment as it becomes necessary. Of course the storage space you have available may influence just how much equipment you want to acquire.

1. Heavy duty mixer. I burned up three stand mixers (45 years ago) before I learned about the Kitchenaid mixers. My husband bought me a used Kitchenaid 5 Qt. mixer (it was 25 years old) 45 years ago. That mixer is still in use to this day. The icing we use really does put some stress on the mixers. Extra beaters and bowls are also very nice to have. A heavy duty mixer is a must.

2. Pans
Good quality basic shaped pans. As you are acquiring your equipment buy the best quality pans you can afford. Buying good pans (quality) does make a difference. Don't buy the bargain versions if you plan on using them for a long time. Multiple sets of the basic shape pans will allow you to bake in a shorter amount of time. One 14” pan must cool after baking before you can wash it, refill it and bake again. Your time is valuable. Two or more sets will allow you to use your time to a better advantage. As your business grows you will probably want to even add more sets. I personally work with 4 sets of the round size pans that include sizes in 1 inch increments from 5 to 18 inch pans. Larger shapes are available but, you must make sure that your oven will accommodate those sizes. Measure the inside of your oven before buying the larger size pans. The other shapes such as hexagon, square, rectangular and etc. are not requested as often in the wedding cake business so I only keep 2 sets of each of those. For those odd size pans (5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15 and 17 inch) check with your local cake shop and ask them to order those for you. If you don’t have a local cake shop you can get them directly from several online cake shops.

Versatile Shaped Pans - The ball, petite doll pan, horseshoe, and others can be used for many things. The ball pan can be used for all kinds of balls, soccer, basketball, baseballs, and etc. Half of the ball pan can be used for a base ball cap, a domed top on a building, or maybe even rounded top on a wedding cake. Dolores McCann has published a little book called “100 petite doll pan characters you can create” for $6.99. That little pan is very versatile.

Shaped Character Pans - These character pans are wonderful for the mom who wants to do a cake occasionally for her children or friends. But you cannot sell the copyrighted character cakes. My understanding of the copyright laws is that you can make these character cakes for family and friends as long as you are not charging for them. Therefore to buy these as a part of building a legal cake decorating business is not wise.

In the past I have heard stories of cake decorators who hide cake pans under the beds, in the tops of closets, in the trunks of cars and etc. Many have told me that they don’t want their husbands to really know just how much cake decorating stuff they have. Those fun little character pans really do take up lots of space in your house, basement or garage.

3. Large heavy duty cooling racks available through your restaurant supply, Country Kitchen, Parrish’s and your local cake shops.

4. Turntables Sturdy turntables are a necessity. There are several styles and designs available for the sugar artist. From the basic small plastic version, to a reversible one side rectangular and the other side round with an elevation of about 6 inches, to the motorized elevated turntable. There are many sizes, designs and prices to choose from.

5. Separators - As your business grows doing birthday cakes, you will soon be approached with doing someones wedding cake. Choose wisely in deciding on the type of separators you want to use. The most stable of set ups is the type that the legs go through the cake and rest on the plate below. Again storage space is important along with the look you want.

6. A really good camera. Learn to take really good close up pictures of your cakes. When you are trying to establish yourself in your community as a sugar artist these pictures will show your customers just what you can do.

7. Airbrush, airbrush colors and a good compressor An airbrush can be used for tiny touches on a cake or for labor intensive portraits. Sometimes it is only used for a touch of color in the center of a flower or it can be used to create soft shading effects, plaids, stripes, checks, background scenes, and the list goes on and on. It is a very valuable sugar art tool. I personally would make this a priority on a must have list. Prices start at around $150.00. Note: You must use the special airbrush colors with the airbrush - no other type of colors.

8. Kopykake Projector. A projector of this type uses a picture and projects and enlarges your picture down on the top of your cake. This is a time saving expensive piece of equipment. If you are not able to freehand your designs on top of your cakes the Kopycake projector is a real help. Home decorators who only do a couple of cakes a month will probably find that it is not feasible for them. The more specialty cakes you are requested to do the more time this equipment will save you in making patterns and drawing the designs.

9. Pasta Machine - Rosemary Watson kept telling me for at least a couple of years what a wonderful aid the Pasta Machine is in making gum paste flowers, rolling out fondant strips for bows, ribbons and etc. I finally invested in one and now I don’t know how I would get along with out it. It saves you so much time in making gum paste flowers and bows. It is also very helpful when using the lace molds and wraps. If you are only doing buttercream cakes this would not be something you need. But, if you are getting into the nicer cakes with the gum paste work you might want to consider investing in this equipment. An expensive piece of equipment - but sure saves you time.

the computer has become a piece of essential cake decorating equipment that I just can’t live without. Keeping all of those lesson plans, writing articles, making tags to go with the album pictures, constructing serving charts, cake decorating chats on AOL, drawing lace points, scanning pictures and enlarging or reducing to fit the cake planned, and on and on and on. Oh well, some of us just don’t know where to quit with the cake decorating equipment.

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