Article contributed by David Madden from ExchangerHub
Bakers, meet your boss. Cake Boss, that is! Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro has made waves with his innovative and inspiring cake designs and has taken cake decorating to the next level. Buddy Valastro is the star of his own show, Cake Boss, that first aired on TLC in early 2009 and continued for twelve seasons. He is also the host of Next Great Baker and Kitchen Boss, in addition to running the day-to-day of Carlo’s Bakery, which is based out of his hometown in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The storefront made famous by the television series was passed down to Buddy from his father, also a legendary baker. With Famiglia, the Italian word for family, being the most important thing in Buddy’s life, he has taken his memory and love for his father and channeled it into creating stunningly beautiful and edible art. Take it from Buddy Valastro, who’s been baking since he was eleven: There are some tools he just can’t do without when it comes to creating his masterpieces. For anyone looking to open the doors of their own bakery, here is a list of recommendations from the Boss himself for New Bakery Essentials:
The Basic Bases
Buddy decorates his cakes with elaborate patterns and detailed flowers, all with the help of a cake turntable. There’s nothing worse than putting the finishing touches on the product of hours’ worth of work, only to have the turntable topple your cake to the floor. Buddy advises bakers to invest in a professional turntable, which may cost more than what is found in craft stores but will be worth the extra dough. Be sure the base is non-skid and look for a turntable with a small lip around the circumference to help keep the cake centered while you adorn it with sweet style.
In addition to a sturdy turntable, bakers should ensure they have racks and carts that will safely transport their finished pieces from the back workshop to the front display or straight into the customer’s hands. In episode eight of season one, Buddy and Cousin Anthony tried to carefully carry an elaborate sweet sixteen cake down the small staircase of Carlo’s Bakery. Viewers watched in horror as the cake tipped too far and slid from its base, resulting in a colorful disaster. Learn from their mistake and provide a solid and strong pedestal for your prize pies to sit on.
There are some important distinctions to note between hand mixers and stand mixers. Hand mixers, like your household egg beaters, are a less expensive appliance used for mixtures of all kinds. However, hand mixers do not have as strong a motor as stand mixers, which tend to be bigger and more efficient at combining ingredients.
This size difference means, when it comes to the dough which can be thick and difficult to maneuver, stand mixers are the preferred option. In a professional setting, Buddy demands the use of stand mixers. He notes that not only do they last for a long time, but that they don’t require your supervision while mixing. This lack of supervision means you’re free to work on other projects while preparing for the next.
Manual Mixing Materials
For blending that doesn’t require a stand mixer, like frosting or egg washes, Buddy always has available other mixing materials to make sure his ingredients are thoroughly combined. A spoonula is a practical two-function tool made not only for mixing but for spooning blends out of bowls and scraping the sides to be sure nothing is left behind.
The Cake Boss also recommends whisks with an overmold, meaning the whisk is covered inside with a silicone lining. This lining helps catch the ingredients that get stuck to the side of the mixing bowl so that everything is incorporated and will be evenly combined.
Speaking of the bowl, look for mixing bowls with rubber bases, so they will stay still on the counter while you work. It’s also beneficial to look for ones made of materials that are easy to clean, to save yourself some effort when the baking is done but the dishes are piled high.
Cake Decorating Equipment
Any recommendations coming from Buddy regarding cake decorating equipment are coming straight from the top of the chain of command. A large variety pack of icing dispensers in different sizes and patterns is a necessity. Buddy recommends looking for professional grade dispensers that are stronger and more likely to keep their shape.
Cookie cutter sets are widely varied and are not only used for cookies. Cutters are also used for fondant and come in handy for birthday or wedding occasions which require custom designs.
Fondant can also be imprinted using rolling pins and ribbon cutters with raised patterns for a professional look. Purchase rolling pins, made especially for fondant, that are weighted for quick and easy flattening.
Buddy also recommends an airbrush kit if you want to kick your cakes up a notch. A good airbrush kit starts at around $100, including colors, and it can open the doors to new creative designs.
Although getting icing on your fingers is a sweet reward for all your hard work, using icing spatulas instead will create a smooth and neat finish for your cakes. To gently add fondant flowers or decorations without disturbing your already finished work, use offset spatulas which allow for delicate movements when constructing cakes.
These essentials are the tools that build the Boss’s beautiful creations that make viewers swoon. Without the right equipment, precision and details may suffer, so be sure to have what you need on hand.
Pans are arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment in the bakery. Regardless of the volume of goods a bakery produces, they need pans and lots of them. Therefore, it’s important to invest in quality pans that will last.
Good non-stick pans will keep bakery delicacies from tearing when trying to remove them, and paying a little extra for a strong material, like steel, will pay off in the long run, after many hours in extreme heat.
For an extra boost of convenience, look for pans with non-stick grips on either side to avoid catastrophes that accompany the sound of a pan clattering to the ground.
Having several different sizes will be helpful to accommodate a wide selection of pastries. The basic bakery beginner should have loaf bread pans, muffin pans, cookie pans, round and square cake pans in different sizes, spring-form pans, and should consider extras like cake pop pans and specialty design plans (like these ghosts for Halloween) for extra flair.
Whether your star bakery items are freshly baked cannolis filled just before serving or Mrs. Lisa Valastro’s personal favorite, lobster tails, having the right tools for the job will help you to succeed in serving up your specialty.
Leave it to Buddy to have the tried-and-tested methods and equipment that your bakery needs to be a hit. How does Carlo’s Bakery manage to make over 20,000 pies with a staff of only ten people before Thanksgiving? How do they make up to forty cakes a week? With the help of the right equipment and a lot of support from the famiglia.
Author’s Note: We sadly regret the passing of Mrs. Mary Valastro on June 22, 2017. Her brightness, passion, and love for her family which resonated throughout the Cake Boss series will be dearly missed. May she rest in peace.
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger and ExchangerHub. These companies help manufacturing and distribution companies buy and sell used industrial packing such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, and ibc totes and industrial racks such as pallet racking, flow racks, and drive-in racks. These companies have served thousands of buyers and sellers through USA, Canada, and Mexico.