Baking has come to dominate the TV. An adding a competitive aspect to the baking process is what makes the concept work so well on TV. When it comes to baking a cake at home, the only real competition is ensuring that the cake is ready in time for the occasion for which it was created, as well as making sure that it looks and tastes great. Baking a cake at home doesn't need to be complicated, and if you've been less than satisfied with the outcome so far, it's possibly because your kitchen is lacking these basic essentials.
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
Stainless steel mixing bowls are the absolute best when it comes to whipping a cake together. Plastic bowls have a tendency to become greasy, making the bowl itself difficult to work with, and wooden bowls will absorb a small amount of whatever is being mixed. This grease can then affect the quality of whatever else is mixed in the bowl, such as egg whites. Stainless steel bowls will not absorb grease or any other component of the recipe, and are virtually unbreakable. You could also use a glass bowl, but a stainless steel bowl is a safer option in case of accidental droppage.
When a hand mixer or a stand mixer doesn't give enough versatility, a simple balloon whisk comes to the rescue. If your kitchen doesn't have one of these, it's really something you should pick up. This allows you to create cakes and icing as light as clouds, since using the whisk properly allows enough air to penetrate the egg whites and cream. A hand or stand mixer tends to simply obliterate the egg whites or cream, even when used on a low setting.
You can make even the most basic of cakes look like it's come from a professional bakery with a bench scraper (which is also called an icing smoother). Once the cake has been baked, has cooled, and has had icing applied, the bench scraper is used to ensure that the icing is smooth and level all over the cake. If you've ever had to smooth out cement, you will be good with a bench scraper.
It might seem quite obvious to list baking pans as an essential part of cake baking, but this is one area where you get what you pay for. Cheaper pans will often lose their non-stick coating rather quickly, and you don't want to have to cut the cake out of the pan. Invest in a set of good quality non-stick baking pans, and look after them according to the manufacturer's instructions. Even non-stick pans perform better with some added lubrication, so make sure you have some oil spray on hand. It's much easier than rubbing a knob of butter into the pan and results in a consistent level of coverage. Use only rapeseed or sunflower oil, as the taste is neutral. Olive oil spray might result in a cake that reminds you of salad dressing.
Any kitchen supply store worth their salt will be able to provide you with these essential cake baking tools, but you can save money if you were to buy cake accessories online. Now maybe you can submit your audition tape for one of those cooking shows...