Equipment Shopping: N.Y. Cake & Baking Distributor

Editor's note: You know Ava McAlpin from her killer ingredient roundups; we're sending her out through New York to explore the best shops for cookware. Take it away, Ava!

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N.Y. Cake is the baking supply store to end all baking stores. From pans to ingredients to decorations to handy tools, you can find everything you've ever dreamed of and more for whatever elaborate (or simple) project you've got rising in your mind.

Warning: Just browsing? Yeah, right. Even when you come to the store with a set project and limited shopping list in mind, you'll likely leave with an impulse purchase. I know I've got in my kitchen cabinet a box of gold glitter sprinkles and red, lip-shaped sprinkles leftover from some Valentine's Day cupcakes I never got around to making—along with leftover pink, blue and yellow pastel colored sanding sugar for the Easter egg cupcakes I did produce, which disappointingly didn't live up to the Martha-perfect picture I'd envisioned.

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But while you're in the store browsing the stacked shelves, you can convince yourself that you can be the next Martha Stewart. (Side note: even Martha proclaimed it her favorite bake supply shop on her show this past spring).

The list below only begins to touch on the oddities and exciting things you can find in N.Y. Cake, but here are some of the staples and the highlights. Can't make it to the store? Check out their website which has most of their inventory: nycake.com.

Bakeware and Molds:

Any serious baker needs to start out with some good cake pans. For basics find every shape and size of Fat Daddio's Professional Bakeware made from anodized aluminum. There are the basic square pans as well the more complex comma and oval shapes. Any respectable baker should have a 9" square pan for making brownies, as well as one or two round cake pans for making layer cakes. Throw in a springform pan as well, which is useful for cheesecakes, and a loaf pan for quick breads.

The more adventurous baker—or perhaps the parent of a demanding child with a birthday coming up—can find all different shapes of cake pans made by Wilton. From a star shape to multiple size hearts to a school bus, they've got you covered.

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Wilton cake pans. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

As of late, I've been doing more of my baking out of silicone molds. I love their flexibility and that they are non-stick and easy to clean. I often use the individual cupcake molds to save on wasting paper. Just make sure your eaters don't throw them away! The one downside is if you fill them too much, the cupcake overflow is more difficult to deal with than in a muffin pan.

N.Y Cake has classic mold shapes like the Silicone Solutions 6 cup Muffin Pan or the Silicone Solutions Bundt pan, to more whimsical items like Fred's Silicone Tea Cup Cupcake molds ($18.99)—cupcake molds made to look like teacups: "bake and serve."

My favorite silicone invention is the Silpat or silicone baking mat ($9.99). They make baking cookies so easy. No more fears of cookies getting stuck on the cookie sheet after all of your hard work on that dough. You'll still need cookie sheets to put them on, though, and you can buy those as well.

When I don't use silicone baking mats I use parchment paper. Find rolls of Regency $5.99, Wilton $6.99, and Beyond Gourmet $7.99.

Speaking of cookies, there are cookie cutters in every shape for $2.99 and up. Want to make pink ribbon cookies for that bake sale raising money for Breast Cancer Research? They've got them. How about teapot shaped cookies to go with those teacup cupcakes you made? Check.

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Cupcake liners. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Then there is the entire wall devoted to all sorts of cupcake liners from pretty solid colors to wild and crazy patterns—they've got liners for every theme from Dora the Explorer to pretty pastel polka dots. Also find paper molds for all other sorts of baked goods, like the kind Whole Foods muffins come wrapped in.

Tools

When it comes to tools, there are some things you didn't even know required a gadget. Like chocolate ribbon curls? You can buy a Medium Chocolate Ribbon Grater.

There's also a specific spatula paddle designed for lifting cakes made by Wilton ($14.99). Trying to level out your cake and find that a plain old knife can't do the trick? You might be in the market for an interlayer cake cutter, $25.99. For when you're frosting your cake, there's a tilting Wilton lazy Susan turntable that helps you get the right angle ($79.99).

While some of these items might be more frivolous than useful, a few really are great. I find the plastic pastry bags that come in three different sizes especially handy for piping. Yes, you can cut off the corner of a Ziploc bag and use it for the same purpose, but I find that usually leads to more of a mess. There are also the more heavy-duty flex polyurethane bags, though I think the plastic work just fine. Then of course there are the various tips you can use to pipe in different thicknesses and patterns. For the serious decorators there are the Kitchen's Syringe Icing Set and other pastry pumps.

There are several different size flour sifters—though I like just passing my flour through a large wire strainer. Also find a few different electronic scales (though baking goddess Rose Levy Barenbaum thinks that these tend not to be accurate enough.)

Cutting boards, flexible cutting mats, spatulas, thermometers—the list goes on.

Ingredients

N.Y. Cake's supply doesn't stop at the bakeware; they've got the supplies to truly make this a one stop shop, including ingredients. Find almond paste ($11.99), pastry fillings from Bavarian cream to guava filling (prices vary), pectin ($15.99 for 8 oz.), and caramel ($5.99 for 1lb).

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Baking chocolate. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Now that you've bought all sorts of fondant imprints and molds you're going to need some fondant so that you can use them. So they've also got Satin Ice rolled fondant gum paste for $12.99 and 2 lbs of rolling icing for $5.99. There's molding chocolate (candy clay) for $14.99.

One of a baker's most important weapons is the kind of chocolate she uses. N.Y. Cake stocks Valhrona chocolate and cocoa powder. Once you go Valhrona, you don't go back, so be careful. The stuff is pretty pricey. It's $10.99/.5lb or $17.99/1lb for the powder; $32.99 for a 2.2 lb block of extra bitter chocolate.

There's also Callebaut chocolate, by which plenty of people swear. I prefer the intensity of Valhrona. Callebaut Bittersweet chocolate is $14.99.

Also find white chocolate dyed all sorts of different colors: red, yellow, green, blue, lavender, etc.

Decorating

Now this is where N.Y. Cake really becomes like a candy store and arts supply store all mixed into one—a dangerous combination for the creative impulse shopper.

My favorite area in the store is the wall with food coloring. There are all sorts of colors, not just the typical red, green, yellow and blue that other sets leave you with to create your own palette. Need to make a pink frosted cake? Well, there are about six different shades of pink you could buy: dusty rose, peach, fuchsia, deep pink, mauve, you get the idea.

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Food coloring. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Several brands market different kinds of coloring. One of the reasons I love N.Y. Cake (in case I haven't given you enough already) is how friendly the other customers are and how willing everyone is to share their baking advice and ideas. During one shopping trip I found myself overwhelmed by all the different coloring agents and a fellow shopper recommended the Wilton icing color ($2.99 for a 1oz bottle) because Wilton coloring is known to add the least amount of extra, unwanted flavor.

You can also find AmeriColor Airbrush Color ($11.99 for 9oz or $3.49 .75oz), AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color ($4.99 for 4.5 oz or $2.99 for .75 oz), AmeriColor Oil Candy Color ($4.99 for 2 oz), or Chefmaster Liquagel Color ($6.99 for 10.5oz or $3.99 for 2.3 oz).

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Decorettes. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

N.Y. Cake promotes itself as stocking petal dusters, as well as luster and disco dusters, which can be difficult to find elsewhere. These powders can be used to color fondant, marzipan figures, and frosting. I've always been tempted by these, but have managed to resist the urge to purchase so far; now that I understand their function, I may just have to try them.

Then there are all of the toppings to go on the beautifully colored frosting you have created. In case you didn't by that chocolate shaver, there are ivory, strawberry, marbled, and dark chocolate curls for $7.99 a box.

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Dragees. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Colored sanding sugar ($4.99 a box) comes in lurid hot colors as well as softer, barely-there pastels. Next to them are boxes of jimmies, such as red, white and blue for July 4th. There are also decorettes—flat colored sprinkles—in shapes such as flowers or dinosaurs. Another dangerous spot is the back wall that highlights selected materials for the upcoming holiday. When I was there last there was a bunch of stuff for graduation and July 4th.

Up front, there are also rock candy and other larger toppings in a rainbow of colors, and fancy flowers made from gum paste for those who are less talented and can't make them on their own (or can't be bothered to). I love the silver and gold dragees, which are an easy way to make a chocolate glazed cake look really fancy.

Packaging and Presentation

To bring any home-baked good to the next level and make it look professional, you've got to put some effort into the packaging. Once again, N.Y. Cake can help you out here.

There are cake boards and drums, which can make transporting your cake easier along with making the cake look more finished. These come in all shapes and sizes and in different materials, from silver-colored to gold to plain white.

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Cake boards. [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

On the back right wall there is a display of cake boxes that come in all different sizes so you can find one to fit whatever kind of cake you make. They've also got boxes specially designed for cupcakes with holders so they don't slide around and smush those beautiful toppings during transit. Cookie boxes, cellophane bags, twist ties, popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks and florist wire—it's all there.

Lastly, there is a wide selection of candles to put the finishing touch on top. I love the Samrock Sparklers, which can make any cake shine.

Whew. Although I said "lastly," that's really only just the start. Seriously, your best best is to go check it out for yourself. If there's something you've been needing for your sweet (and sometimes even savory) kitchen needs, chances are N.Y. Cake has got it.

N.Y. Cake & Baking Distributor

56 West 22nd Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues; map)
212-675-2253‎
nycake.com

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