Our Resident Baking BFF's Go-To Tools for Better Pies, Cakes, Cookies—You Name It

These gift ideas from Erin McDowell are guaranteed to make our baking better and brighter.

December 11, 2020

In Bake it Up a Notch, or Resident Baking BFF, Erin McDowell—and her trusty sidekick, Brimley, our Resident Pie Pup—shows us everything we'll ever need to know to make our baking faster, easier, and better than ever. From equipment recommendations to in-depth technique tutorials to fixes for every mishap imaginable, Erin's here to save the day (and save our cakes).

If you know someone who loves to bake, they are likely spending more time in the kitchen than ever before. This list is made up of tools I turn to time and time again, that have withstood the test of time and beyond frequent use in my home kitchen—plus a few sources of inspiration for year-round baking. Any baker would be thrilled to unwrap one of these goodies! Wishing everyone happy holidays and happy baking!

Erin's Go-To Baking Tools

Five Two Stoneware Mixing Bowls

No baker should be without a set of mixing bowls, and this set looks so good, it can do double duty, moonlighting as serveware, too. My favorite part is the pour spout on each bowl, which is great for adding ingredients together, or perfectly pouring batter into a cake pan.

Baking Steel

A baking steel makes a perfect holiday gift because SO many folks want one of their own. This incredible product will make for better pizza, bread, and—the reason I adore it—crisp-bottomed pies. Leave your soggy bottoms in 2020: The baking steel is the kitchen investment the baker in your life doesn’t know they need!

Campbell's Dough Knife

This was gift to me from one of my baking besties, and it changed my world so now I love to pass the gift along! I always list a good quality bench (or dough) knife as my absolute favorite, go-to kitchen tools - and this one takes the cake. Available in TWO sizes—both larger than typical dough knives—it does an amazing job of cutting cold ingredients like butter, dividing dough, scraping off a floury work surface, and even smoothing icing on a tall layer cake!

French Rolling Pin

This is a rolling pin that is as beautiful as it is lightweight and easy to use. I like the hole on one end, which allows me to hang my pin up. It’s so pretty, I love to display it, and I love having it right at hand for whenever the urge to roll dough strikes!

Marble & Walnut Rotating Cake Stand

Every year, one of the most common baking questions that pours into my inbox is: “How do I move a cake off a turntable and onto a cake stand to serve it?” My answer is very different now that this product exists—a beautiful turntable and cake stand all in one. I also use it at the dinner table—we sometimes put condiments on it in the center of the table, so it’s easy for everyone to grab what they need while they eat!

Subscription to Cherry Bombe Magazine

My mom always gives magazine subscriptions as gifts, and I love it—because it’s a gift that gives all year long! This year, I’m gifting friends subscriptions to one of my favorites—the always-inspiring Cherry Bombe!


I gift a lot of pies every year, so I am the proud owner of more than one PieBox, which allows me to easily carry pies from place to place without worry. For an extra special gift, gift the box with a pie inside: The recipient can bake a pie in the pie plate and might even be inspired to pass the pie love on!

Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking From the Heartland by Shauna Sever

As a Midwest girl myself, I love to gift this book to anyone who loves to bake. It will be a welcome companion during the holiday baking season, but is sure to be a well-loved copy on your cookbook shelf throughout the seasons. Everything from bar cookies to buns to pies and cakes—this book has all the homey comfort of the baked goods I grew up eating, and I couldn’t love it more.

Farmers Market Produce Ornaments

My own little holiday tradition is to buy a new ornament each year. Not surprisingly, nearly all of my ornaments are food-related, and I’m always looking out for new additions to my nearly edible tree. This year, I’m adoring these carrots and mushrooms so much, I’m buying a few to gift to friends. Gifting ornaments is the sweetest fun because the recipient will think of you and your gift each holiday season when they hang it!

What baking gifts are you picking up for your loved ones? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • MarthaZoglauer
  • Waheguru67
  • Claudia
  • Tristan Marquez
    Tristan Marquez
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


MarthaZoglauer June 13, 2021
I love your tutorials. You are so clear and to the point. The best I’ve ever watched. I don’t like overly sweet frosting and to see all of the options was amazing . Thanks so much !
Waheguru67 December 23, 2020
I love the way Jeanne McDowell explains how to make pie dough crust
Claudia December 13, 2020
Question for Erin McDowell. The baking steel is heavy. Too heavy for me to use much if I have to remove it for other baking. Would it be okay to leave it in the oven as a permanent resident, maybe near the bottom of the oven?Just remove for cleaning. It would act as a drip tray for regular baking, and hot surface for pies and pizza. Could then make other baked goods (e.g.lasagna, cake) on a rack higher up at normal baking temperatures.
Tristan M. December 14, 2020
Interested too!
Erin J. December 15, 2020
The baking steel can be left in the oven for many projects, but it retains a ton of heat and therefore and alter the temperature of your oven. In some cases, folks find that it helps regulate their oven temp! In my house, I never leave it in when I’m baking more delicate things like cookies or cakes - as I’ve found even baking above the steel can cause the baked goods to brown more/risk burning at the base!