Shopping for your favorite baker can be a somewhat daunting task, because, unless you happen to share a kitchen, there's no discreet way to determine whether a particular gift would be welcome or redundant. That doesn't mean you should give up on finding just the right thing; only that you have to think like a baker. That's where I come in.
Top-Notch Dutch Cocoa: Most supermarkets don't stock good-quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder, leaving hobby bakers stuck with some pretty mediocre stuff. Even if they're able to splurge on better Dutch cocoa powder at a local gourmet shop, chances are their options are limited to the same ol' national brands. These can be nice, but a change of pace is nicer still.
My favorite is Cacao Barry Extra Brute, a high-fat cocoa powder that's been processed with an alkali to neutralize the cocoa's natural acidity. This treatment deepens its color from a reddish beige to a deep mahogany, while mellowing its flavor into something earthy and dark. It's my go-to cocoa for everything from brownies to homemade Fudgsicles and Chocolate Cream Pie.
Extra-Deep Cake Pans: They say it's a poor craftsman that blames his tools, but when it comes to light and fluffy layer cakes, the wrong equipment is a dessert death sentence. Dark pans promote browning, and, while that's a quality I love in my favorite muffin pans, it makes cakes tough and dark along the bottom. Light pans keep the crust pale and tender, for the most beautifully delicious layer cakes.
At three inches deep, these Fat Daddio's cake pans also give cake batters more room to grow, encouraging an even rise. That keeps the layers nice and thick, as less cake will be lost in trimming off their excessive domes. Because these pans are also anodized, batters made with acidic ingredients, like lemon, buttermilk, sour cream, and honey, won't develop a wonky, metallic flavor as they bake. I'm a sucker for old-fashioned layer cakes, so I have three of these at home.
A Revolving Cast Iron Cake Stand: If there's someone in your life you can always count on for a birthday cake, return the favor with this bad boy. Made from heavy cast iron, it won't scoot or slide around, which makes frosting cakes a breeze. It's also heavy enough to support tiered cakes, so it's suitable even for professional use. My parents bought one for me when I was 16, and it's never been replaced; Ateco turntables are built to last!
Embossed Rolling Pin: There are only two kinds of bakers in this world: those who prefer a French pin, and those who go Shaker-style. For that reason, shopping for a general-purpose rolling pin is a highly personal endeavor. But an embossed pin is a gift of whimsy, and a splurge few bakers will indulge in on their own.
While there are a ton of embossed or laser-cut pins on the market, not all of them are great. Some have shallow patterns that make a poor impression, and others are so intricate, the dough can't help but stick. But this one from Sun Crafts is a pin I can recommend from experience—I used it for the homemade Oreos on the cover of my cookbook (check it out here). It has a deep-cut pattern with plenty of negative space, both crucial elements of design that improve its ease of use.
Regardless of whether the baker in your life is a newbie or a seasoned sweet tooth, everyone loves playing with top-notch ingredients and equipment. Especially when they're tried-and-true classics, sourced straight from a professional kitchen.