Buying gifts for the pastry fanatic you know isn't particularly hard: As with any purchase for a cook of any kind, you'll want to consider utility and necessity first, after which you can turn to the demands of whimsy and fun. If you know someone who's just starting out on their baking adventures, spring for some basic items that they might not know they need. Even a nice rimmed baking sheet can be a very thoughtful gift, if it's one that your budding baker doesn't own yet. If your giftee is an old hand at pastry, try something like a high-quality vanilla extract in a pretty bottle, or maybe a Serious Eats apron—whimsical, fun, and necessary.
We've got way more than a baker's dozen of gift suggestions for you, but here, we'll take the opportunity to highlight some of our favorites.
BraveTart, the Book!
One of the many advantages of giving Stella's cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, as a gift is that it's easy to tell if the intended recipient has it or not. If they do, you'll probably already have seen on Instagram their uncannily accurate homemade Nutter Butters and their DIY "Twinkies" filled with tres leches. Or they'll have shown up at some gathering with Stella's frankly insane "Pig Newtons" (yeah, that's Fig Newtons with bacon fat in the dough and bacon bits in the filling). Or they'll have surprised you with an erudite explanation of how Oreos got their name. Filled with fascinating histories that honor the American tradition of dessert-making, along with tons of irresistible recipes you won't find on Serious Eats, BraveTart is literally the best gift for bakers (providing they don't already have it).
Anodized Aluminum Baking Pans
A lot of bakers I know tend to use what they've got when it comes to equipment. While the recipe might specifically call for an anodized aluminum cake pan, as is the case in many of Stella's recipes, including her brownies and some of her cakes, some cooks might be tempted to use the non-anodized aluminum cake pans they have on hand. That would be a mistake. Anodized aluminum pans are valuable because they are nonreactive, and therefore they can be used with acidic recipes like Stella's blackberry cake and lemon bars. If you chose to bake those bars or that cake in a normal aluminum pan, the appearance will be off, but more importantly, so will the flavor. The brownie pan Stella recommends also has a convenient removable bottom, and the cake pans are extra deep, which makes them perfect for messy baking projects that tend to bubble up in the oven, like sticky buns. A set of these pans would make a great gift to old bakers set in their ways, but they'd also be perfect for new bakers or people who are outfitting a new kitchen.
Good Dutch Cocoa
Stella spent some time this year trying out a variety of cocoas in her boxed brownie mix, and she drew up a list of some brands that she can personally vouch for. But her go-to Dutch cocoa for a long time has been Cacao Barry Extra Brute, and you'd be hard pressed to find a baker who wouldn't appreciate a couple bags of this stuff. You also have the option of picking a few of the other cocoas on Stella's list, which will allow you to give your baker a range of cocoas to play with.
A Good Food Processor
Food processors are incredibly useful for cooks generally speaking, but for bakers especially, they can be absolute necessities—some techniques, like the one Stella uses to create highly stable fruit-flavored whipped cream, won't work without one. While our review of food processors identified a few of the best machines on the market, our overall favorite was this 14-cup Magimix. That may not be a familiar brand name to many people, but it's got a mighty fine pedigree—it's the prosumer line from Robot Coupe, which makes the restaurant-industry standard in food processors.
A Stand Mixer
This one is a no-brainer. You can make cakes and cookies and other delicious sweet treats without a stand mixer, but you'd need pretty buff arms and a whole lot of patience to make most of those recipes work. Just the act of giving a generous gift like a stand mixer means you're going all out, and the recipient can't help but appreciate it—it's like presenting someone with a flashy car. But choose wisely, because there are lemons out there. We recommend this KitchenAid Professional Series model because it has metal gears, which are sturdy enough to last a long, long time.
A Pretty Cake Stand
Speaking of things that aren't entirely necessary, but are nevertheless very useful, consider giving your baker friend or family member a nice-looking cake stand on which to display their latest creation. For a novice, this revolving stand might be the more practical choice—it'll be a huge help when they're learning how to crumb-coat. Either way, giving a cake stand is a safe-ish bet that you'll be treated to a homemade cake in the near-ish future.
Large Piping Tips
While piping tips are often considered exclusively for pastry projects, these tips are large enough to be put to a variety of non-baking uses, like filling up deviled eggs and packing buttery baked potato flesh back into its jacket. Of course, your giftee will find plenty of dessert-related purposes for these, too: dispensing whipped cream, piping cupcake frosting, portioning out chocolate mousse, you name it.
A Cast Iron Combo Cooker
This piece of equipment is for the committed bread baker, someone who packs sourdough starter in their carry-on before plane trips or unveils beautiful boules at the office while not-so-surreptitiously picking away at specks of dried dough on their sweater. Thanks to the superlative heat-retention powers of cast iron, this cooker gets extremely hot and stays that way. Meanwhile, the tight-fitting lid creates a little sauna for the bread, trapping in steam to help produce a crackly crust that once seemed possible only in the professional bakeries of la France.
But Wait, There's More!
We're not done. You can find plenty more gift ideas for baking enthusiasts right this way »