I'm a firm believer in making do, not buying five million little gadgets and devices for every little thing... But I do spend a lot of my time in the kitchen, and though what I bake and cook now is a lot more diverse than, say, two years ago (when I was pretty much always making cake of some description), my culinary focus remains firmly on the sweet side of the spectrum - and as such I've amassed a reasonably large selection of toys.
When I started getting cake crazy I had a few baking toys already, and gradually amassed bits and pieces for a while... And then I spied this cake caddy online somewhere, and *had* to have it. Unfortunately it wasn't available in NZ, and Amazon don't ship this kind of thing here. Fortunately Mr Cake's brother and his wife were living in the US at the time, so I had it shipped to them, and they sent it on. Thanks Jon and Mari!
Everyone, including myself, thought this was fairly mad, I think, but I use it pretty much any time I make something pretty, and it is a very neat and relatively compact way of storing all of this stuff. If you've ever tried to find the exact piping tip you want in a drawerful of them you'll appreciate this!
So apart from a plethora of piping tips, what will you find if you delve inside?
Well, for starters, I always have a few different types of cupcake case. Pretty cupcake papers = great gifts if anyone is feeling generous; I am always using these up and I really like the interesting ones. ;-) The taller, thinner cups at the back right are fantastic (though unfortunately pretty pricey for what they are); they hold their shape so you don't need to use a muffin pan to bake your cupcakes. You can get pretty patterned ones like the others shown from Torte, Kiwicakes or Cakestuff for pretty reasonable prices, though.
Piping bags are, of course, essential. I only have one proper bag at the moment (I used to have more - don't quite know how they vanish!), but I love these disposable ones; they're on a perforated roll, you just rip one off, snip off the tip and away you go. Though they're plastic they're heavy duty enough that I usually use each a couple of times. They can be pretty handy in other, sneaky ways; if you're melting compound chocolate for decorating you can put it in the bag, put the bag in a cup and melt it in the bag in the microwave before snipping off the tip.
Colours are pretty important for making pretty stuff - of course I only have the bare minimum. ;-) The ones at the front are gel colours - more concentrated and viscous than regular liquid food colouring, this is good for fondant and for anything where you don't want to change the consistency too much. Because you use so little at a time they last for aaaaaaages. The four jars on the left at the back are powdered colour; like you'd use for macarons or tinting melted chocolate (adding liquid to chocolate really doesn't work so well). Or of course you could enter my competition (drawn tomorrow/Monday night!) and win some pre-coloured melts!And there are some normal liquid colours there, too.
I also often keep little packages of tinted fondant (a.k.a. white icing) in the caddy - there will usually be some left over after a project and it keeps for ages if well wrapped - it can be very handy to have a little bit of pink or blue ready to roll out and cut into shape to top cupcakes or similar.
Some other decorating things - silver and gold dusting powders (add shimmer to things or dissolve in a tiny bit of vodka or similar (which will evaporate off) and paint onto chocolate or dried fondant for an amazing metallic effect. This is perhaps not something that is good for you to eat too much of; it's one of those things that is "for decoration only." I can assure you it's not deadly in small quantities, though. ;-)
Cutters are pretty useful - cookies, fondant decorations, even mini cakes can be made interesting. Having more than one size of the same shape means you can make some interesting patterns, too.
Some other random tools - wire for making stars or hearts that leap out of a cake; pretty ribbon for a formal cake; lollipop sticks for cute treats on sticks. In the middle picture, a fondant smoother, flower foam, a tip cleaning brush, a little palette knife (for lifting delicate decorations), and my super handy little roller. This was a Christmas gift a few years ago and gets a huge amount of use - I have a full sized rolling pin but so often a little one is all I need, and it's so much easier to handle. Paintbrushes are also very useful. I used them last week for making the butterflies; you can paint designs onto fondant with gel colour, or use them to flick sparkly gold or silver over an extra special treat.
I'd like to think my collection isn't too ridiculous (I do have measuring spoons and some other more general bits and pieces, but they live in the utensil drawer) - living in an apartment means we don't have a huge amount of storage so I try to limit myself to things that are useful over and over again (in that vein, in most cases I don't like single-use appliances at all, and there are so many of these for the kitchen now it's ridiculous, though I do make an exception for my ice-cream maker).
Do you have large collections of toys for any particular hobbies? What tool can't you do without?