Illustration via Jessie Moore of CakeSpy.com
When it comes to baking and cake decorating, spatulas are an invaluable tool. These implements with a broad, flat, flexible blade can be applied to a myriad of different uses: to name a few, mixing, spreading, lifting, and transferring. But with so many different variations and types, what sort of spatula is most appropriate for the task at hand? Here’s a primer on the different types of spatulas and their uses for cake baking.
The Metal Spatula: Turning and Transferring
This is a flat, wide spatula--for a quick visual, picture the type you’d use to flip pancakes. They come smooth or with little “vent” holes. Their main purposes are to flip, scrape, and serve. Though frequently called a metal spatula, hard plastic versions have also risen in popularity.
When it comes to baking, you’ll probably need to move something at some point, be it transferring cookies from a baking tray to a cooling rack or gently loosening a cake from the pan before flipping it onto a wire rack. For these tasks, you’ll want to use this type of spatula.
There is even a cake-specific version of this type of spatula, which is called a Cake Spatula. It looks like a pancake-flipping spatula, but is much larger and fatter in the “flipping” surface. It is a wonderful tool for transferring cakes, layers, and cake decorating elements with ease.
The Rubber Spatula: Scraping and Smoothing
This is the type of spatula most people will think of right away when it comes to baking: a long, wooden handle topped with a flexible rubbery-textured scraping blade. It’s sometimes called a rubber spatula. While most come with a flat “blade”, another type with a curved, spoon-like blade is also available--these are sometimes called “spoon spatulas”.
Its primary function? Scraping. Most cake recipes will call for the baker to “scrape down the sides of the bowl”, and this is exactly the tool for that. That flexible blade is much more effective than a spoon, whisk, or knife when it comes to scraping the bowl either to incorporate ingredients or to transfer the batter into a baking pan. But it’s not a one trick pony: this type of spatula is also great for certain types of mixing, including gently folding ingredients into batter. This type of spatula is also great for smoothing batter in a cake pan before baking to ensure an even distribution.
The Frosting Spatula: Putting the Icing on the Cake
Once your cake is baked, you’ve got to apply the frosting somehow! For this delicious task, you’ll want to use what’s called a frosting spatula. This type of spatula looks almost like an artist’s palette knife: a flexible, thin metal blade with a handle. They come in a variety of sizes, and can be used for folding in coloring to frosting as well as spreading it on the finished cake.
There are two primary types of frosting spatula: offset and flat. Many bakers seem to prefer one type or another. The main difference? How the blade extends from the handle. The offset spatula’s blade is slightly bent, so that it rests about 1/2 an inch below the handle. This can make the blade a bit more “nimble” in terms of covering hard to reach areas without the baker’s hand getting in way.
The flat spatula’s blade extends straight out from the blade, like a large, flat butter knife rounded on both sides. Its flat surface makes it a great choice for smoothly applying frosting to large, flat surface areas.
As you can see, spatulas may come in many shapes, sizes, and materials, but they all have a specific role when it comes to the process of making and decorating a cake! Happy scraping, smoothing, icing, baking, and cake making!
Learn more about other cake decorating supplies here. Then come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to explore stunning handcrafted cake toppers.