Get inspired by our test kitchen's system and use our expert-approved tips to create your own sweet setup.

For many, cookie and cake decorating sessions happen seasonally—for the holidays, around Valentine's Day, or in honor of birthdays—but rarely more frequently than that. In those cases, the number of supplies needed is pretty manageable, generally adding up to little more than you can fit in one kitchen drawer or bin. Yet for other home bakers, there's no occasion too small or day too ordinary to bake cakes and cookies. Embellishing desserts is our hobby and favorite pastime. As a result (and a sweet one at that), we amass a fair amount of decorating tools, equipment, and ingredients over time.


Imagine how much of this stuff the Martha Stewart Living test kitchen has accumulated over the last three decades! According to Sarah Carey, editorial director of food, keeping cookie and cake decorating supplies corralled is an ongoing effort. "For cake decorating tips, we have this really big, doctor's office-type cabinet with loads of drawers and also a freestanding plastic unit. Each drawer is labeled with the pastry tip numbers that the drawers contain on the front. We also keep a large metal tackle box that we take on photo shoots, with sections for tips, pastry bags, sprinkles, and sanding sugars, and containers of gel-paste food coloring. (This one is designated just for cakes and cookies, in addition to other kits for the usual food styling tools)."

The test kitchen uses bins for those same sugars and sprinkles, and for cookie cutters, too. Sanding sugars and sprinkles are sorted into bins by color, and gel paste and liquid food colors are similarly grouped. "We don't go so far as to separate the shades of each but instead keep big zip-top bags of all the oranges, for examples, all greens, and so on," says Sarah. "We separate cutters by theme—hearts, trees, snowflakes, farm animals, you get it. The list sometimes feels endless."

According to Sarah, that organization system is only as good as the last person who relied on it. "Not everyone (ahem) puts things back in the right place once they're done with them, so we try to schedule periodic re-org sessions. We'll weed out any dried up food coloring, and put duplicate cutters (in our case, that means more than four or so of each) in a big bin for donations and staff tag sales."

For the rest of us, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Keep It Together

If you are lucky enough to have a large kitchen and you bake cookies and cakes frequently, set up a designated spot. Mimic the setup of your favorite bakery or baking supply shop. You might install pegboard with hooks for your most frequently used cutters, for example, with an outline for each that makes for easy replacement. Add bigger hooks for rolling pins, bars for parchment paper and foil, and even a dispenser for disposable pastry bags. If pegboard is not an easy option, consider a cork bulletin board, with long pushpins for cookie cutters and pastry tips.

Nests Are Best

Look for sets of same-shaped cutters in graduated sizes, which will help keep things orderly. Try to hang on to the original packaging, but if that fails, you can also tie the nested cutters together with kitchen twine or bind them with rubber bands. The same nesting principle works for cake pans, tartlet molds, muffin tins, paper cupcake liners, and all kinds of other baking equipment, too.

Stay on Theme

Some shapes, like hearts and stars, obviously belong together. For others, follow our test kitchen's lead and group them together in categories that make sense, like holidays, seasonal, nature, and so on.

Keep It Clear

Choose as many see-through containers as you can, which will help you save time and frustration when reaching for supplies. Use small glass jars (the kinds sold for spices are perfect) for sugars and sprinkles and clear plastic bags for just about everything else.

Upkeep Should Be Key

Take stock of your supplies after every use, tossing out anything old or dried out, eliminating duplicates or anything in shapes and sizes you no longer use frequently, and wiping out the bottoms of bins and drawers. Sanding sugars and sprinkles can easily build up, and you'll be much more excited about decorating the next time if things are in order.


Be the first to comment!