Holiday Baking Essentials Checklist

The must-have ingredients and gear to get you through the holiday baking season.

How to Bake the Perfect Pie
Photo: alazur


  • All-purpose flour

    The flour that's most frequently called for in recipes.

  • Baking powder

    This leavening agent causes batter to rise when baked.

  • Baking soda

    Baking soda becomes a leavening agent in recipes containing acidic ingredients (buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, etc.).

  • Butter

    Unsalted butter is best for baking, as it has a sweeter flavor and allows you to control the amount of salt in a recipe. Chop butter before melting or mixing.

  • Brown sugar, confectioners' sugar, and granulated sugar

    Confectioners' sugar is best for icings and whipped creams. But keep all three types on hand.

  • Pure vanilla extract

    Pure extract is more expensive than imitation vanilla, but it's much more potent.

  • Eggs
  • Milk

    Traditional recipes assume that the baker will use whole milk, so swapping in one percent or nonfat milks may result in a very different product.

  • Heavy cream

    The base for whipped cream and many custards and icings.

  • Chocolate

    Stock bars of both semisweet and bittersweet chocolate. Chips (or morsels) are also good to have around for cookies.

  • Nuts

    Keep almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid.

  • Spices

    Many holiday recipes call for nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Store in a cool, dry place.


  • Electric mixer

    Stand mixers are great for beating batters, mixing dough, and whipping cream (and will also allow you to prep other ingredients), but a hand mixer is a fine alternative.

  • Pans

    Basic pans include cake pans and Bundt cake pans, pie plates, tart pans, loaf pans, muffin tins, and cupcake tins. To avoid a mid-recipe pan-shopping panic, opt to make only baked goods that require a pan you already own.

  • Baking sheets (including rimmed sheets and cookie sheets)

    Because cookie sheets aren't rimmed on all sides, it's easier to remove cookies, and they brown more evenly. Use parchment paper to ensure they don't stick. Darker, nonstick baking sheets tend to make cookies darken more quickly.

  • Cooling rack

    Transfer baked goods from the pan to a cooling rack (available in a variety of sizes) right out of the oven so they don't become soggy from steaming in their own heat.

  • Measuring cups and spoons

    Liquid and dry ingredients should not be measured with the same tools. Use measuring utensils for dry ingredients that can be leveled off, for exact measurements. Use glass or plastic tools with a pouring spout for liquid measurements.

  • Rubber spatula

    Should be pliable enough that you can use it not only to stir and scrape batters into pans, but also to get every last bit of dough out of bowls.

  • Metal spatulas

    A thin- or narrow-bladed metal spatula creates clean edges while frosting a cake. A wide-bladed metal spatula works well to safely remove cookies from baking sheets.

  • Pastry brush

    Choose one with natural bristles for brushing egg or glazes on tarts and piecrusts.

  • Rolling pin

    Long rolling pins keep the pressure even on dough as you're rolling it out.

  • Cookie cutters

    You might want to invest in a nice variety.

  • Parchment paper

    No more need to grease your pans: Just line them with parchment paper for no-stick cookies and cakes.

  • Cupcake liners

    To make easily removable and transportable cupcakes and muffins.

  • Mixing bowls

    Stainless steel is more versatile than plastic or glass.

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