You’ve found your way into the kitchen, wanting to try your hand at a fancy decorated cake, but as you get into the recipe, something unfamiliar pops up.
It calls for using an “offset spatula”, and you have no idea what that is, let alone if you have it in your kitchen.
You might be tempted to just use one of your other spatulas, you’ve used a small silicone one before, and that seemed to do the job… sort of.
But now you want to take your baking to the next level, and show off REALLY beautifully designed creations everyone will enjoy.
You need the right tools to get there though and trust me if you’ve been frosting your cakes and desserts with a silicone spatula, you’re missing out on what most bakers consider a must-have in their kitchen.
An offset spatula.
Most bakers will have several on hand to make sure they can create whatever delicious idea that will inspire them to preheat their oven with ease.
But if baking has just been a hobby you’ve dabbled with so far, you’re probably wondering why in the world a spatula would be such an important tool.
Let me tell you.
First, what is an offset spatula, and what does it look like?
An offset spatula, sometimes called an angular spatula or pastry spatula, is generally used in cake decorating for spreading frosting and batters.
The difference between an offset spatula and a straight one is the handle, which is “offset” from the spatula itself. An offset spatula is designed with an angled bend just below the handle so that the handle is angled away from the blade. Cake decorators tend to prefer offset spatulas because they help to keep their fingers from touching the icing when decorating.
They both perform the same function so which to choose mainly comes down to personal preference. Its even common for cake decorators to use an angled or offset spatula for the first layer of frosting and then switch to the straight spatula to apply the 2nd layer and smooth it out.
Why Are Offset Spatulas So Great for Decorating?
When icing a cake you have two goals. One is to have a nice smooth finish and the other is that it is crumb free.
For this reason many cake decorators prefer the offset spatula as it gives you some leverage above the cake to perform sweeping motions back and forth to layer the icing on a cake smoothly.
The angle of the offset spatula and its different sizes also allow you to get into odd-shaped and awkward spots and handle fine details much easier than you could with a straight spatula.
We asked French culinary institute alumna Michele Munoz, owner of Pastries by Michelle why she prefers an offset spatula. Her response:
“the offset spatula is an essential tool that will not only keep your hands frosting free but can literally be used from start to finish when decorating a cake. I love using my offset spatula to smooth frosting on my confections, fill pastry bags and to spread filling between cake layers. I’m able to get nice smooth edges on all my designs”
Tapered offset spatulas are particularly great at placing small items on cakes or smoothing out icing on cookies. They’re also great for making textured lines on cakes and cleaning excess frosting off your cake board.
Which Size Offset Spatula Should You Buy?
Offset spatulas come in a variety of sizes, and in two common shapes, one is with a rounded blunt end, which is great for frosting cakes.
The other is tapered which is great for getting into odd-shaped or awkward spots and more precise applications on small and delicate confections such as cookies.
In general, if you are doing something small and simple like frosting cookies, a small, tapered offset spatula will give you the most control and easiest application.
For larger projects, such as tiered or sheet cakes it would be easier and better to use a blunt end straight or offset spatula.
When considering what size to use, think about the size of your project and what tool would be most comfortable to work with it. For example, you may consider using 9-inch angled icing spatula when working with a six-inch round cake or a 13-inch offset spatula for a cake double that size.
For this reason, you’ll want to build a collection of offset spatulas in a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure that you have the proper tool for your next decorating project.
Wilton began offering this set of 3 cake decorating icing spatulas that includes a 9-inch and a 13-inch offset spatula and one 11-inch straight spatula.
Does the Handle Matter?
The answer. It may.
Offset spatulas handles are typically made of plastic or wood.
A big advantage of the plastic handles is that they are little thicker, have little grips and holds at the top and tend to be made of more ergonomic shapes then the wood handles.
If you suffer from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you’ll definitely want to consider the handle shape to allow you to work with the spatula throughout your entire decorating project.
Also, plastic ergonomically shaped handles will help you avoid fatigue If you know you’re going to be icing a large batch of cookies or cupcakes and your hands may thank you after.
All in all, if you are trying to take your baking to the next level and want to dish out award-worthy baked goods from your kitchen, you need the right tools to get you there. For decorating your confections, that is with an offset spatula.
You’ll have the control you need not only to apply a smooth and clean layer of frosting, but the support you need to carry your projects through.
Wondering what other kitchen tools a baker can’t live without? Check out our comprehensive article about how to choose a rolling pin and why choosing the right one matters for your next baking endeavor.