Welcome to the crazy baker girl's cake pan collection! I've amassed plenty of pans and tools to bake cakes over the years, and with that, I’ve amassed plenty of opinions and suggestions.
All of my upper cabinets are dedicated to various baking pans, and I need a three step ladder to access them. I bought a large portion of these things, but I also inherited a bunch of pans from my sister, who is a retired baker.
Round cakes are the most popular and versatile shape, so we'll dive into that first.
My favorite cake pans are Nordicware pans (click here to see on Amazon), which come in varying sizes as do most cake pans. Their pans have a slightly sturdier feel to them, most likely because they are made out of thick aluminum.
My second favorite type of baking pans are made by Fat Diddio (click here to see on Amazon).
The Fat Diddio pans are noticably lighter in color and weight than my Nordicware pans although they are made of aluminum as well. Because of this, they tend to bake my cakes a little quicker (due to the thinner material) than my Nordicware. I use both pretty regularly, but I've had the Nordicware set for years and it just seems like a sturdier pan.
These differences I'm talking about are the very reason why recipes have a range for baking times for most cakes. Good recipes will account for heat fluctuations due to ovens, ambient air conditions, and of course pans! Pans will vary in size, color, and material. This will of course impart the ability of the pan to retain heat and of course affect the outcome of your cake.
In terms of sizes, the most popular cake sizes for recipes use pans that are 6 inch and 8 inch in diameter.
(Nordicware 8 inch pan on Amazon, Fat Didio 6 inch pan on Amazon)
Since I’ve developed the Cakeculator, I’ve have many calculations regarding cake sizes and servings.
I also donate plenty of cakes, and sometimes I get something specific like: “enough cake to serve 10 people”. So it's good to know what size pan to have around for whatever cakes you may plan on baking.
My numbers estimate pretty large slices per person. You can just imagine if you cut a 6 inch round 2 layer cake into 6 slices, those include pretty generous slice of cake!
If you're a home baker (and not running a baking business out of your home kitchen) I think a good rule of thumb is to think about how many your oven can possibly bake at once.
To me, it makes no sense to buy four pans because my oven can’t fit 4 8 inch pans at once. And for the most part, you can leave batter out for a couple hours and it’s just fine. So usually I have just two of each size. I then bake the two cakes, let them cool, and flip them out onto my cooling rack. Then I wash my pans, regrease them, and refill them with the rest of the batter.
If you are running a home baking business, then efficiency is most important. I would say that having at least 4 pans of each size would be more than enough, unless you're one of those lucky people who have double ovens in their house 😉
I often trim the tops off of my cakes, but if you’re into baking really flat cakes, I highly suggest a set of cake strips (click here to see on Amazon).
They are these fabric strips that kind of belt around the outside perimeter of the cake pan. It really does look like your cake pan is wearing a belt.
Have you ever baked a cheesecake in a water bath? This is kind of simulating this effect. When you use cake strips, you’re supposed to soak the strips in water before you place them on the pan. What’s happening is that the water inside the strip remains at a lower temperature than then ambient air. This cools down the perimeter of the cake that would otherwise be exposed to the hotter air.
When a cake bakes, it goes through certain stages. First the air inside the cake expands due to hot air as well as other leaveners releasing CO2. The next stage is when the cake sets to its final structure, and the last part is the browning or toasting of the exterior.
If the external perimeter of the cake pan gets hotter than the middle, it will set and not allow the batter to expand properly. The middle will then rise as expected, and you’ll get that “domed” surface.
Applying a cake strip cools down the edge of the pan slightly so that it rises in the same manner as the middle, therefore giving you a flatter cake.
Cake strips are great to use if you have a darker pan, or just an oven that is unwieldy with temperature. It’s a form of insurance to get a flatter rising cake.
For cupcake pans, I love the goldtouch series from Williams-Sonoma, but you can really use any kind that you like give that it's not too flimsy.
I also have the mini cupcake pans.
I’ve tried dozens of liners, only to find that these DECONY ones (click here to see on Amazon) is best for a couple reasons.
I don’t like seeing greasy bottoms on my cupcakes. Some cakes are just more dense and contain more fat than others, so it’s going to happen that your liners will soak up a bit of fat. There’s nothing wrong with your recipe or your method, it has to do 110% with your liner.
Some airy cakes, like angel food cakes and stuff, have inherently less fat in them and so you can put them in those pretty pastel liners with designs and you’ll be fine. Most of my cakes, however, do contain butter and oil, so I searched for a liner that would be able to withstand my cakes.
These are my favorites because:
a) I have yet to see any grease escape the bottoms, and
b) they are dark, so even if you are to get any grease, then you probably won’t see it too much.
In general, I like my cupcakes to have a dark liner - I think it looks really professional and offsets the usually white or bright colors I use for frosting. And lastly, these liners are pretty cheap - you can get a 100 or so for about $10ish.
No matter what liner I use, I do sometimes get condensation on the bottoms, but the best way to alleviate this is to not let them sit too long in the pan. Usually what I do after they come out of the oven is immediately prop each cupcake to the side in its own little cavity. Then when it’s cool enough to handle, I take them out onto my cooling rack.
There are few good ones out there, but I use the USA pan (click here to see on Amazon) for my large donuts.
For my mini donuts, which I make all the time for my kid's classroom parties, I use the Norpro pan (click here to see on Amazon).
If you make lots of cupcakes, you will need a good ice cream scoop (click here to see the OXO scoop on Amazon) to portion out each cupcake. It’s dual purpose too because you should be using this for cookies and ice cream too! Most cupcake recipes will specify how much batter to put in each liner - ¾ full, almost to the top, etc. This scoop easily fills one cupcake liner up to about ¾ full. A rounded scoop will fill the liner.
Having large wire racks (click here to see on Amazon) is not only essential for baking cakes, but for almost every baked item you’re going to make. I have 4 cooling racks in my collection right now, and I used them all the time.
In particular, for baking cakes, you really do need the airflow from all around to ensure that your cake has cooled completely. If your cake is not cooled thoroughly, you may be destined for sticky tops (or bottoms) and frosting a layer cake will be a nightmare.
Check out my cakeculator to calculate your custom cake recipe, or maybe try my Chantilly cake.
... the nerdy baker behind the videos and recipes here. I coded this site to not only share my recipes with you but also to build some helpful tools for bakers.