How to Prep a Baking Pan

Nothing deflates a baker more than a cake stuck in its pan. Follow these guidelines to ensure an easy release for all your cakes, brownies, and Bundts.

Photo: Adam Cruft

Learning how to prepare your baking pans before putting anything in them is one of the first things they teach you in baking and pastry class. And it makes sense: what use is baking a beautiful Bundt, brownie or layer cake if you can't get them out of the pan?

But all baking pans are not created equal. Depending on what you're baking and what type of pan you're baking in, you'll need to prepare it a little differently. Follow the guidelines below to ensure an easy release for specific baked goods but there are a few over-arching "rules" you should keep in mind for the best results, no matter what. First, don't skip the pan prep: lots of cookie sheets and baking pans will claim to be non-stick but, over time, those non-stick coatings can break down or flake off. It's best to plan on a worst-case scenario every single time. Dramatic? Maybe. A safe bet? Most definitely. To be safe, brush all your pans with a thin layer of softened butter (yes, sometimes you can use non-stick spray, but I find butter best in every case). Line the pan with parchment (see below for how to do it) and butter the parchment. Do this with all your straight-sided pans and you should be good to go. Obviously, you can't line a Bundt pan with parchment, so keep reading to see how to tackle that.

Still getting stuck? Here's how to get out of a jam: Wrap the cooled cake and pan in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours and up to a day. Unwrap the frozen cake and run a thin knife around its edge. Insert two forks on opposite sides of the pan. Using the forks as levers, gently squeeze and nudge the cake to loosen it. Invert the pan and tap the edge on a 45-degree angle to pop out the cake. No luck? Frost the cake (or dust with powdered sugar) and serve straight from the pan.

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9-Inch Round

9-Inch Round Pan
Adam Cruft

Brush a thin layer of soft butter over the bottom and sides of the pan. (Or use the butter wrapper to wipe it on.) Fold a square piece of parchment, slightly larger than the pan, into quarters, then into a skinny triangle. Line up the point with the center of the pan; cut a rounded edge from the outside. Unfold and press it into the pan. Butter the parchment.

RELATED: What Is European Butter?

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8-Inch Square

8-Inch Square Pan
Adam Cruft

Nonstick cooking spray does the trick when you already have the protection of a double layer of parchment. Lightly coat the pan with spray. Lay 1 piece of parchment across it, pressing into bottom and leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Spray the parchment and place another piece, perpendicular to the first, so long sides hang over the opposite edges. Spray the parchment.

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Standard Bundt

Standard Bundt Pan
Adam Cruft

Brush a thin layer of softened butter from center to edge (avoid nonstick spray, which can miss a Bundt's nooks and crannies). Add a couple of spoonfuls of flour (or cocoa powder for chocolate cakes) and shake to distribute across the bottom of the pan. Working over a bowl, tilt, tap, and rotate the pan so the flour lightly coats the interior. Invert the pan and tap out any excess.

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