Baking Basics: How To Prepare a Cake Pan

Here’s a baking basics article, for the curious bakers who frequent this blog. Always wondered how to prepare a cake pan for baking? Wonder no more, here are the basics that you should know!

Baking can be a bit of a challenge at times. Many factors are at play when creating a beautiful cake – the temperature, butter, eggs, flour – almost every ingredient can make or break the cake. Before we get into the basics of cake, I thought we could start with something simple – how to grease and line your cake tin for baking. 

There are many flours that can be used in baking. Here are a few to check out!

Type of Cake Pan/Tin

The type of tin matters as much as the temperature of your butter (just below room temperature, when you live in Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia/Thailand). There are three main types of baking dishes used and commonly available. 

Coated Metal: These pans are dark and usually coated with a non-stick protective layer so that unmoulding a cake can be easier. However, this pan might not always be ideal for the oven. The dark colour of the tin might mean that it heats up at a faster rate than the middle of the cake, resulting in an uneven bake. The non-stick coating is also pointless since you’ll have to grease and line the tin anyway. I also realise that there’s a higher chance of my cakes cracking when I use coated metal tins.

However, I find non-stick cookie sheets to be excellent when making cookies, especially in big batches. 

Aluminium: This is my most preferred type of baking pan. It is inexpensive and conducts heat fairly well. The bake is usually quite even, and the light metal gives the sides of your cake a nice caramelised brown colour. 

Glass: Glass baking pans are the worst, in my opinion. It can make a trifle look glorious and perhaps work swimmingly for a multi-layered cake. However, it is a poor conductor of heat and takes a long time to heat up in the oven, affecting the final result of your baked good. Glass baking dishes also tend to be heavy, which isn’t always ideal. 

Bundt Pans: I know I am going to sound fairly snobby, but the Nordic Ware Bundt pans are perfect for the fanciest bundt cakes ever. I have one (just one, for now) that I have used many times to produce decadent chocolate and lemon cakes. However, I have used bundt pans from other brands and have made successful cakes with it, too! The key to baking in bundt pans is to ensure that they are greased, especially at the nooks and crannies of the pans. 

Greasing with Butter + Flour

This method I have been doing for eons and totally love. I hate getting my hands dirty and greasy, so I put on gloves when I do this. All you need is a knob of butter, that needs to be spread all over the inside of the baking dish.

You just have to smother the butter around; it helps if the butter is at room temperature for this. Once you’re done with this, drop a tablespoon of flour into the pan and gently knock it around in the pan. The flour acts as a second layer of protection, in the event that the butter gets absorbed into the cake batter. Remember to dust the baking dish in totality and then discard the excess flour. This is the best method of greasing a cake pan in my opinion. Having said that, I only do this when I don’t have baking parchment at home. 

For chocolate cakes: If you’re making a chocolate cake, dusting the cake pan with flour might not be the best option. A coating of flour would leave patches of white on a chocolate cake, which is less than desirable aesthetically. For chocolate cakes, you can use a dusting of cocoa powder, instead! 

Otherwise, I add a dot or 2 two of butter to the bottom of the pan, then place my parchment cut out on the base. The dotted butter will prevent the baking paper from moving around. Then, I grease the baking paper and the sides of the pan with butter. I skip the flour step. 

Looking for gluten-free flour options?

Greasing with Oil

I’ve tried this more than a couple of times and can confidently tell you that it doesn’t always work. When using oil to grease the cake tin, always remember to use copious amounts. If you’re baking a regular round, square or sheet cake, this method might not be as effective as the butter + flour method above.

However, I find oil to be effective when baking fancy bundt cakes. The oil can really get into the crevices of the cake tin. Use a brush to apply the oil liberally onto the inside of the bundt cake pan. Then, place it upside down for access oil to drip off before filling the pan with batter. 

In recent years, I have also become a fan of baking spray. This is literally a flavourless oil in a can, that can be sprayed liberally into the pan of your choice; bundt or not. I find this to be most convenient; I don’t get butter on my hands at all! If you’re doing the butter + flour or cocoa method as above, you can use a cooking spray to spray your tin before dusting it with flour. 

Baking Parchment – yes or no? 

I have used baking parchments (both disposable and reusable) when making cakes and made do without them as well. Usually, when baking in an aluminium baking tin, you can get away with using the butter + flour greasing method. You can line with a baking sheet, just to give extra protection so that the cake will tip out easier. 

Baking parchments are most essential when you’re making dense cakes (such as fruit cakes) that require more time in the oven. In these instances, the baking parchment needs to come up to twice the height of your baking pan, along the sides of the pan. This is to ensure that the cake top doesn’t burn excessively while in the oven. 

Alternatively, you can cover the top with aluminium foil but this is not always a great idea – the cake can rise and stick to the foil, making for a rather ugly surface when removing the cake. Again, this wouldn’t matter if you’re making an upside-down cake. 

Any Questions? 

I hope this has helped answer some of the questions I’ve received on Instagram about lining the baking pan or tin. It’s not difficult, but can be cumbersome to line a baking tin. My method is to always grease and line the pan before I get started on the actual cake. What works best for you?

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