How many times have you baked a cake and have it come out of the pan completely destroyed because it decided, against all efforts taken by you, that it wanted to stick? You know what I mean. You divided the batter into two pans. The cake from the first pan comes out perfect, but when you flip over the second one, it looks like someone took a big chunk out of it. And when you flip the pan over you find the missing piece hanging on for dear life to the inside, laughing at you. And it’s not just in steel pans this happens – it happens in non-stick pans too! I thought this magical Teflon stuff was supposed to be some big technological advancement, a substance applied to things that somehow nothing on Earth could stick to. At least that’s what the infomercials told us so many years ago. Remember them?
I perused the Internet many a time searching for the answer, and have found many solutions. Among them we helpful gems like “cover the entire inside of the pan with Crisco” or “use a knife to gently lift the cake away from the pan” and the one we all know and love “cover the inside surface of the pan with flour”. All well and good, but I tried the Crisco trick a few times. While it did help, it only reduced the surface area of the pan that the cake wanted to stick to. Then I tried the knife bit, but it left me scratching my head. How was I supposed to get my knife under the cake? After all, cake pans have sides, don’t they? As for the flour, I found I had to add more and more to get the cake to stick less and less. Eventually I ended up with a pretty thick nasty crust on the bottoms of my cakes.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The problem lies in the fact that when you take the cake pan out of the oven and put it on a rack, the pan and cake are hot and the air around it is considerably colder. Condensation occurs. When condensation occurs, it happens on the warmest side of the barrier. In this case, the barrier is the cake pan. As your cake sits and cools on the rack, water droplets are forming between the pan and your cake. These water droplets provide the perfect medium, kind of like a glue, for the cake to adhere to the pan.
One helpful hint I saw, and that actually worked better than all the others, was to leave the cake in the pan no more than ten minutes after taking it out of the oven. This worked well for me, but when I started to bake various kinds of cake, I noticed some didn’t stick at all, some stuck a little, and some still stuck pretty bad.
One day I had to bake cupcakes and cake for a birthday party and it occurred to me: cupcakes never stick! The ceiling opened up, a beam of light shone down, and angels descended sounding horns as this revelation came to me. Nah, just kidding. But it would have been a pretty cool show.
What is it that makes cupcakes unstickable? What is it that prevents them from sticking to the pan? What is that magical ingredient that has eluded me for so long?
The answer is paper. Aha! That’s it! When I was done with the cupcakes I immediately whipped up a batch of cake batter for my next big experiment. And I will say, that experiment resulted in the absolute best cake I had ever made (at the time) and not a bit of it stuck to the pan.
What did I do? Well let me tell you, here’s what I do. First, I apply a thin layer of Crisco the inside of my pans, making sure to cover every bit of the bottom and sides. And here’s my secret: wax paper. I tear off a sheet of wax paper just big enough to cover most of the middle of the bottom of the pan (because that’s the area the cake likes to stick best) and lay it in there. I then mash it down by hand and squeegee out all the air bubbles, especially around the edges, with a spatula. The Crisco I use both as a non-stick coating and as a glue to hold down the wax paper. You will want to make sure the paper is completely sealed on all sides so the batter doesn’t creep under it when you pour it in. After I’m done wallpapering the inside of my pan, I dump in the batter and throw it in the oven.
The wax paper will separate your cake from the metal pan and not allow your cake to stick when you flip it out. Go ahead and try it next time you bake a cake. Don’t worry, it won’t burn. The paper will peel right off the cake and you’ll find yourself strutting around the kitchen like a peacock.
- Coat the inside of the pan with Crisco (or something similar).
- Line most of the bottom of the pan with wax paper, making sure all edges are sealed flat.
That’s all there is to it. Happy baking!
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