What Happens If You Forget To Grease Your Cake Pan?

No matter how embarrassing it is to admit, we’ve all done it. Maybe you were a pre-teen baking your first solo cake, or maybe it just happened last week and you feel like a fool. Forgetting to grease the cake pan happens to us all at one point or another. And yes, it sucks. Perhaps you went to turn the bundt cake pan over and the entire top half ripped from the bottom because it got stuck or you went to cut a piece from the pan only to realize too much of the crumb is on the bottom to be a coincidence.

That moment of realization is the worst, and makes you question your intelligence: How could you have forgotten to do something so simple? But don’t beat yourself up. After all, mistakes happen and, at this point, it’s almost a right of passage. But let’s talk about what happens when we forget to grease and how we can possibly salvage the mess.

It won’t come out quite right

Not greasing your cake pan before baking can cause quite a few problems. When a cake bakes in a non-greased pan, it will adhere to the glass or metal instead of having a thin layer of fat or oil working as a layer of defense. So, in your attempt to remove the cake from the pan the cake will struggle to come out, which will often result in the crumb tearing or falling to pieces. Reader’s Digest suggests trying to glue the torn pieces of your cake together with frosting, but that will only work if you can remove those torn pieces from the pan without tearing them further and have the skill to put everything back together again.

Basically, forgetting to grease your pan is only a recipe for disaster and if you want a respectable-looking bake, you’ll butter everything up before pouring the batter in. But if you absolutely do not have the time to bake yourself a whole new dessert, the Rachael Ray Show has a strange trick to try. The show asks that you fill a pan bigger than your cake pan with hot water and then place your cake pan inside of it, being careful not to let the water come in direct contact with your sponge. Let this twist on the bain-marie rest for three minutes and then try to remove the cake from the pan again.

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  • Lodi, CA

    (95240)TodayPartly cloudy. Low 38F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph..
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  • Full Forecast

Dear Barbara: I have a question for you. Why do some cake recipes say grease bottom only, and others say grease bottom and sides? I was just curious why they would be different. — Sue from Lodi

Dear Sue: How you prepare the pans would depend on what type of cake you are baking

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Prepping makes all the difference in the end.

One of the easiest and simplest steps to encourage a perfect cake is to properly prepare the pan before pouring in the batter. The obvious reason for preparing the pan is to ensure a clean release and flawless appearance, but it also contributes to the cake’s crumb, texture, and crust.

  • Make sure the pan is clean and dry. Unless otherwise specified, cakes bake best in metal pans instead of glass or ceramic.
  • Use your fingertips, a soft pastry brush, or a folded paper towel to lightly and evenly coat the inside of the pan with vegetable shortening, such as Crisco. Make sure there are no bare spots, especially in the corners of the pan. Also avoid thick lumps or streaks that will hold excess flour and possibly mar the outside of the cooked and cooled cake with white residue. A pastry brush works best in pans that have an intricate pattern.
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of all-purpose or instant flour (such as Wondra) into the pan. Gently shake, tap, and tilt the pan until all of the shortening is covered in a dusting of flour. Invert the pan over the sink and gently tap out any excess flour.

Why shortening instead of butter or oil?

Butter can sometimes worsen sticking problems, especially in cakes that are high in sugar. Oil absorbs too much of the flour and can pool in the bottom of the pan.

What about parchment paper?

If your recipe calls for lining the bottom and/or sides of the pan with parchment, do so. Some recipes combine greasing and flouring the pan with parchment.

What about nonstick cooking spray?

It’s tempting to turn to a can or bottle of cooking spray, especially those that contain flour, in an effort to save time. However, these sprays tend to make the cake’s crust thicker and darker, which might not matter all that much on a pound cake, but could be a deal breaker on delicate cakes. Some bakers report that cooking sprays leave residue that builds up and stains their pans over time. If your recipe specifically calls for misting the cake pan, then do so, but otherwise spraying a pan cannot replace greasing and flouring.

What about nonstick pans?

It’s best to not count on it, especially if the pan shows wear. Moreover, a heavy, dark, nonstick pan can affect baking times and turn the cake’s crust too thick and dark. Vintage Southern cake recipes written back when everyone used lightweight and light color aluminum pans bake best in that type of pan.

To avoid a messy fate, we tested a number of methods and found the best way to line your pan for a stick-free guarantee.

It’s all about pan prep

Your goal is to prevent your cake from sticking by creating a barrier between batter and pan (e.g., parchment, nonstick spray, or shortening and flour) prior to adding cake batter.

After testing a dozen different options for this article, I’m happy to report that all but one resulted in an intact cake: no sticking, no crumbling. That said, some required a bit more tapping and jiggling to get the cake to release. Below are the methods I settled on, in order of preference, starting with my top pick for guaranteed success. Results are based on how each performed using Chef Zeb’s Hot Milk Cake in a 6″ round pan (one recipe yields four 6″ cakes).

Parchment + pan spray is the clear winner in our cake pan prep trials.

The winner

Parchment + nonstick pan spray. Silicone-coated baking paper (parchment) is the cake baker’s best friend. Line the bottom of your pan with nonstick parchment, then coat the pan’s sides with nonstick pan spray. Some people espouse coating the bottom of the pan with spray before adding the parchment, then spraying the parchment as well; if you lean toward a “belt and suspenders” approach, feel free to do this.

Baked on parchment, your cake will drop right out of the upended pan onto its cooling rack, and the parchment is easily peeled off the warm cake’s bottom. Parchment rounds are handy for round pans; if you’re baking in a square or rectangular pan, choose half-sheet parchment cut to size.

We especially recommend the parchment-pan spray combination for cakes with sticky add-ins, like meltable chips or bits of chocolate or caramel, fresh or dried fruit or anything else (mini marshmallows?) that can become sticky when warm.

Here are some of the many cakes I baked to draw the conclusions in this article. What a delicious exercise!

The runners-up

Cake goop stays soft even when stored in the fridge, making it quick and easy to use.

Cake goop. If you choose not to use parchment, homemade “cake goop,” known to seasoned cake bakers everywhere, is a super alternative. Made by mixing equal parts (by volume) vegetable shortening, flour, and vegetable oil, goop is simply painted onto your pans with a pastry brush (or rubbed on with a paper towel). Make up a batch* and store it in the fridge; it’ll stay spreadable and ready to use even when chilled.

*1/2 cup (92g) vegetable shortening, 1/2 cup (60g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil. Mix until smooth.

Here’s a tip: My fellow blogger, Rossi, says you can substitute cocoa powder for flour to make chocolate goop — perfect for chocolate cakes, where flour would clash visually with the cake’s rich, deep-dark color.

Nonstick pan spray, alone or dusted with flour; granulated sugar; cocoa powder, or nut flour (e.g., almond). Pan spray’s big advantage over older methods (shortening, butter) is its easy application and thorough coverage.

For an enticing, lightly crunchy crust, spray your cake pan (bottom and sides) with nonstick spray, then sprinkle it heavily with granulated sugar.

Dusting with flour is common, but you can branch out by matching the “dust” with your recipe, e.g., cocoa with chocolate cake, or almond flour for a touch of nutty flavor in yellow cake. Personally, I love to dust my spray-coated pan with granulated sugar; it adds a tiny bit of crunch and gleam to what otherwise might be a rather plain cake crust.

Vegetable shortening, alone or dusted with the options above. If you’re perfectly satisfied with this traditional method of preparing a cake pan, then stick with it (though for interest’s sake you may want to try dusting with something other than flour). Shortening’s downside: you may sometimes get a hint of oily flavor, especially if your shortening isn’t super-fresh.

Butter, alone or dusted with the options above. Butter works less well than pan spray or shortening (the milk solids in the butter add a bit of stickiness), but with some coaxing — gentle loosening, firm tapping — cakes come out with perhaps just a bit of residue left in the bottom of the pan.

Not recommended

Pan spray dusted with confectioners’ sugar. How about adding sweetness to your pan coating without the crunch of granulated sugar? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but apparently the cornstarch in the sugar mixed with the cake batter’s liquid and turned into glue! My experimental cake stuck badly and broke into pieces.

Give your nonstick pans the help they need to yield great results. Had I lined this pan with parchment and/or treated it with pan spray, the cake would have popped right out.

Nonstick pan without any prep. “My pan’s nonstick, so why do I need to coat it with anything?” Cake batter is inherently sticky, and as it bakes it bonds to your pan’s surface. Even a nonstick pan can only go so far to resist this. Don’t be stubborn: Prep even your nonstick cake pan.

A little upkeep goes a long way

If you use a nonstick cake pan — a 9” round, 8” square, Bundt, springform, whatever — and you prep it with pan spray, wash the pan in warm soapy water just as soon as you’ve removed the cake, while the pan is still warm. Pan spray bonds to nonstick pans as they cool, forming a tacky residue that builds up over time and, counterintuitively, negates the pan’s nonstick qualities. It’s a real pain to scrub off that stickiness without damaging the pan’s surface — so clean up as you go!

Bundt cakes: They’re the bane of stick-fearful cake bakers everywhere! For help, see How to prevent Bundt cakes from sticking.

Cover photo (Classic Birthday Cake) by John Sherman.

Do you want to make a stunning cake with a unique shape that will turn heads? Then a bundt pan is the perfect tool you need!

But before you start mixing batter, there’s one crucial step: greasing and flouring the pan. Doing so ensures a seamless release and no sticking.

I’ll show you my tried-and-tested method of greasing and flouring the bundt pan so that your baking is always a success.

Bundt cake in the Czech Republic is known as “bábovka” and is one of the most popular desserts that Czechs bake on weekends. Get the recipe for Czech bábovka bundt cake.

➜ What is a bundt pan?

A bundt cake pan is a type of cake pan with a distinctive ring-shaped design. The shape of the pan allows for cakes to be baked with an intricate pattern on the outside, and it also helps to create a more even baking surface.

➜ What you need

  • A bundt cake pan; clean it first using warm soapy water and make sure to dry the pan thoroughly with a dish towel or paper towels. Pay special attention to any stuck-on residue that may have remained in the pan from the last baking – you need to remove these.
  • Solid fat; such as vegetable shortening or Crisco if you are based in the US. As a Czech, I often use lard for greasing. Avoid using cooking spray or cooking oil when dusting the cake pan with flour or breadcrumbs, as these won’t adhere firmly to the sides and may run down. In addition, I avoid using butter to grease bundt pans because the milk solids can cause the cake to stick.
  • Flour, or better breadcrumbs; I have found it works best to dust the cake pan with fine breadcrumbs. I make my own breadcrumbs by grinding fully dried, plain French baguettes, Czech veka bread, rohliky rolls, or housky braided rolls. I don’t recommend using coarse flour as a semolina, as it creates a hard crust after baking and unnecessarily spoils the impression of an otherwise delicious cake.

➜ Greasing and flouring a bundt cake pan the right way

STEP 1: Grease all the nooks and crannies inside the cake pan with care. Keep working your way around the pan, preferably with your fingers, until the whole surface is covered.

MY TIP: While I used to grease a pan with a silicone pastry brush, I now find that using my fingers to do so is more efficient.

STEP 2: Sprinkle fine breadcrumbs or plain flour into the greased cake pan. Grasp the mold with both hands and, in a circular motion, fill its inner surface with breadcrumbs. If still necessary, gently shake the pan so that you create a thin, even coating of breadcrumbs on all the spots inside. In particular, the central tube must be completely coated.

STEP 3: To remove excess breadcrumbs, lightly tap the edge of the pan on the counter.

STEP 4: And now, you’re finished! Your bundt cake pan is ready to be filled with cake batter.

➜ Should I grease a bundt pan with non-stick coating?

Even if a bundt cake pan has a nonstick coating, it is best to grease and flour it to make sure the cake comes out easily. Nonstick cake pans lose adhesion with use and over time, so it is best to prepare the pan before baking as a preventative measure. By greasing and flouring, you can avoid the disappointment of a cake that doesn’t turn out and the waste of ingredients.

➜ How to get a cake out of a bundt pan

Greasing and flouring the bundt pan thoroughly is essential for getting the cake out of the pan after baking, but there is still one more trick to make it easier.

  • If not, bring a kitchen towel. Soak it in cold water and wring it out. Next, spread and press the towel evenly across the pan.
  • If the cake isn’t releasing and the towel is warm, you can try again after a while.

⇢ Learn how to tell when my bundt cake is done

➜ What to do with a stuck bundt cake

If even this trick fails and you end up with a stuck bundt cake, don’t give up. Although the cake may not be visually perfect, its taste is still delicious. Slice it into aesthetically pleasing pieces and arrange them on a plate. They’ll be gone in a flash!

Another option is to use the cake crumbs as a base for another recipe. If the cake breaks while turning out of the mold, I just put the pieces in a bowl and top them with vanilla cream. Incredible goodness!

In conclusion, taking the time to grease and flour a bundt pan is a crucial step in the baking process that pays off. Not only will it help your finished cake look better, but it will also make sure that your baked cake comes out of the pan without sticking or crumbling.

Now go grab your ingredients and a nice-shaped bundt pan, and start creating something delicious! A well-greased and floured pan is sure to make all of your baking endeavors much easier.

Bundt cake recipes

Aluminum baking pans are cost-effective and reliable.

Aluminum is safe for baking because the ingredients don’t typically cause leaching from the metal.

It retains its shape well and quickly conducts heat to ensure ingredients are cooked thoroughly.

Aluminum is available in standard and non-stick varieties.

Traditional baking wisdom requires that you grease the pan before baking to prevent sticking.

In the age of safe non-stick cookware, is this still necessary? Let’s find out ..

Does Non-Stick Actually Mean Non-Stick?

Most aluminum bakeware is coated with a non-stick film that prevents your ingredients from getting stuck to the bottom and sides.

Modern non-stick coatings are safer than traditional Teflon coatings, with harmful chemicals eliminated from the manufacturing process.

But if you’ve ever used non-stick cookware, you might have found that sometimes it is more stick-resistant than non-stick.

This is because some ingredients that cook slowly can end up getting stuck on the side as sugars caramelize.

This can be frustrating when you flip a cake or muffins only to have everything fall apart.

You can eliminate the risk by greasing your aluminum baking pans and trays.

What’s the Best Grease to Use for Bakeware?

You can use any type of cooking oil to grease your bakeware, but most home bakers prefer to use butter.

Butter doesn’t just provide an oil barrier to prevent sticking.

It can also add a subtle flavor that enhances cakes, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods.

If you use oil, use something with a high smoke point. Vegetable oil will have the most neutral flavor.

Which Bakeware Has the Best Non-Stick Performance?

If you want excellent nonstick performance as well as guaranteed safety for your family, you can choose aluminum bakeware coated in non-stick ceramic.

Ceramic is an inert material so it’s safe for your family.

GreenLife is an innovative bakeware company that produces non-stick products without any of the chemicals, lead, or cadmium that was found in nonstick coatings of the past.

You can get an entire set of trays, dishes, and sheets, with this GreenLife Healthy Ceramic Nonstick Baking Set.

It’s oven safe at temperatures up to 450°F, so it’s perfect for baking and roasting.

Should You Grease Aluminum Baking Pans?

You can grease your aluminum baking pans to improve the non-stick performance.

You can also invest in ceramic-coated aluminum bakeware to prevent sticking.

You’ll love baking, even more, when your ingredients don’t stick!

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