The Five Essential Cake Pans Every Home Baker Should Own
Find out which shapes and sizes you should stock up on.
While professional bakers own pans in every shape and size imaginable, a home baker generally doesn't have the space or budget for a vast array of options. But if you do like to bake at home, it's important to have some tools, and that begs the question: Which cake pans are most useful to own? Our pro tips will help you determine the best buys for your baking needs—plus, we share tips to help you adjust your recipes in the event that you don't own the exact piece of bakeware that's called for.
Why Do You Need Different Cake Pans?
If you want to make a classic layer cake, the pans needed will be different than what you'd use for a crowd-friendly sheet cake or a batch of brownies. "Different occasions call for different sizes. A tea party calls for small cakes; a big celebration means lots of large layers," says Ronna Welsh of Purple Kale Kitchenworks. And although it may seem like a nine-inch round and nine-inch square pan can hold the same amount of batter, their volume is different. Therefore, it's best to own both if you want to follow a recipe exactly.
If you're short on storage space or just want to maintain a minimal amount of baking equipment, there are a few pieces that professional bakers say you should own.
Square Cake Pan
Our food editors are fans of using a nine-inch square pan for our Chewy Brownie recipe, this fruit-packed Fig-and-Plum Cake, and other bars. In order for desserts such as fudgy brownies to release easily from the pan, look for a pan with a nonstick coating such as the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Square Cake Pan ($32.95, williams-sonoma.com).
Rectangular Cake Pan
Large-scale desserts like blondies, these Gooey Layered Everything Bars, and sheet cakes are typically baked in a nine-inch by 13-inch rectangular cake pan. This extra-large size can also be used for savory recipes like casseroles and lasagna. The OXO Nonstick Rectangular Cake Pan ($21.99, amazon.com) will serve your baking needs for years to come. In order to avoid sweet and savory flavors mixing, we recommend owning two separate rectangular pans—metal for baking and a glass or stoneware pan for cooking.
Round Cake Pan
Welsh recommends a nine-inch pan as the standard for a round cake, so purchase two that will come in handy when you're preparing most layer cake recipes, such as our Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Frosting. Round pans, such as the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Round Cake Pan ($24.95, williams-sonoma.com) can also be used for baking dinner rolls, too.
Bundt Cake Pan
Although they may take up more room than other pans, cakes made in a Bundt pan truly make a statement thanks to their intricate designs. Of course, if you love an eye-catching Bundt cake, you may want one or two different shaped pans for a chic, yet classic dessert. Most Bundt cake recipes will note the capacity required for the recipe, so make sure that yours is large enough to accommodate the batter. Our pick from Nordic-Ware ($32.27, amazon.com) is a staple shape and size.
A basic one-pound loaf pan that measures approximately nine inches by five inches by three inches will come in handy for pound cake, yeast breads, and quick breads like our Test Kitchen's Favorite Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread. The USA Pan Bakeware Loaf Pan ($22.61, amazon.com) is made of aluminum, which is an excellent, even conductor of heat.
How to Adjust a Recipe Based on Pan Size
Say you only have an eight-inch round cake pan and a recipe calls for a nine-inch round cake pan. Welsh has a clever solution. Measure the volume of the pans you have on hand by filling them with water (measured in a liquid measuring cup) to compare how much they hold. Then, use proportionately less batter when baking with a smaller pan than a recipe requires. As a general rule of thumb, cake pans should be filled two-thirds of the way with batter.
"If you don't remove some of the batter to bake in the smaller pan, your cake will rise differently, bake differently, and in some cases, spill over the edge of the pan and burn," says Welsh. And if you have leftover batter, you can use it to make cupcakes! "The difference between an eight- and nine-inch pan is about two cups of batter, which is enough to make three or four smaller cupcakes from the leftovers," she says.