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How to prevent a cake from sticking

foil wrapped cakeA common problem that bakers encounter is having a cake, or other baked good, stick to the bottom of the pan when they try to remove it. Even greasing the pan isn’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time. Sometimes, the high sugar content of the food you’re baking, such as brownies, leads to a high amount of caramelization – and therefore stickiness – along the bottom of the pan. Other times, you might simply miss a corner or two.

One potential solution is to line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper (which I frequently do), but there is an even easier solution that doesn’t involve measuring circles of paper or trying to fold strips around the sides of a pan: aluminum foil. The foil can be pressed into all the corners and sides of a pan in one large sheet, then greased. The baked cake can then be turned out easily or simply lifted from the pan. The foil should come off cleanly, too, although it is easy to peel off any stray pieces. As I mentioned before, this technique works beautifully for brownies, but it also works well for regular cakes and mini cakes/cupcakes, too.

As an added bonus, there is no cleanup required when you use this method, so you may never have to wash a cake pan again. 

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18 Comments
  • sabrina
    July 12, 2007

    That’s a great tip, but my only problem with it is that if the foil is not smooth enough, the edges of your cakes/brownies etc, will show all the bumpy lines. Any tips for keeping it smooth?

  • Amyco
    July 12, 2007

    One way I do it to get as few bumps as possible is to turn the pan upside down and smooth the foil over the outside of the pan, then carefully take it off and put it inside the pan. I think I read that in a Maida Haetter article.

  • Juggling Frogs
    July 12, 2007

    I’m a big fan of lining with foil. When baking in bulk, it allows the pans to come back into circulation, without having to wash them or get them wet.

    I find it easier to get the foil to fit the pan if I turn the pan upside-down first, and gently form the foil around the bottom of the pan. Then I take the foil off the bottom/outside of the pan, flip the pan right-side-up, and place the formed/shaped foil inside.

    It is easier to form, and less likely to rip this way.

    (P.S. I love your blog, have subscribed for a while, and read every post!)

  • Juggling Frogs
    July 12, 2007

    Amyco – great minds think alike! Your wasn’t there when I started typing… Since you beat me to it, consider mine an “I second that…”

  • mj
    July 12, 2007

    I use parchment paper and I never grease the parchment. Works fine. I also use water (yes- water) to stick the parchment to the pan – so there’s not much to wash up too!

  • Nicole
    July 12, 2007

    I agree that foil can be bumpy, but it is pretty easy to smush it down flat. In fact, this is why I sometimes prefer it to parchment: it can be molded into awkardly shaped pans that parchent can’t really fit. For instance, I have a book-shaped pan (odd, I know) and foil works great if I need to line it.

    But they’re both great. It just never hurts to have options!

  • Nicole
    July 12, 2007

    Oh, also, foil is easier to find the parchment. Everyone has it in their kitchen, so if you’re baking somewhere away from home (where your friends/family might not have parchment on hand), it can make baking in an unknown kitchen a little bit safer – from a sticky-cake/brownie perspective, anyway!

  • miriam
    July 12, 2007

    Maida Heatter gives this advice (as Amyco mentioned) in some of her books. She recommends to turn the pan upside-down and make a mold of foil to fit the pan. Then place the formed foil in the pan and use a folded towel or potholder to smooth the corners and edges. I have used this trick for years and found it to be quite successful, particularly with bar cookies. I will have to try it with cupcakes!

  • plume
    July 13, 2007

    Quite convenient…
    But not quite environement friendly isn’t it?
    Also I don’t lique to eat things that have been cooked in aluminium so I’ll keep my butter + flour or parchment paper…

  • Aryn
    July 13, 2007

    Yeah, heated aluminum = bad stuff in your food… Occasionally is ok, but you shouldn’t make a habit of it.

  • Fittsy
    July 13, 2007

    Any trick for making a bundt pan more non-stick? As much as I grease and flour, my cake rarely comes out perfectly.

    And do you have any experience with Demarle’s silicone pans? I have a Silpat sheet and only recently discovered that they have an entire line of bakewear. The sales pitch made them sound perfect, but I’d be interested in hearing a serious baker’s opinion.

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