A springform pan is a type of cake pan that has removable sides. The strip of metal that makes up the sides of the pan is shaped into a ring and is held together with an adjustable latch or buckle. It can be tightened by snapping the latch into place, tightening the ring and creating a tight seal with the pan’s base. When unlatched, the ring expands and can easily be removed from the cake and/or the cake base. The removable ring makes these pans a great choice for delicate coffee cakes and heavy cheesecakes, so they can easily be removed from the pan for serving – or even served right on the base of the springform.
As with many things, not all pans are created (or built to be) equal and Cook’s Illustrated tested out a few springforms in a recent issue (July/Aug 2011) to see which performed the best. The tested the pans for their ability to brown a cake, how watertight their bottom seal was (because cheesecakes are very often baked in a water bath), cake release and overall design. They tested the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Springform Pan, Frieling Handle-It 9-Inch Glass Bottom Springform Pan, Kaiser Bakeware La Forme Plus Springform Pan, 9-Inch, Nordic Ware 9-Inch Leak Proof Springform Pan, and the Wilton Avanti Everglide Nonstick Glass Bottom Springform Pan.
The test kitchen likes glass-bottom pans because it is easy to see how well done the bottom of your baked good is and preferred nonstick coatings for the sides of the pan. Their top priority was a leak-proof seal for baking cheesecakes in a water bath, however, and not a single pan passed this test without leaking (wrapping the pan in foil is generally a good way to keep water out no matter how leaky the pan) so their results were based on most of the other properties tested.
Their top pick was the Frieling Handle-It pan, a glass-bottomed pan which browned well, released perfectly, had handles that made moving the pan a piece of cake and it was dishwasher safe. It was also the most expensive pan in the test, so they gave a “best buy” nod to the Nordic Ware pan, which performed very similarly to the Frieling, but lacked the glass bottom and didn’t have quite as flawless a release. The only pan that was not recommended at all was the Kaiser pan, which overbrowned cake and left unattractive seam marks from the pan’s ring on the sides of anything baked in it.