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Greasing and flouring vs. greasing a pan

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cake in greased panJust about all cake-baking recipes, as well as those for quick breads and muffins, call for the pan to be prepped in such a way as to prevent your finished product from sticking to the inside of the pan. Nonstick cookware is supposed to do this on its own, but it’s not foolproof. Recipes recommend that you either grease your pans with butter or cooking spray/oil, or grease your pans and give them a coating of flour.

Between the two choices – greasing and flouring vs. greasing alone – there isn’t always going to be a huge difference in ability of your cake to come out of the pan, but there is a difference between the two techniques. When you grease and flour, the extra layer of flour is going to adhere to the outside of your cake/bread/etc. and give you a kind of “crust” all over. This isn’t particularly desirable for most of these types of baked goods. Cake with a hard side crust? Thanks, but no thanks. That said, the “crust” easily softens up when a cake is cooled and stored in an airtight container of some kind and it doesn’t effect the flavor of the product, so it doesn’t hurt anything to have it.

There are some types of cakes where you really need a crust to form. These cakes are those that are very high in sugar. While it cooks, the sugar caramelizes – especially the sugar nearest to the hot cake pan – and sticks to the metal bakeware. As the cake cools, so does that liquid sugar, crystallizing and sticking firmly to the pan, making it very tough to pry the cake out easily and in one unblemished piece. A good example of this kind of cake is my Carrot Bundt Cake. It needs the help of that flour coating to ensure that it comes out of the pan as easily as possible. You can’t exactly line a bundt pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking, so there isn’t any better way to work it.

Long story short? Greasing alone is usually plenty to prevent your cake/quick bread/etc. from sticking in a cake pan and it certainly gives an edge to even nonstick pans. Greasing and flouring is primarily necessary when you want to have an extra barrier between a high-sugar cake and a pan to decrease the odds of the cake from sticking. If in doubt, I would do both, but most of the time greasing with oil or cooking spray (my two favorites) will be plenty.

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  • Sally McEntire
    March 20, 2008

    This is great information. I’m partial to just using the spray can, but I have wondered if there have been times when I should have done the extra work to grease and flour to get a better result. Now I know when to make that choice. Thanks!

    Have you used a baking spray that has four in it? Trader Joe’s has one that I’ve tried. But I only used it a couple of times and haven’t compared the two methods.

  • Shannon
    March 20, 2008

    Or, the best of both worlds, the spray can with the flour in it! I’ve been using it for a while now in place of the grease and flour method and have yet to have any problems. It’s especially great for bundt cakes to get in all of those nooks and crannies.

  • Jules
    March 20, 2008

    I love the spray with the flour in it. I use it for almost all my baked goods. What a great invention!

  • Eileen
    April 1, 2008

    Ah, but there is a third option! When I’m baking something (especially in in a fancy bundt), I butter and *sugar* it. The sugar keeps it from sticking just as well as flour, and it adds a lovely crunchy outside as well. It’s lovely to have a sugar-crunchy crust on soft things like banana bread. Mmmm…

  • Amanda
    April 1, 2008

    I strongly second Eileen on spraying or greasing, then sugaring. It’s great with things like pound cake and other bundts or cakes you won’t be icing. I do it on most of my cakes and everyone who always wants to know how I get that yummy crust.

    I also love the spray with flour, but blech for the chemicals in them. Come on Mazola Pure makers, make some spray with flour for bakers already.

  • Valencia
    December 27, 2008

    Thanks for the great tips everyone. I’m new to the bundt cake thing, having only made one so far, a raspberry morning cake in a brand new, non-stick metal pan, and greasing alone was enough. I will try the sugar method and experiment with flouring as well. Happy baking!!

  • Ellen
    January 13, 2010

    Thanks Ladies,

    I have never sugared before, but am ready to give it a try!


  • Aspen Earnhart
    October 15, 2010

    Very good information! I had never thought about putting sugar on the bottom before like flour. Thanks for the tips.

  • Laura
    October 11, 2011

    Thanks for the info! It seems like you may be the only person on the web who knows the difference between greasing and flouring and just greasing!

    I’m glad the difference isn’t too big, because I was lazy and only greased my bundt pan for a big pumpkin bread recipe. Now that it’s in the oven I was starting to worry!

  • Robin
    April 3, 2016

    Thanks for all the great info here. Never heard of the butter and sugar technique but will try it!
    For flouring if needed, I usually use the method of taking a small amount of the mix of dry ingredients to coat the pan. Especially nice if making chocolate cake as it’s coated with the flour & cocoa mixture instead of white flour. ALso, super easy if you happen to be using a boxed cake mix!

  • Diana Pettis
    May 6, 2018

    Great articles. I had never heard of the sugar technique. I make an orange juice cake in my bunny pan but don’t care for the stiffened crust from the flour. I’m gonna try just the greasing, buy the floured spray and try the sugarbbthanks for the great tips

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