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Whether you’re new to baking or a seasoned pro, having a great cake pan can be the difference between an evenly baked cake that slides right out of the pan and a lumpy mess. Cake pans come in many different shapes and sizes (circle, square, and rectangle being the most common) and can be used to make a variety of baked goods as well as savory dishes—I use my square brownie pan to bake salmon all the time. So, when deciding which cake pans to buy, note what types most frequently pop up in recipes you like or want to try.
A good cake pan will conduct heat evenly, resulting in a consistent bake, and be sturdy enough to maintain its shape over time and not rust or warp. Nonstick finishes can help cakes to release from the pan easily, but proper prep, which I’ll get into later, is also important. Materials like aluminum, stainless steel, and aluminized steel are great heat conductors.
I chose the following products after consulting reviews and product information across a variety of retailers. If you’re in the market for a new cake pan or two, here are some of the best ones to help you get started.
Best Overall, Round: USA Pan 8-Inch Round Cake Pan
What We Love: Nonstick, easy cleanup, bottom of pan is ridged to help with heat distribution
What We Don't Love: Nonstick coating may get damaged
For commercial quality at a reasonable price, you can't go wrong with this 8-inch round cake pan by USA Pan, a company that started out supplying professional customers and now services home bakers. For starters, the ridges on the bottom of this pan aren’t just for aesthetics—they actually help to facilitate air circulation and even heat distribution. Furthermore, its clear silicone nonstick coating, which is PTFE-free, PFOA-free, and BPA-free, helps cakes easily release from the pan and makes cleanup a breeze.
Reviewers say the coating helps release their cakes easily (and makes cleaning simple), and the pan's material resists dents or warps. They also rave about how the pan allows for the cake batter to naturally even out as it bakes, and then it heats and browns the dessert evenly.
To keep this pan in tip-top shape (so that you can continue to use it for years to come), wash it with hot water, mild soap, and a soft sponge, and steer clear of sharp metal utensils. This pan is also available in 9 and 10-inch versions.
Material: Aluminized Steel | Dimensions: 8 x 2 inches | Max Oven Temp: 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Best Overall, Rectangular: Nordic Ware Naturals Classic Metal Covered Baking Pan
What We Love: Versatile, includes convenient cover that snaps on, durable
What We Don't Love: Metal utensils may scratch pan
This versatile pan comes with a lid that helps keep baked goods fresh and makes it easy to take with you—whether you’re headed to a potluck or are dropping off a tray of brownies to a neighbor. You can even use the pan to keep your freshly baked dessert fresh for longer, thanks to the included metal cover that conveniently snaps on (and maybe even help you lessen your foil usage).
Nordic Ware's cake pan is large enough to make a 9 x 13-inch sheet cake, but it can also be used for a variety of sweet and savory baked goods. It’s made of aluminum, which is great at conducting heat (essential for an even rise and bake) without rusting or warping.
Users like this pan's durability and sturdy construction despite it being lightweight, as well as its versatility—evenly baking everything from bread pudding to stuffed shells to Rice Krispies bars. And despite the fact that it's hand wash only, reviewers say it's an easy task.
Material: Natural aluminum | Dimensions (LxWxH): 13 x 8.9 x 3.25 inches | Max Oven Temp: 425 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Best Budget: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick 9-Inch Round Cake Pan
What We Love: Inexpensive, easy to clean
What We Don't Love: Not broiler-safe, metal utensils and pans stacked on top can scratch the nonstick surface, not stackable
If you’re looking for a basic cake pan, this nonstick, round cake pan from Cuisinart is a solid, budget-friendly option. It’s made with a heavy-gauge aluminized steel for even heating and has rolled edges to prevent warping. The pan comes in either a silver or champagne color.
The pan also has straight sides and is hefty, making it ideal for baking a beautiful layer cake, according to several reviewers. Just note, as others do, that because the sides are not tapered, multiples of these pans will not stack, so store accordingly.
Washing the pan in warm, soapy water is your best bet, but in a pinch, you can also throw this pan in the dishwasher and it’ll survive. It’s nonstick, so on top of being able to release your cake easily (make sure to lightly flour your pan before baking), you won't have to do any long soaking or heavy scrubbing during cleanup.
Material: Aluminized steel | Dimensions: 9 x 2 inches | Max Oven Temp: 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Baking Pans
Best Nonstick: Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Nonstick 9x13 Cake Pan
What We Love: Commercial quality, durable, nonstick
What We Don't Love: Higher price point
More than just a pretty gold pan, this bestseller from Williams Sonoma is made with commercial-grade aluminized steel, which helps to distribute the heat of your oven quickly and evenly to yield consistent bakes, whether its cakes, brownies, or cookie bars. Some reviewers even like using this pan for baking vegetables. The pièce de résistance, of course, is the brand's proprietary nonstick coating, which it claims releases food more easily and resists scratching better than comparable nonstick surfaces.
This 10-cup pan also has a wire-reinforced rim, which may help prevent rusting and warping. It also makes this pan dishwasher-safe, although the company advises hand washing with hot water, soap, and a sponge (not anything abrasive) so that your pan lasts longer.
Material: Aluminized Steel | Dimensions (LxWxH): 9 x 13 x 2.25 inches | Max Oven Temp: 450 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Best Springform: Nordic Ware 9-Inch Springform Pan
What We Love: 10-year warranty, leakproof design, 7-inch version can fit in Instant Pot
What We Don't Love: Metal utensils, scouring pads, and abrasive cleaners can damage nonstick coating
Whether you’re making a cheesecake, a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, or any other recipe that calls for a fragile mold, this springform pan is essential. The leakproof design and PFOA-free nonstick surface mean less mess, so more of whatever you’re baking makes it to your mouth.
Many users agree, saying that the seal is tight, with a built-in lip that catches any batter that does leak out. Others highlight that this pan is sturdy and high-quality, including the clamp. Despite the pan's heft, the clamp is easy to handle, and the sides are easy to remove from the cake after baking—so you can slice up your quiche with ease.
This pan has a 10-cup capacity and accommodates most standard-size recipes.
Material: Carbon steel | Dimensions: 9.75 x 3 inches | Max Oven Temp: 425 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? No
Related: The Best Cake Decorating Tools
Best for Loaf Cakes: Pyrex Clear Basics 1.5-Quart Glass Loaf Pan
What We Love: Handles are easy to grip, durable, microwavable
What We Don't Love: More easily breakable than other pans in this roundup
Pyrex is a household name for glass bakeware, and for good reason. Since this loaf pan is made of transparent glass, you can easily monitor whatever you’re baking to see how brown the sides are getting, whether it's a loaf cake, quickbread, or meatloaf. In addition to offering good heat conduction, the durable glass is non-porous, so it won’t stain or absorb odors. And, as many reviewers can attest, the pan being made of glass will make it more likely that your loaves bake and brown evenly. Just make sure to set the heat about 25 degrees lower to avoid burning, according to Pyrex's recommendations.
Another perk of having a fridge-safe and freezer-safe glass loaf pan: It's versatile enough to be used for no-bake desserts. Users also say it's easy to clean, and durable—some have had their glass pan for several years. Pyrex glass pans are safe to use in the oven, microwave, and dishwasher—though note that you’ll want to avoid sudden temperature changes to avoid broken glass.
Material: Glass | Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.5 x 6 x 3.25 inches | Max Oven Temp: 425 degrees F | Dishwasher-Safe? Yes
Related: The Best Loaf Pans
What to Look for When Buying Cake Pans
Material and Durability
For pro bakers, it doesn’t get any better than aluminum, and you’ll want to pair that material with a substantial pan for durability and even heat conduction. An inconsistent bake can lead to a number of issues, including a pale cake or one that collapses in the center. In general, you’ll want to avoid silicone cake pans because they don’t retain heat as well, and their soft sides can damage a cake, especially when it’s still hot and fragile.
“Sturdier pans insulate heat better and bake more evenly. Similarly, lighter-colored pans bake more evenly than dark ones (which can result in burning on the surface that is touching the pan). Very thin pans can make cakes bake too quickly, which can result in structural issues," says Penny Stankiewicz, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education's New York Campus.
A nonstick coating will help cakes release from the pan, but that doesn’t mean they always will. Nonstick or not, proper preparation is key to ensuring your cakes come out of the pan seamlessly. This can take the form of spreading melted butter all over the inside of the pan and coating it with flour (tapping the excess away), lining your cake pan with parchment paper, or applying baking spray.
Ease of Cleaning
While some of the options listed above are listed as dishwasher-safe, if you’re looking to prolong the lifespan of a cake pan, warm, soapy water, and a soft scrubbing brush or sponge are your best bet. Prepping your pan before baking will also help with cleanup.
How do I line a cake pan?
Grease your pan with butter or baking spray, line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease it again to ensure your cake releases cleanly and reliably. You can either eyeball it to cut the parchment to size or trace your cake pan with a pencil for a more accurate approach.
“Can you imagine a worse scenario than picking out a recipe, gathering ingredients, spending time whipping up a delicious batter, and then taking your cake out of the oven only to find out you can’t get the thing out of its pan?" says Greg Rales, owner, founder, and chef of Red Gate Bakery in New York, who says he's had nightmares about it. "Starting from scratch once you think the work is done is one of my least favorite feelings, and parchment paper never lets me down in that respect," he adds.
Does it matter which cake pan I use?
When in doubt, follow the recipe, but if you don’t have the exact pan the recipe specifies, you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a brand new pan (especially if you have something close enough).
“It’s not a big deal if you swap an 8-inch cake pan for a 9-inch," notes Stankiewicz. "In general, if a change in pan is going to be made, other adjustments will have to be made as well, so keep that in mind when considering baking times and temperatures," she says.
What happens if you put too much batter in a cake pan?
If you pour too much batter into a cake pan, you run the risk of the cake overflowing out of the pan as it bakes, leading to a mess in your oven that’s no fun to clean up.
But there’s really no formula or ratio when it comes to how much batter goes into a single cake pan, says Rales. This is because there are a lot of factors that affect the rise of your cake in the oven. These include chemical leavening like baking soda or baking powder, how much air is in your batter, and specific ingredients like eggs (which fluff up when they cook).
"The best thing to help avoid mismanaging this is to evenly distribute your batter between pans. That way you’ll be able to see how much batter is in each vessel before baking, and of course, your layers will bake uniformly," Rales says.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Abigail Abesamis Demarest is a freelance journalist who specializes in food and drink content. She’s interviewed professional chefs to learn about baking pans and baking basics so she can share this knowledge with readers. Baking and watching The Great British Baking Show are some of her favorite ways to unwind.
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