Cake Decorating Basics: Prepping Your Pans

Updated on February 3, 2020
BeccaHubbardWoods profile image

I am a mother, a metalhead, a goth girl, and lover of all darkness. I'm also a writer, a cake artist, and a general weirdo.

Why Is Pan Prep so Important?

A slew of things can go wrong when baking, and starting off with a perfectly prepped cake pan can avoid many of those issues. You take the time to ensure you find the best recipe, work hard to measure the ingredients perfectly, mix with love and attention, pour your beautiful concoction in the pan, bake as instructed, and let the cake cool five minutes before turning out—only to have the entire cake stick to the pan and turn into a crumbling mess? Have you ever had this happen to you? I've had it happen. And I've been baking all my life. Or everything goes swimmingly, and when you go to turn out your cake, there's one little spot that sticks and tears a chunk out of your beautiful creation? Yep, that's happened to me before too.

If you follow these steps before you even pour your batter, you'll never have these problems happen again. I promise! And you can trust me—I'm a professional. ;)

Step 1

It doesn't matter what brand cake pans you use. It doesn't matter what size they are. It doesn't matter how deep they are, if they are sculpted cake pans, or if they're casserole dishes. This technique will work for all of them. I'm sure this technique will work for things other than cake, but I don't do many things other than cake.

So, the first thing you wanna do is find a fat paintbrush that you can dedicate solely to food prep. You don't wanna use a paint brush you're gonna paint with 'cause that would just be gross.

Once you have your paintbrush, dip it in some vegetable shortening. The brand doesn't matter. I use Crisco because it's convenient. Make sure you coat all the bristles in shortening (kind of roll it around in the shortening to make sure the bristles are thoroughly coated) and then paint a thin layer of shortening directly on the pan's surface. Make sure you coat the bottom, the sides, and any parts that may be indented (for sculpted pans).

Coating the Bristles

Make sure you coat the bristles well
Make sure you coat the bristles well

Paint the Pan

Paint all areas of the pan thoroughly!
Paint all areas of the pan thoroughly!

Step 2

Cut out a sheet of parchment paper (not wax paper) to the exact size of the pan. If you have an irregular shaped pan, you can cut strips of parchment and lay it in a criss cross pattern in the bottom. Once you've cut your parchment sheet or sheets, lay it on top of the grease in the pan. The purpose of doing the first layer of shortening is to keep the parchment from sticking to the cake pan. It's an extra layer of protection against sticking. Yes, it is necessary! I know it's going to be tempting to skip the first step and just jump on throwing the parchment paper into the pan—but don't do it! This is the only 100% guaranteed way to ensure absolutely zero sticking! Because a cake sticking can ruin your entire day. It does mine, anyway...

Use an X-Acto Blade for Perfect Cutting Every Time.

Cut around the bottom of the pan directly to get a perfect fit every single time.
Cut around the bottom of the pan directly to get a perfect fit every single time.

Lay the Parchment on Top of the Shortening.

Not only do you need to lay the parchment in the pan perfectly, you need to make sure to press it down so there aren't any air bubbles.
Not only do you need to lay the parchment in the pan perfectly, you need to make sure to press it down so there aren't any air bubbles.

Step 3

I know this is going to seem redundant, and it is, but it's necessary. What you want to do now is paint the parchment sheet with more shortening! Exactly the same as you did the pan. Put a very thin layer of shortening on top of the parchment before moving on to the next step. The purpose of the thin layers of shortening is to keep the aftertaste to a minimum. I used to butter my pans and then sprinkle flour on the butter, then shake off all the excess flour. All this did was make a huge mess that I hated cleaning, and I noticed a funky aftertaste on the outside of my cakes! Can't have that, I pride myself on the taste of my cakes. They can't just look good, they have to taste incredible. So, this technique leaves absolutely no aftertaste!

Another Layer of Shortening.

One more very thin layer of shortening...
One more very thin layer of shortening...

Step 4

Ok, now the final step. Find your favorite brand of cooking spray (with flour) and use it to lightly coat the entire pan. I used Baker's Joy for quite a while, but it had a weird aroma to it. So one day when my grocery store was out of Baker's Joy I had to go with the more expensive Pam with Flour. I've never gone back to Baker's Joy. Pam with Flour smells exactly like cupcake batter, and there's no weird aftertaste.

Make sure when you're spraying your pan that you don't spray over tile or linoleum. Because you will break your neck while trying to get a drink at 3 o'clock in the morning. Or break a toe on the bar because you started sliding and thought you could catch yourself in time, but instead you catch your toe on the edge of the bar. Hilarity and a stream of cursing ensues. True story.

Spray that Pan.

Hold your pan away from the spray farther than this. If you don't, you'll end up with a puddle of spray and that's not ideal.
Hold your pan away from the spray farther than this. If you don't, you'll end up with a puddle of spray and that's not ideal.

That's It!

I know, I know—this seems like a ridiculous amount of steps to just prep a cake pan. But you gotta believe me, this is the most foolproof way to make sure that you will never have another cake stick to a pan. No more sticking and perfect cakes every time is worth the effort. I now prep many pans at a time (because I usually have several orders in a day) and they can stay prepped until you're ready to pour your batter in. Once you try this, you'll never go back to butter and flour. Give it a shot and let me know how it went!

Perfect Every Time

This is what your cakes will look like every single time!
This is what your cakes will look like every single time!


Submit a Comment
  • BeccaHubbardWoods profile imageAUTHOR

    Becca Hubbard-Woods 

    3 years ago from Outside your window.

    Thanks for reading, vocalcoach! I just opened up my laptop to start a new cake decorating hub, as I've so much to cover LOL XD So happy you find it useful!

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Good morning Becca

    Just want to say thanks for this terrific hub on the basics of cake decorating. For me, each of the steps outlined are so helpful. And your step-by-step photos bring it all together making it even easier to follow.

    I am now a big fan!

  • BeccaHubbardWoods profile imageAUTHOR

    Becca Hubbard-Woods 

    3 years ago from Outside your window.

    Thank you for stopping by and reading! That's precisely how I started out as well - word of mouth. My first few cakes were... well, nothing to write home about. But they were tasty and better than folks could do for themselves :D So I kept at it and now I'm bogged down with orders so that I have to turn a lot of folks down. I also charge a ton less than other decorators around here because I was never able to afford amazing cakes for my boys, even though I wished I could. I think about moms like me who want to make their kids' birthday a memorable day, but can't afford a $300 cake. I'll make it happen. :D Of course, I do have to make up for some of the money loss with orders who can afford them, though, or I'll be starving my family while pursuing my love of decorating LOL! Again, thanks for stopping by!

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    Your title caught my eye, my wife has been baking cakes for over 35 years. Birthday, wedding and special occasion creations. It all began with a continuing education class at our local community college with evening classes. At the time the class was under $10 and she got a kit. Soon she was making roses and all kinds of neat borders. She began by making birthday cakes for our 3 sons with themes that they like such as the Duke Boys etc. It wasn't long someone ask her if she could make a wedding cake. She accepted the order and has made many over the years. She never advertised for any but it was through word of mouth. She never charged as much as others which I always thought was a generous gesture on her part. She has slowed down and only does a few these days. Great hub and some great tips.


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