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. Paint the Pan With Shortening
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 want 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 because 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).
Step 2. Cut Out and Lay a Sheet of Parchment Paper
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...
Step 3: Paint the Parchment Sheet
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!
Step 4. Spray the Pan
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.
I know, I know—this seems like a ridiculous number 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!