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Seven Tips to Perfectly Unmold Your Cake or Frozen Dessert

This simple cake unmolded beautifully and needs very little to embellish it.

This simple cake unmolded beautifully and needs very little to embellish it.

Unmolding Your Cake

Have you ever spent hours making a dessert only to ruin it upon unmolding? If you are baking a cake or preparing a molded frozen dessert, it won't look impressive if you do not unmold it successfully.

When I started my baking business, my friends always asked: “How do I get my cakes and frozen desserts to look uniform all the time?”

These are my tips and tricks for successful unmolding.

1. Use Nonstick Pans

You can successfully unmold a dessert from a properly prepared pan that does not have a nonstick coating. However, if you are making a bundt cake or a cake that is in a mold that has swirls and ridges, it will be easier to use a pan that has a nonstick coating to minimize sticking. You are more likely to miss small areas when you are greasing and preparing a pan with crevices, and parchment lining may not always stay flat or cover the pan perfectly, so the batter can occasionally ooze under it.

The nonstick bundt pan that I currently use is made by Wilton. It washes nicely in the top rack of the dishwasher, and I prepare it for baking the way I do any other cake pan. I do not worry about having a nonstick pan for a tube pan that has a bottom that separates from the sides, but my bundt pan is one piece.

2. Use the Right Nonstick Spray

When baking a cake, I prefer to use nonstick spray specially formulated for baking. I use generic and brand names interchangeably with the same results as long as it is the baking formula. The nonstick spray formulated for baking contains flour. The flour dust prevents the batter from sitting directly on the grease. Separating the grease and the batter minimizes the chance of the grease merging into the batter. Therefore, the baking formula is better equipped to prevent the batter from sticking to the pan.

If I am using nonstick spray to coat a pan I am using for a frozen mousse or other desserts, I usually use a regular canola or vegetable oil spray. You can use the baking spray if that is all you have on hand, but I prefer to keep it for baked cakes.

3. Use the Right Product to Line the Pan

Parchment paper prevents the batter from sitting directly on the pan, and it will make it easier to unmold. Do not line the pan with foil or wax paper instead. Wax paper cannot tolerate heat and may melt. Although I have used foil to line a flat baking sheet on occasion, lining a cake pan with foil may create ridges in the cake as foil does not lay as smoothly as parchment. Additionally, foil tears easily, and you could get some holes in your lining.

4. Prepare the Pan Properly

Apply the Nonstick Spray Generously

When I did a culinary school internship in a commercial kitchen, I was surprised by how generously my supervisor used the nonstick spray. However, I have learned from my own baking business that it is better to be generous than lose profits because of unsightly desserts that unmold improperly.

I spray my baking pans twice. Once before I put parchment on the bottom of the pan, and after I line the bottom of the pan with parchment. Make sure you rotate the pan when you spray so that all sides are greased thoroughly. The initial spray also helps to anchor the parchment.

Trace and Cut the Parchment

Sometimes it is hard to cut a round piece of parchment. I recommend folding the parchment in half, and then carefully tracing half the pan, so it extends from the fold. (You can use this same technique for a rectangular pan if desired.) I often trace with a knife or scissors to see a faint line etched into the parchment, but I do not have to worry about lead or ink remaining on the parchment when I cut around it. You can line a pan that is going in the oven or a round pan that is going in the freezer with your cutout. If you are lining a bundt or tube pan, you can use more than one piece of parchment to cover the pan if it is easier for you. Just make sure that the pieces fully cover the bottom of the pan, and spray the tube generously.

Using Parchment Lining for Frozen Desserts

I prefer to use a springform pan for round, frozen desserts. If I am serving the cake at home, there have been times when I have left the frozen dessert on the bottom of the cake, but I usually remove the bottom of the pan.

If I am lining a loaf pan, I usually take a piece of parchment and fold it in thirds. I position it so that the end of the parchment extends over the longer sides. I then spray the parchment and smooth it down. When you unmold the frozen dessert later, the extended ends can help it slide out smoothly.

5. Cool the Cake or Warm the Frozen Dessert Slightly

Let the cake cool for approximately 15 minutes before you attempt to unmold it. If the cake is cooled slightly, it will be a little firmer than when it just comes out of the oven. The slight firmness strengthens the cake and reduces the chance that it will crumble or crack as it unmolds.

For a frozen dessert, saturate and wring out a dish towel with boiling or hot tap water. Wrap it around the cold pan for a few minutes to loosen the frozen dessert from the bottom and sides of the pan.

6. Loosen the Cake With a Thin Knife

Use a thin knife to loosen all sides of the pan and push the cake inward slightly to loosen the bottom. If you are removing a frozen dessert from the bottom of a springform pan, carefully run the knife under the lined parchment after you remove the sides of the pan. If desired, dip the knife in warm water to make it easier to loosen the confection from the bottom of the pan.

7. Transfer the Dessert to a Plate or Wire Rack

Many bakers prefer to unmold a baked cake over a wire rack, but if you do not have one, you can use a plate. When I did a culinary internship at a restaurant, we used a plate or cake board, but the cakes immediately went into the refrigerator. Using a rack, if you have one, will allow air to circulate underneath as well as above the cake.

Although I usually unmold a frozen dessert on a plate at first, I flip my frozen desserts and cakes onto a cake board, so the top of the cake faces upward. Position the cake board on top of the unmolded cake. Hold one hand underneath the surface the cake is on and one hand on the plate or cake board. Turn the cake upside-down, so that the top faces upward and it rests on the cake board. Return an unmolded, frozen dessert to the freezer until you are ready to serve it. Put the cake board in a box to freeze it, or you can cover it loosely with foil. When a baked cake is fully cool, you can frost or freeze it. Cover it with foil, and put it in a freezer bag to freeze it.

Your cake will be pretty enough to dust with powdered sugar or serve unadorned. However, you can frost or decorate if you want to impress your family or guests.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky