Where’s your cake pan? Don’t have one? Well, not everyone has the luxury of having a big kitchen with lots of space for all kinds of kitchen equipment.
At the same time, even if you do have the space, not everyone wants their kitchen to be packed with tons of different cake pans and kitchen tools. Or maybe you don’t have a cake pan because you just started baking and want to try it out before buying new pans.
Whatever your reason, you don’t have a pan. What now? Don’t stop making that cake- there are solutions to your cake pan problems.
Use a Sheet Pan
The first option you have when baking a cake without a cake pan is to use a sheet pan instead.
The ideal sheet pan for making a cake will be flat and have sides that come up at least one inch all the way around the pan. The other dimensions of the pan don’t matter too much, a standard 18 inch by 13 inch pan will do just fine but if you have a smaller pan or a larger pan, you will just get a smaller or larger cake!
Line the sheet pan with parchment paper or grease and flour it (just as you would prepare a cake pan when baking a cake). Then pour the batter in!
A good general rule of thumb is to fill the pan half way up so, if your pan has a one-inch lip around the edges, fill it so that the batter comes up the sides 1/2 an inch. This leaves room for the cake to rise without over flowing.
Baking in a sheet pan will result in thin layers of cake so you will need to bake one layer, remove it from the pan and bake a second (or third) layer.
If you have more than one sheet pan, even better! You can bake two layers at once!
Once your cake is baked, you can simply fill it and stack it, keeping the rectangular shape of the pan or you can cut the cake into any shape you desire.
If you need a circular cake, find a bowl about the size of the cake you need. Then, place the bowl on top of your cake and trace around the circular top with a knife, cutting your cake into a beautiful circle.
Look at that! You made a round cake by using a rectangular sheet pan!
And, since you cut the circle out of the cake, you are guaranteed to have some cake scraps to snack on. This sounds like a great option for baking a cake without a cake pan…
Create Your Own Pan
Who needs to buy a cake pan when you can just make your own?
If you have aluminum foil and a flat sheet pan then you are well on your way to creating your own cake pan. This method is also great as you can make any size or any shape pan that you may need.
Heavy duty aluminum foil works best as it is significantly thicker than some of those bargain foils. Pick a shape for your cake and let’s get started!
Here’s a nice video showing the process:
The first thing you are going to do to make your own cake pan is calculate the circumference of the pan you are making.
So, for example, if you need an eight inch round cake pan, the circumference of the pan will be about 25 inches (remember back to your high school math class…the circumference of a circle is 2 π r…or, these days, you can just ask Google!).
Once you have this number, you are ready to cut the aluminum foil.
Measure a long piece of foil that is the length you need (in the case of our eight inch round pan, 25 inches). Then, once you have your long foil laid out, fold it in half vertically. The foil should still be 2 inches long but now a little thinner.
Then, fold it in half one more time making it thinner still. Take this long strip and put the two ends together, creating a circle (If you are making a heart or square, form that shape at this point). Stand the circle up so that it looks like a cake pan with no bottom. Part one, done!
Get another long piece of foil, any length will do, this one doesn’t have to be specific. Lay it flat on the counter and put your makeshift circle in the center.
The piece of foil that is flat on the counter is going to be the base of the pan and the shape you made is going to be the sides of the pan. Visualize this as you move forward.
Fold the bottom piece of foil up over the edges of the shape your created, keeping the base flat. Basically, you are attaching the base of the pan to the sides and securing the two together- you don’t want any cake batter to leak out!
If you would like to make the base a little more sturdy, do this step again. If you want even more batter leak protection, use masking tape to adhere the base to the sides. It is good to tape the foil right at the ninety degree angle where the base meets the sides.
Place your homemade pan on top of a sheet tray for extra stability and to make it easier for you to move the pan in and out of the oven. Spray your new pan with baking spray and pour the batter in. Your cake is now ready to bake!
The best part about making your own cake pan is that the cleanup is extremely easy- you can simply throw the pan away! You may never want to buy a cake pan now.
Make a Pull Apart Cake
The last way to get around not having a cake pan when baking cake is to just make a pull apart cake. How does one do this? Let me explain….
Rather than baking a cake, bake cupcakes with your batter.
Scoop the batter into paper liners in a cupcake pan and bake as you would any cupcakes. Once they are cooled, place them on a tray in the shape of the ‘cake’ you would like. You can arrange them to look like a heart or a circle or pretty much anything you’d like.
Now comes the part where your cupcakes become a cake.
Plop a big scoop of frosting right on top of all the cupcakes and use an offset spatula to smooth it across the tops of all the cupcakes, connecting them with frosting. Add more frosting until the tops are all covered and you have used your spatula to shape the ‘cake.’
By icing the cupcakes as one unit rather than individuals, your cupcakes have become a cake! However, you can grab the base of one cupcake, give it a pull and free it from the rest of the cake…and then eat it. Get it? “Pull apart” cake… So delicious, no cake pan needed.
How to Make a Cake Without a Specialty Pan
If you are making a cake that calls for a specialty pan that you do not have, don’t panic! Just assess why that pan is needed for the specific recipe at hand and, once you have determined the reason, think of a creative solution.
For example, if you are in need of a bundt pan (one with a hole/tube in the center), the reasoning is that the metal hole center will heat and help cook the center of the cake.
A solution would be to wrap a metal, empty soda can in foil and place it in the center of your regular cake pan. Pour the batter around the soda can and poof- a bundt pan!
The can will heat just as the center tube of a bundt pan and have almost identical results!
If your recipe asks for a spring form pan where the bottom is removable, most likely you are baking a cake that tends to stick to the pan or is tricky to flip out once it has baked.
Cheesecakes are typically baked in these pans as the surface of a cheesecake is always sticky, even once baked- you don’t want to have to flip it upside down and mess up a perfectly flat top!
Use a regular cake pan instead and just be sure to carefully flip the cake when the time comes. Make sure you go around the edge of the pan with a small spatula or knife to make sure the cake will pop right out when flipped.
A very cold cake will also flip better and be a little less sticky.
The bottom line is that you can definitely make a cake without a cake pan and you actually have a few options to choose from. You may even like these choices better than using a regular old cake pan!
Think outside of the pan and your results will be tasty and look perfect!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Wednesday 8th of June 2022
We needed the temperature and time adjustment for a 9" cake to a baking sheet cake. I'll figure it out myself but that's the reason why I clicked on this search result. So I could validate my guess.
Thursday 10th of February 2022
This is a staggeringly BRILLIANT article. This article is (1) clear; (2) detailed; (3) thorough--it anticipates any the reader might have; (4) and it's so encouraging and inspiring and motivating!
The kitchen and I are adversaries. I don't feel comfortable there, I don't know the basics about cooking or the terminology. I'm insecure and disinterested when it comes to cooking and intimidated.
But I was craving cake and decided to make one: the first ever in my life. I didn't even know what a cake pan looked like.
Now I can't wait after reading this spectacular how-to article to run downstairs and bake my cake even though it's 11 o'clock at night! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!