You spent all that time finding the right recipe to make the perfect cake to impress your family and friends. You carefully mixed the batter and poured it into the pan, watched as it turned a golden brown in the oven.
Now it’s time to take your cake out of the pan…and it just won’t budge! Has all that time you put into your baking come down to cake that’s going to come of the pan tattered and in pieces?
Don’t worry, there are few things you can do to get that cake out of the pan and onto a plate. And a few things you can do to prevent it from sticking to the pan in the first place (of course, you could always just skip the pan entirely!).
How to Remove Cake From a Pan After Baking
Here are the techniques I use to successfully get my cakes out of the pan, so they look perfect each and every time.
1 – Cooling the cake
No matter what cake you’ve baked or what pan you’ve used, the first step toward getting your cake out of the pan is to let it cool down completely, coming to room temperature.
If you even attempt to take cake out of a pan that’s still warm you risk the cake coming out with pieces still stuck to the pan.
As a general rule, let the pan cool for at least 30 minutes if not longer for larger cakes. When completely cool you can get down to the job of removing the cake from the pan.
2 – Use a cooling rack
I highly recommend that you use a cooling rack to cool the cake while it’s in the pan. A cooling rack will allow air to flow all around the pan, including the bottom which is where most of the sticking is going to happen.
I like this particular set, because it can handle temperatures up to 575 F, which makes it pretty versatile.
3 – Cool in fridge
If you’re in a bit of a rush to get that cake out of the pan, you can put it in the fridge to speed up the process. Let the pan cool down for about 15 minutes so that it’s warm-to-cool and no longer hot. Then put the pan into the fridge for another 10 to 15 minutes.
This cools the cake down enough so you can carefully remove it from the pan. This method of cooling is also great to use in warmer months when your kitchen is warm.
4 – Loosen the cake
Use a knife to loosen the cake from the pan. Carefully slide the knife between the cake and the pan, moving slowly around the edge. Try to keep the knife against the pan so that you don’t cut into the cake.
When the cake is loose, turn the pan upside down and gently ease the cake out and onto the cooling rack or plate. The best type of knife to use is a non-serrated or palette knife. Or use a thin nylon spatula.
5 – Tapping method
Put a large plate over top of the cake pan, preferably the plate you’re going to be using to serve your cake. Holding the plate firmly in place, flip the pan upside down with the plate on the bottom.
Tap and gently shake the pan so the cake slowly releases and comes out in one piece.
6 – Leave in pan upside down
As with the previous method, invert your cake upside down on the plate. Instead of tapping and shaking, leave the cake upside down for 10 to 15 minutes. Then gently try to remove the pan.
This method allows the shortening that you used to grease the pan to seep a little more into the sides of the cake, helping to release it.
7 – Use a dishcloth
If your cake is being stubborn and just isn’t sliding out of the pan onto the plate, use a dishcloth to save the day.
Soak a dishcloth in either warm or hot water. Wring excess water out of the cloth and wrap it around the bottom of the pan. Let the pan nestle within the cloth for about 15 minutes.
This technique lets the pan warm up and expand a bit, so it releases from the sides of your cake.
8 – Microwave method
Still have a stubborn cake that doesn’t want to come out of its pan? This is another technique to steam the cake out of the pan.
Pour boiled water into a mug. Put the mug into the microwave, placing the cake pan on top of the mug. Leave for a few minutes in the microwave without turning it on. The trapped steam should loosen the cake from the pan.
Don’t have a microwave? Any enclosed space will do, such as a cupboard.
9 – Use a warm oven
When the cake is cool, preheat the oven again to about 250°F. Put the cake back into the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the pan over to rest on a cooling rack. The cake should slide nicely out of the pan.
I find that this method works really well with Bundt pans, which can sometimes be more challenging than other pans when it comes to getting the cake out nice and smooth.
10 – Icing out the cake
This technique is ideal for round, flat pans. Turn the pan upside down on a plate or cooling rack. Put ice cubes in a bowl and put the bowl on the bottom of the pan.
After leaving for a few minutes you should be able to remove the pan without any cake mishaps.
11 – Using the freezer
Completely cool the cake in the pan. Run a non-serrated knife or nylon spatula around the edges of the pan. Then place the pan into the freezer and freeze for about 1 to 2 hours.
Remove from the freezer and run the knife around the edges of the pan one more time. Turn the pan upside down, gently tapping on the top and sides.
Your cake should slide out nicely in one piece.
How to Prevent Cake From Sticking to the Pan
There are some things you can do to keep your cakes from sticking to the pan in the first place.
Here are some of the techniques I use to keep my baking creations from sticking to the pan so it’s easier to remove a cake after baking.
Greasing the pan
Use a paper towel or a pastry brush to cover the bottom and sides of the pan with shortening. Be sure to reach all corners of the pan so the entire surface of the pan is coated with shortening.
Sprinkle with flour
After the pan is completely coated with shortening, sprinkle a teaspoon or two of flour into the bottom of the pan.
While holding one side of the pan, tap the other side so that the flour is well distributed and creates a thin layer over the shortening.
Make sure you get flour into all the corners and up the edges of the pan. You’ll have some excess flour that didn’t stick to the shortening – just turn the pan over and tap out the extra flour.
Lining with parchment paper
Putting a lining of parchment paper (or an alternative) into the pan is another preventive measure so you can easily get your cake out of the pan after baking. Parchment paper will only work in pans that have a flat bottom and straight edges.
Place the pan on top of the parchment paper. Using a pencil trace around the edges of the pan onto the paper. Cut the paper and fit into the pan, pressing the paper into the corners.
Carefully smooth the paper onto the bottom and sides of the pan so there are no bubbles or wrinkles.
Grease and flour parchment paper
An extra step you can take so that your cake just slips away from the pan is to grease and flour the parchment paper. Just use the same methods as above.
Baking sprays work well to grease cake pans and are a little less messy and time consuming than using shortening and flour.
Don’t use sprays such as Pam for this – look for a professional baking spray in specialty baking and cooking supply stores or online.
A word on non-stick pans
These days you can purchase non-stick bakeware. My own personal preference is to treat non-stick pans the same way you would a traditional pan, at the very least greasing and flouring the pan.
Even non-stick pans will cause some cakes to stick. And that one time you really need your cake to look perfect is the day the sticking is going to happen!
Another word…on Bundt pans
Bundt pans come with their own challenges when it comes to getting your cake out in one lovely piece without any missing chunks.
Even when you carefully grease and prepare Bundt pans, they have a tendency, more than any other pans, to keep cake from easily sliding out. This is because of the intricate design of some Bundt pans with all those small ridges and corners.
One technique I’ve tried that works well is to create a barrier that’s more than just flour. Using almond flour, sprinkle a coating over the entire surface of your greased Bundt pan.
This extra barrier will help get your cake safely out of the pan without crumbling.
Tip: Use cocoa powder if you’re making a chocolate-based Bundt cake. Sugar is another alternative – sugar not only helps to ease the cake out of the pan, it can add a nice sugary crust on your baked cake.
Now that you know how to get cake out of a pan there will be no more frustrating and disastrous moments when your cake is ruined because it refused to come out!
Using not just one, but several methods, your delicious cakes will come out of the pan perfectly each and every time you bake.
Now that you’ve successfully removed your cake from the pan, learn how to properly level it!
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.