How to Keep Your Bundt Cake from Sticking to the Pan

If life (or a long day in the kitchen) gives you torn cake, don't despair. Make a trifle!

Apple-Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Photo: Greg DuPree

You may be one of those lucky bakers who have perfect success with every cake. Your layer cakes never dome at the center, your pound cakes never have a sad streak or crusty top, and your puddings are always thick and smooth, never watery or lumpy. Sadly, I am not one of those bakers. As much as I love to bake, especially during the fall and winter months when I bake the family favorite Fresh Apple Cake, I often have trouble with my Bundt cakes sticking to the pan. Is it the pan? Am I greasing it wrong? Is the cake sitting in the pan too long? After some sleuthing among the Southern Living Test Kitchen professionals, I came up with this cheat sheet of things to watch for when baking Bundt cakes.

Choose the Right Pan

Choose a pan with a non-stick coating, which allows a cake to come out cleanly, even from all the nooks and crannies of an elaborately designed Bundt pan. When deciding on a pan, choose one that is metal and not too dark. Aluminum pans are best because they conduct heat well, and a lighter-colored pan will prevent the over-browning that often occurs with the darker pans. Even though most recipes will tell you to grease and flour your pan (or use a baking spray) before baking, a nonstick finish will give you added protection against a cake sticking to the sides of the pan. Be careful of older non-stick pans, as a scratched and worn surface will no longer be effective and slick enough to release the cake without any tearing.

Prepare the Pan

Most recipes begin by telling you to preheat your oven and prepare your cake pan. Oftentimes (especially in summertime down South), your kitchen really heats up when the oven is turned on. Greasing a cake pan too early allows the oil to slide down the inside of the pan and pool in the bottom. Try waiting until after you have mixed the batter and then prepare the cake pan.

Use the Right Greaser

Use a pastry brush to grease the pan thoroughly with solid shortening. Make sure to paint all the crevices of the pan so the cake will release easily and the design will be sharply defined. Do not use butter; the milk solids in butter can act like glue, causing the cake batter to stick to the pan. After greasing, sprinkle some flour in the pan, hold it over a sink, and tilt the pan in a circular motion in order to distribute the flour evenly. Then flip the pan over and tap out the excess flour to prevent a buildup of grease and flour on the finished cake. Don't forget to grease and flour the center tube of the pan.

Let the Cake Cool

After removing from the oven, place the pan on a wire rack and let cool; your recipe will specify the required time, usually from 10-20 minutes. This allows the cake to become firm enough to remove from the pan without breaking apart. At this point, you can carefully slide a table knife down the sides of the pan to release any sticking spots. After the required cooling time (cooling too long in the pan will cause the cake to be damp and stick to the pan), tap the pan firmly a few times and shake it gently to help loosen the cake. Invert the pan onto the rack, lift it off, and let the cake continue to cool on the rack.

If All Fails, Make It a Trifle

Ideally, the cake pan slid off without a hitch, and you are left with a gorgeously smooth Bundt cake. On those occasions where you did everything right and the cake still tore up (we all have those times, no matter how many cakes we have baked) just keep a stiff upper lip and turn that torn cake into a delicious trifle, complete with fresh fruit, sweet cream, or creamy pudding. Your guests will never know what really happened!

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