A tale of two cake pans.

By Lisa Cericola
March 11, 2020
Photo: Gina DeSimone; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Karen Rankin

Confused about cake pans? Here is the lowdown: A tube pan is any type of round baking pan that has a hollow tube in its center. The tube conducts heat, which helps large, deep cakes bake faster, and it also helps the cake release more easily from the pan after it has been baked. A Bundt pan is a type of tube pan. But here’s where things get a little confusing—these two pans can’t always be used interchangeably.

Bundt pans typically have fluted sides that give cakes a decorative sculpted shape that requires little embellishment—no fancy frosting techniques required. The pans can be ceramic, aluminum, and even cast iron. No matter the material, they are ideal for dense buttery cakes that have a tender, moist crumb, like butter, coffee, and pound cakes. The ideal Bundt pan is nonstick and has a light-colored interior. Dark gray or black pans tend to overbake or overbrown cakes because they conduct heat better.

Most tube pans have straight sides and an uncoated finish. While you can make Bundts, coffee cakes, and similar cakes in a tube pan, this shape and type of pan is ideal for cakes with a light and airy crumb like angel food or chiffon cakes. They are often called “angel food pans” for this reason. Angel food cake recipes don’t typically contain leaveners; the air whipped into the egg white-based batter is what makes them so lofty. Because of this, you will need a straight-sided pan that’s uncoated (and ungreased) so that the batter can cling to the sides of the pan as it expands, helping it rise up tall. Once the cake is out of the oven, invert the pan, and let it cool upside down. This is why tube pans often have removeable bottoms and “feet”—they prevent the delicate cake from collapsing and make it much easier to remove the cake from the pan after it cools.

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