Choosing Cake Pans and Baking Dishes

Your bakeware choice affects more than just the taste of your cakes. The material, ease of unmolding and finish play important roles, too.


Look for cake pans that are sturdy and made from a material that conducts heat evenly. Avoid ones with flimsy or textured interiors, as they may lead to uneven baking.

Light-colored pans

When you’re making a delicate cake, light pans are the way to go. You’ll want to keep a set of aluminum or aluminized steel round and square cake pans in your kitchen. These pans conduct heat evenly and help cakes bake quickly. A nonstick coating also helps make removing your cake from the pan easy.

Light pans are a good choice for quick breads, too. They’ll prevent the crust from burning, but they may not brown as well as dark pans.

Dark-colored metal pans absorb heat less efficiently than lighter-colored ones, which can cause baked goods to bake unevenly from the center to the edges. This can result in a dry texture and a domed cake. Dark pans also tend to bake at a lower temperature, which can affect the texture of the cake.

TikTok creator Benjamin the Baker has done side-by-side testing of his favorite baking recipes, and he found that using a darker metal pan led to less consistent results. He also noted that dark pans caused the sides and bottoms of his bakes to cook more rapidly than those baked in light pans.

A light-colored anodized aluminum pan from Fat Daddio’s, for example, is an excellent choice for baking delicate cakes. Its design is meant to distribute heat evenly, and it’s nonreactive, so you can use it for citrus or tomato-based desserts without worrying about them tasting metallic. Other lightweight pan options include springform pans, which have a flexible collar that lets you remove the sides of the cake after it’s cool.

Dark-colored pans

The color of a pan isn’t something that bakers often consider, but it has a huge impact on how a cake turns out. Dark metal pans absorb and distribute heat quickly, which can result in the exterior of a cake browning faster than the center. This can lead to tough edges or a domed top, which makes it harder to decorate the cake.

Lighter pans conduct heat more evenly, which leads to cakes that are properly baked and have a delicate crumb. Dark pans can also have a drying effect, which makes them less desirable for layer cakes.

When baking a cake, it’s important to use a temperature-reading thermometer. It’s also a good idea to start checking the cake for doneness a few minutes earlier than the recipe states. This will prevent a dry, overdone interior or an uncooked, raw, or soggy bottom.

Aside from the traditional round and square pans, many manufacturers offer specialty shapes to make special occasion cakes. Heart-shaped pans are great for Valentine’s Day, dinosaur cake pans are a fun option for kids’ birthdays, and bunny or lamb pans are ideal for Easter. Novelty pans come in a variety of sizes, as well, so there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for your next cake. In addition, a wide range of nonstick coatings are available for pans to make them easier to clean.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel bakeware is a great choice for home cooks because it’s durable and resists rust. It’s also non-reactive and non-toxic, so it won’t affect the taste of your baked goods or alter their color. In addition, it’s often dishwasher-safe and easy to clean.

Unlike some other materials, stainless steel is a good conductor of heat and cooks food evenly. This prevents hot spots and ensures that your baked goods come out evenly textured. Stainless steel is also resistant to corrosion and stains. If you choose to buy this type of pan, make sure you get one with a lid. It’s especially useful for transporting your culinary creations to potlucks or parties.

This stainless-steel pan from Lindy’s is a heavy-gauge, oven-safe baking dish that comes with a snap-on high lid. It’s also dishwasher-safe and non-reactive. It’s a good choice for baking cakes, casseroles, or desserts and can be used in the oven or broiler.

This stainless-steel cake pan from TeamFar is an excellent value and perfect for everyday use. It’s oven-safe and non-reactive, so it’s safe for acidic foods like tomato-based dishes or citrus desserts. It’s also dishwasher-safe and easy to clean, and it comes with fitted, vaulted plastic lids that are easy to open. It’s also PFOA free, so you don’t have to worry about potentially harmful chemicals leaching into your food.


Baking is an art that requires precision amounts and fairly rigid rules, and the right baking pan can make a difference between perfectly fudgy brownies or dry, crunchy ones. While recipes often specify the size – not the material – of a pan or dish, manufacturers regularly offer loaf pans and rectangular baking dishes in glass as well as metal. Using the right vessel for the job can save you money and time in the kitchen, too.

Glass, like ceramic and stoneware, conducts heat more slowly than metal. This can lead to slightly underdone edges and bottoms in some baked goods, but it’s a good choice for foods that bake for a long period of time or require slow oven temperatures (like casseroles and pies). It also retains heat better than metal, which can be helpful when keeping a dessert warm at the table.

Glass is nonreactive with acidic foods, which means it’s a great choice for cobblers and other fruit-flavored desserts without a bottom crust. Metal, on the other hand, reacts with acids and can leave foods discolored and with a metallic flavor. It also can become brittle with repeated exposure to high temperatures and rapid temperature changes, which is why it’s generally not recommended for broiling. If you do need to use a metal pan to bake a recipe that calls for a glass baking dish, reduce the baking time by 25 degrees.