When you’re on the hunt for a new cake tin (pan), it’s easy to be baffled by the wide range of tin shapes and sizes, the materials they are made from and even the colour of the metal. Price is often a deciding factor. It’s hard to justify $40.00 for a cake tin when the same thing is available at the supermarket for a third of the price, (and it’s in smart shiny black to boot!).
Let’s unpack this bit by bit. A good cake tin if looked after can last a lifetime. A cheap one will not. Fact. A good cake tin is a joy to use. A cheap tin will most likely give varying degrees of success, if any at all. Fact.
Why a good cake tin helps ensure a good result
Aluminium, usually the most expensive, gives the best result because it cooks quickly with an even heat distribution ensuring a cake will cook evenly throughout, and will not dry out on the bottom and sides or burn before the centre is cooked.
While an aluminium pan won’t rust, it will dent if you drop it (so look after it!). And the pans are best lined with baking (parchment) paper because they are not non-stick. That’s easy to do when you know how, and hardly a fiddle. Lining a cake tin
Aluminized steel is tougher, with the same even heat distribution but some brands rust, so wipe with a damp cloth after using and dry off in the turned-off oven. Some pans have a ridged base which works like a non-stick surface, making turning out cakes foolproof (these tins don’t need to be lined with paper).
Stainless steel pans get hot quickly making it hard to get even heat distribution, and they can rust. If this is what you are stuck with, lower the suggested oven temperature by 10°C (50°F) and put a baking tray (sheet) underneath the cake tin to help even out the heat.
Inexpensive cake tins are problematical, but many of us use them. A dull material is better than a shiny one because the latter gets hotter more quickly and can cause the outside and bottom of a cake to dry out or burn. If you have to choose between dark colours, grey is better than black and a thicker metal pan is preferable to a thinner one.
Some protection can be offered by double-lining this sort of tin with baking (parchment) paper, putting it on a baking tray (sheet) and lowering the temperature as suggested above.
Silicon bakeware is non-stick, but it doesn’t brown the sides or bottom of a cake, and it’s floppy, making moving uncooked batter to the oven problematical.
All cakes should be cooked in the centre of the oven to ensure even heat distribution. That means the cake rack needs to be set in the lower third of the oven so that the cake (not the rack) is in the middle of the oven.
Just a note about Christmas cake or heavy fruit cakes which are cooked on a low temperature for more than one hour. Line the tin with a double thickness of baking (parchment) paper for protection. Back in the day we used to line the outside of the tin with a double thickness of thick brown paper and tie it on with string. This extra protection ensured the cake would not dry on the edges. BUT I hasten to add, do not do this in a gas oven, do not use nylon string, and the paper must not have any printing, glue or other additives on it. And you need to keep a beady eye on the temperature.