baking pan [beyk–ing pans] noun
A pan specifically made for baked goods. Your baking pan should be measured across the inside bottom edges (where the baked goods actually bake). If you measure across the top, open edge or the exterior bottom, you will often get a slightly larger measurement. These pans come in all shapes and sizes – rounds, squares, rectangles, loaf pans and more.
The best rounds, squares and rectangles have straight sides. Your baked goods will have a cleaner edge and look more professional. Practically speaking, straight sides also make frosting layer cakes much easier.
Look for heavyweight pans like Magic Line and Wilton Decorator Preferred (on right in photo). Magic Line has been around for a long time and is a go-to pan for many cake decorators. Wilton is always improving their offerings and it pays to keep an eye of what they have.
To prove our point about the varied quality of pans, we prepared a classic yellow cake batter in our test kitchen and divided it between two cake pans of varying quality, baking them at the same time on the same oven rack. One pan was Wilton’s Decorator Preferred brand, which we recommend for its sturdiness, even heating, and reliability. The other was a thin, flimsy pan from the supermarket (which also, unfortunately, had flared sides as seen in photo on left). The cake in the cheap supermarket pan peaked in the center, was overcooked around the edges, and its texture was rough and uneven from the center to the edges. The cake in the Wilton pan had a level surface, a consistent overall color, and most importantly, a tender, even crumb throughout. The difference was dramatic. Invest in high-quality baking pans and you will have them forever.
For cookie sheets, we use commercial-weight, rolled-rim half-sheet pans. We call them baking sheets within the Bakepedia universe. Some are aluminum, others are aluminized steel. They will not warp, they conduct heat evenly and can be used for cookies, jelly-roll cakes and more. For sheet pans, try Vollrath and Chicago Metallic. Look for them in commercial kitchenware stores, online or through the manufacturer. Note that the true “half-sheet pan” is 18 x 13 inches; there are pans of similar size that are just fine for cookies. If you are baking a jelly-roll cake, make sure to use a pan with the exact dimensions called for in the recipe. For muffins and cupcakes (these pans do have flared sides, of course) we like Wilton Excelle Elite. These are the only pans that we like with a nonstick interior; we prefer professional-grade aluminum for the others.