Why Cake Pans Make a Difference

Your Choice of Pan Does Affect Your Baked Goods

cake pan comparison

We want to help you bake the best possible cakes and along with great recipes, your choice of cake pans can make a huge difference. Huge!

In the Test Kitchen, Bakepedia performed an experiment where we divided a basic yellow cake batter in half and baked the two halves in the same oven at the same time, but in different pans. The only difference was the quality of the two pans. One was Wilton Decorator Preferred (seen on the right in the photo), which we love for its sturdiness and even heating, and the other was a thin, flimsy pan bought at the supermarket (shown on the left, above). The supermarket pan’s cake peaked horribly, overcooked around the edges and left the cake texture rough and uneven from center to edges. The Wilton pan resulted in a cake with a more level surface, a consistent color overall and, most importantly, a tender, even crumb throughout.

The difference was dramatic. Invest in great baking pans and you will have them forever. We use the Wilton pans in the test kitchen and our recommended baking times reflect their performance. There was a 20% difference in baking time with the supermarket pan, so if you do not use the same or similar cake pans, your baking times will be off as well. Always check early.

17 Responses to Why Cake Pans Make a Difference

  1. Irma September 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    I want to purchase the 9 inch Decorator Preferred Wilton cake pans but could not find them anywhere. I don’t think that Wilton even makes them. I found 9 inch Performance cake pans by Wilton. How do those compare to the Decorator Preferred cake pans. I would really appreciate your help. Thanks.

    • Dede Wilson September 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Thank you for writing. Wilton does indeed carry the Decorator Preferred on their site, however, when we just checked, they only had 3-inch depth. Apparently they have discontinued the 2-inch depth in that line. They recommend the Performance line as their highest grade 2-inch deep pan. Hope this clarifies things! We have used the Performance as well and would agree with their recommendation, if you are looking for a 2-inch deep pan.

  2. Irma September 9, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Thank you for your quick reply. Am I understanding you correctly, that the Performance line would work as well as the Decorator Preferred line? Wilton.com also only sells the Decorator Preferred in a 10 inch, not a 9 inch. I was going to try your recipe for Lemon Raspberry Cake but wanted to invest in a good set of cake pans first. I think you used 8 or 9 inch cake pans. I eagerly await your reply. Thanks.

    • Dede Wilson September 10, 2013 at 6:57 am #

      The correct size is very important and the Wilton Performance line will give you good results. Let us know how it all works out!

  3. Ariane September 10, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    My concern, Dede (congrats on the side, btw – I’m already hooked and it’s bedtime! ), is that these are aluminum pans and I’ve always been told to never, ever cook in aluminum anything because of the traces that end up in your food – ???

    • Dede Wilson September 10, 2013 at 6:47 am #

      Baking pans (we’re talking regular, not nonstick here) are almost always aluminum. The issues that some people have with cooking in aluminum is the reactivity with very acidic foods, such as cooking a tomato sauce in a poor quality aluminum pan. Not only can there be a reaction between the food and the pan, but in these cases you are also stirring and agitating the food in the pan, which could scrape the bottom exacerbating the situation. None of this issues exist with baking. Occasionally you might see a fruit crisp (fruit is often acidic) in a tin pie plate and the pan will darken and the fruit might taste metallic. This could be such a reaction. As for health reasons, we don’t worry about our baking pans and the pots and pans we use on the stovetop are very high quality triple ply stainless steel. Of course, you have to make decisions for yourself, but we think your cakes are just fine!

  4. zita darrell October 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    hi dede I am baking a wedding cake for my sister for the first time .Do you have any tips for baking the first ever wedding cake ?something nice yet easy to make for about 100 people.Also which book of yours would be best to get for a first time wedding cake maker ,The wedding cake cake book or Wedding cakes you can make. Thank you very much

    • Dede Wilson October 31, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Making your first wedding cake is an exciting project. Wedding Cakes You Can Make is an update of The Wedding Cake Book to some degree, so I would suggest the former. What you get in each are unique flavor combos and visual inspiration. Feel free to email me at dede@bakepedia.com and we can chat further.

  5. Rocio August 5, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    Hi! Is there a difference between a 2 or 3 in deep pan? I´m looking to buy a good set of pans for regular baking, and I´m not sure what to buy. In my experience (I only have 3in pans) for me it works better to bake two cakes that are thinner than bake one with more batter and then cut it in half to fill it. I usually have to cut off a significant part of the top, since it´s a dome and I rather have flat tops for decorating. Thanks for any tip.

    • Dede Wilson August 5, 2014 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Rocio and welcome to Bakepedia. I find 2-inch to be much more versatile, not only for the reasons you mention, but also because most recipes (barring some geared towards commercial baking) will call for the 2-inch and not the 3-inch. When I wrote The Wedding Cake Book I had been working in bakeries for years and had been using 3-inch and that is why that book uses many in that dimension. By the time I wrote Wedding Cakes You Can Make I had learned, through experience as you have, that we get better results with thinner layers. Construction is key, too. make sure to by straight sided pans and the ones I prefer are all aluminum. I am partial to my higher end Wilton and my Magic Line. Rolled top edged make easier handling and of course, store them carefully so that they don’t get dented! I would by 8-inch and 9-inch for a set for simple layer cakes and Bday cakes. If you are making larger celebration cakes, add 6-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch and 14-inch. If you always have issues with doming, it could be the recipe itself, improper air/heat circulation and/or the pan construction. For 12-inches and up I like to use cake cores to eliminate dome-ing. Let me know what you decide or if you have any other questions!

      • Rocio August 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        Thanks so much for your comment! I´ll go with the 2in deep pans then. The doming sometimes is bad, but I´ve read it could be my pans (I have to confess I use spring-form pans, no clue why I got that for starters, but that´s what I have). I tried to use baking strips once, but they got scorched in the oven and that scared me, so I´m reluctant to use them again. Thanks again for the tip!!!

  6. Sally Wallace March 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi Ms. D, I had been changing my cake pans from dark non stick to aluminum. I am investing on them little by little because they aren’t cheap. Anyway I have only been buying Fat Daddios and they work great if I follow the recipes to the T. Anyway I wanted to purchase a 6″ but I’m not quite sure if I should get a 2″ or 3″ depth? What do you think of this brand? what do you personally prefer? Thank you for your response.

    • Dede Wilson March 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

      Hi, I do like the Fat Daddios and would go with 2″. In my first book, The Wedding Cake Book, I recommended 3-inch pans because thats what I used at the time. I liked baking thick layers and then torting them. By the time I wrote Wedding Cakes You Can Make I had switched to shallower layers. I suggest the 2-inch. The taller layers, even if you put in less batter, the tall sides reflect heat back down on the cakes and they will not bake as well.

      • Sally Wallace March 20, 2015 at 7:47 am #

        Okay thank you so much that was really helpful. And thanks for prompt response 🙂

  7. Mona April 24, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Hi Dede, I’ve also wanted to buy Fat Daddio’s pans and was thinking I should buy 2 8″x3″ inch high to make 1.5″ cake layers but still be able to use for thick cheesecakes with a crust instead of buying a separate pan. Will the cake batter still bake the same with the extra height of the pan above the batter? Are the 3″ high pans only best for larger amount of batter?

    • Dede Wilson April 25, 2015 at 8:17 am #

      I used to use 3″ for cakes and cheesecakes, flourless etc. I still do for the latter two. Some folks think that the extra height throws heat back on the batter and can lead to over baking. I prefer the 2″ pans because I decided I liked individual layers better than torting larger ones. If you want the deepness so that you can bake deeper whole layers, then yes, it will do the trick. Why don’t you get one and experiment? I truly find the 2″ fine for all flour based cakes and I don’t mind baking more (rather than torting). Of course, we have many, so it isn’t an issue. Oven space should be considered as well….

      • Mona April 25, 2015 at 8:37 am #

        Ok thanks, I’ll get the 8″ x 2″ high pans for cakes and I’ll get a 9″ x 3″ high pan for cheesecakes!

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