Choosing a cake pan

Think that a cake pan is a cake pan?  Think again!

Like most people, when I started baking, I just went out to a big box store and bought some cake pans, and didn’t give it much thought.  Then when I started baking more cakes and decorating them, I realized that the pan can make a huge difference in the finished product.

Over time, I am “upgrading” my cake pans.  I want professional style cake pans with nice straight, high sides.

See the difference between cheap discount pans and a professional style straight sided pan.  You’ll notice that the cheap pans nest together neatly, this is a telltale sign of tapered sides, a straight sided pan will only stack on top of another its size.


I have found three brands that fit the bill.

The easiest ones to find are made by Wilton.  Now Wilton makes many lines of pans, and they are not all geared to the serious cake baker, many are just run of the mill non-stick pans, those aren’t what I was looking for.  I go for the Wilton Performance and Wilton Decorator Preferred.  The Performance round pans all have nice straight sides and come in 2″ and 3″ depths.  If you want straight sided square or rectangular pans you have to move up to the Decorator Preferred pans.  These are uncoated anodized aluminum, and will feel very light weight, but aluminum is a great material for baking pans.  By using coupons for craft stores, you can score a good deal on these pans!

The next brand is Fat Daddio’s funny name huh?) These are definitely a step up from the Wilton pans, they are still made of lightweight aluminum, but a thicker gauge, making for a sturdy pan.  These are real professional pans used by professional bakers.  They make just about every pan size that you would ever need.  These are easiest to get online.

The third brand is Parrish Magic Line pans.  These are also top quality aluminum pans similar to the Fat Daddio’s.   I don’t own any of this brand currently so I can’t give an opinion on them, but they are rated very high on websites like Amazon.  These pans have been around for a long time and are a favorite among cake decorators.

As you can see my preference is for uncoated (not non-stick) pans.  To me non-stick pans are disposable, no matter how much money you spend, they will eventually get scraped up and the coating will peel, non-stick coating isn’t really something that you want baked into your cake!  Uncoated pans will last a lifetime if you take care of them.  Aluminum pans will not rust, it doesn’t affect their performance if they get scratched.

If you really want a coated pan, then I would recommend USA Pans These are nice heavy weight professional pans, if there is a coating that is going to hold up, then it’s this one, they are very well reviewed. Their pans also have nice straight sides.

What size pans do I need?  Here is a list for the beginner baker.

  • 2- 8″ round cake pans (preferably at least 2″ deep)
  • 2- 9″ round cake pans (preferably at least 2″ deep)
  • 1- 8×12 (best size, but usually needs to be ordered online) or a 9×13″

Why do I recommend an 8×12″ pan instead of a 9×13″ that is so easy to get?  That’s easy, a cake mix or a standard recipe usually calls for a 9×13, but an 8×12 will give you a taller cake, and look more professional.  Buying a pans that are at least 2″ deep insures that just about any recipe that calls for 2 8-9″ round pan will bake nice and high without the potential of overflowing the pan.

If you ever plan to do decorated cakes, either for profit, or just for friends and family, then you’ll never regret buying professional grade pans!


12 Responses to Choosing a cake pan

  1. Crumb Boss says:

    Really great info Mike!

  2. ReeJeana says:

    I am just getting into baking and would like to invest in professional grade icing tips, What kind of tips would you recommend starting out with and what style and sizes would you recommend. Thank you for your help and your time.

    • Baking Better says:

      Welcome to my blog!

      If you live near a restaurant supply store, look for Ateco brand icing tips, they are what most professionals use. I prefer the Ateco made with stainless steel to prevent rusting.

      Wilton is a solid brand as well, but as far as I know, they don’t offer a stainless steel line of icing tips. If you wash and dry these tips promptly, you can avoid rust. Wilton makes a good quality product that is easy to find most anywhere.

      Here is my list of basic tips, I don’t really use specialty tips much, these should cover most of your needs.

      #32 shell borders
      #21 shell borders
      #12 bead borders, ballons, figure piping
      #10 smaller bead borders, balloons, figure piping
      #104 roses and other petals
      #2 small writing
      #3 medium writing and string work
      #48 basket weave
      #352 leaf tip (can also be used for ruffles)
      #825 cupcake/large rosette

      This list will cover most needs for a beginning cake decorator. There are many variations on these tips, larger and smaller, but these are my favorites.

      Make sure to buy multiples of each, especially #104, #352, #32,#21, #825. If you are doing multiple colors of flowers, balloons, borders, it is nice when you don’t have to stop and clean out the tips! Stock up on plastic couplers as well!

  3. Hanny says:

    I wonder if there is any difference in using one 3″ high pan vs two 2″ high pans. And would baking two 8″ pans in the oven at the same time affect the result? I have a convection oven. If baking two pans at the same time, do you recommend putting them side by side on the same rack, or one above the other on different racks? Do you also recommend turning the fan on in such case?
    Thank you very much for your help!

    • Baking Better says:

      A 3 inch pan wouldn’t be a good substitution for 2 8″ pans, there would still be too much batter for the pan. I would suggest a 10″ pan with 2″ sides for an entire recipe intended for 2 8″ pans, I have done this in the past with great success. If you have a full size range than baking two pans at once will work just fine, just make sure that there is airflow between them, and bake them on the same rack. If you are using a small countertop convection oven, go with one pan at a time, making sure that there is air flow around the pan.

      You can bake with the fan on or off, it’s your choice, with the fan on, your items will cook a bit faster, so take that into consideration. I always bake with the fan on, that’s how my oven bakes best.

  4. Dandelion says:

    I am looking good quality uncoated (not non stick) cake pans. I am having a hard time finding them except online and it is unclear whether they are coated or not. Are the ones you mentioned: Fatdaddios, Magic Line or Wilton Decorator Preferred uncoated? If so, out of the three, which would you recommend? Thanks so much!

    • Dandelion says:

      Also should I go with the 2″ or 3″?

      • Baking Better says:

        2″ is standard, but 3″ give you more options.

        3″ allow you to have nice thick layers that you can split into multiple layers easily. These thicker layers will need to bake for a longer time at a lower heat, so you’ll need to adjust your recipe accordingly. The 3″ would be a great choice since you can make regular size layers or thicker layers. They will need more room to store.

    • Baking Better says:

      Wilton, Fat Daddios and MagicLine are all uncoated. I believe that they are anodized to keep the aluminum from reacting with ingredients. These pans if taken care of will last a lifetime, since there is no coating to wear off.

      Using coupons from craft stores Wilton pans can be a good deal. Magicline and Fat Daddios are definitely a nice upgrade. If you are going to use the pans professionally go with the better ones. I have a mix of Wilton and Fat Daddios. The Wilton work well enough that I have no plans on upgrading them, they do the job just fine.

  5. nicrob says:

    Hi. Is there a recipe calculation you can use to determine the quantity of a recipe for the pan size? Ie one standard recipe is for one standard everyday sized tin, how much for a 11″ by 3″ deep?

  6. Marnie says:

    I have some of the Parrish MagicLine and love them. High quality – much much better than Wilton. Price is about the same. Read the reviews on Amazon and decided to try them. I want them all now.

    I bought the 3″ pans as that was suggested in my cake decorating class. With the 3″ pan you can bake a two layer cake in one pan and get a thicker more level cake.

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