Preparing a cake pan is my least favorite cake-baking activity, mainly because it’s the first (and least edible) step in the process. It stands in the way of the middle and final steps when I could be licking batter and icing, or enjoying my first bite of cake alongside an ice-cold glass of milk.
But I’m a practical woman and I’ve come to understand that in order to get to the middle and end, I really do need to commit those three whole minutes to lining my cake pan with butter, flour and parchment paper. If I don’t, my cake will sit stubbornly in its pan as I prod it with knives and forks and throw a few forceful blows to the back of the pan (see photo above). It’s a messy and destructive process that takes a lot longer than three minutes.
There a few ways to cut a parchment circle, but since I can’t get my head around pencil lead in my food, I stay away from tracing a circle around my pan. Instead, I fold the parchment into a skinny triangle and make one single cut. I can’t remember who I learned this from (as they deserve a lot of credit for this post), but I picked it up in college and have not turned back since.
Once the parchment is cut, I
- grease the bottom and sides of the pan with butter
- secure my parchment circle
- add a bit more grease to the parchment, and
- dust the pan in flour
And though I drag my feet for those three agonizing minutes, I always remind myself that my future cake-eating self will be grateful to my forward-thinking, cake-pan-prepping self!
The following is an easy method for cutting a parchment circle by eyeballing your cake pan’s radius. It’s a neat trick, especially if you’re into geometry.
one (or more) cake pan(s)
butter (cold is my preference because it spreads less messily)
Tear a sheet of parchment paper slightly wider than the diameter of your cake pan.
1 & 2. Fold the parchment in half, then fold again into quarters.
3. Fold the quartered parchment in half along its inside corner (which in these photos, is the bottom left corner). The parchment will now be a triangle.
4 & 5. Using that same inside corner, fold the parchment in half another time or two until you have a skinny triangle. More folds will yield a more rounded circle.
6. Flip your cake pan upside down and place the inside corner of the triangle over the center of the pan. Using your fingernail, mark the point where the parchment triangle hits the outer edge of the pan.
7. Cut the parchment just inside of that point. This is to make sure that it will fit in the pan.
8. Unfold the parchment. You should now have a circle. Place it in the cake pan. If the parchment creeps up the edge of the pan, fold it back up and trim it down with one more cut.
9. Butter the bottom and sides of the cake pan.
10. Secure the parchment circle inside of the cake pan and smear a thin layer of butter on top. It might seem tedious, but butter on both sides will keep the parchment in place as you pour the batter, and it will help with removing the cake from the pan (and the parchment from the cake) once it’s baked.
11. Pour a bit of flour into the cake pan. Rotate and bang the pan to make sure that it’s entirely covered in a thin layer of flour. Bang out any excess flour.