Follow the recipe instructions to learn whether you should remove your baked goods from their pans or baking sheets. Cookies are always removed from the sheet; sometimes after a brief resting period so the internal structure becomes more firm. Cakes, bar cookies, brownies, and quick breads baked in 9x13" and sheet pans are left in the pan to cool. They are easier to store this way, and the pan sides support them and they will retain their texture and structure as they cool. Quick breads and cakes baked in a loaf pan are usually removed from the pan after a brief cooling interval, usually 5-10 minutes. Make sure you let the bread or cake cool as the recipe instructs, or it will fall apart when you take it out of the pan.
Grease Your Pans Properly
First, a word about greasing pans so you can remove your beautiful baked product! Always use solid shortening or cooking spray to grease pans and cookie sheets. Butter and margarine contain salt, water, and impurities that cause sticking. I scoop some solid shortening into my fingers and grease pans so they are shiny inside and some bits of the white shortening are still visible. You can use a paper towel or pastry brush if you'd prefer not to use your fingers; but I find that using my fingers does the most thorough job.
If a recipe calls for a 'greased and floured pan', first grease the pan, then sprinkle a couple of spoonfuls of flour into the pan. Shake and tilt the pan until the flour sticks to the grease and the entire inside surface of the pan is covered with a light and even layer of flour. Remove excess flour by turning the pan over and tapping it on the sink.
Nonstick baking sprays containing flour are a very efficient way to grease and flour your pans so nothing sticks. Be sure to shake the can and spray lightly and evenly. Be careful that you never get any of this spray on the floor, as it will make the floors very slippery.
If you like using them, Silpat and Exopat liners are the best way to prevent sticking. I love using mine for cookie baking marathons. The cookies never stick and they also brown more evenly. You can also use parchment paper or foil to line cookie sheets or cake pans for easy removal.
Use a Wire Rack
Always cool your baked goods on a wire rack. These products must be elevated so air can circulate around all sides, otherwise moisture will condense at the bottom of the pan and your cakes, breads, and cookies will be damp and sticky. You can cool cookies on a sheet of brown paper, but I still prefer wire racks.
Angel food cakes are the exception to the rule. These delicate confections are cooled upside down so the fragile egg white and flour protein structure doesn't compact as it cools, but stretches so the cake is high and fluffy.
Removing cakes and breads from loaf or round pans is one of the trickiest kitchen jobs. First of all, make sure to cool the cake as the recipe instructs. Then, gently and carefully run a knife around the edges of the pan, between the cake and the pan, to make sure the cake has released from the pan.
Then gently but quickly shake the pan, moving it only about 1" up and down. The cake will begin to bounce and you'll feel it loosen from the pan. If it seems that the cake is welded to the pan, you can return the whole thing to the oven for 2-3 minutes. This melts some of the shortening at the cake's edges so it will release from the pan.
Finally, turn the pan over and let the cake ease out of the pan. Cool the cake right-side-up on a wire rack. If some of the cake or bread sticks to the pan, don't despair! It will still taste wonderful. And you'll get better and better at these kitchen tasks with practice.
Removing Quick Breads and Yeast Breads
Yeast breads are usually quite easy to remove from the pan. Let the bread cool for the time the recipe specifies, then gently shake the pan. The bread should be loose; turn it out onto a wire rack and gently set it upright.
Quick breads are a bit trickier. Remember to grease the pan well. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the bread to loosen it. Then gently shake the pan so the bread loosens and invert onto a wire rack. Turn right side up and let cool completely before slicing.
Always use a large, wide spatula that is very thin to remove cookies from cookie sheets. If the cookie seems to crumple as you slide the spatula under it, let it cool a few more minutes to firm up, then remove from the sheet.
Pay attention to cooling times for cookies. Some need to cool and rest up for a few minutes on the cookie sheets so they maintain their shape.