How to Remove Baked Goods From Pans

Smoothing cake batter with a rubber spatula

Lara Hata / Photodisc / Getty Images

No one wants to go through all of the trouble to make homemade bread, cake, or cookies and then have them stick to the pan. There are a few easy tricks to extracting perfect baked goods, but always start by reading the recipe carefully.

Follow the Recipe

The recipe instructions will tell you 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-inch pans and sheet pans are typically left in the pan to cool. They are easier to store this way, and the pan sides support them so they will retain their texture and structure as they cool.

Quick breads and cakes baked in a loaf or round pan are usually removed from the pan after a brief cooling interval, usually 5 to 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

For the best nonstick results, use solid shortening or cooking spray to grease pans and cookie sheets. Butter and margarine contain salt, water, and impurities that can sometimes cause sticking. Some recipes call for buttering pans, and if it is a well-written recipe, butter should work just fine.

Whether using shortening or butter, scoop some with your hand or take a nub between your fingers. Grease the pans so they are shiny inside and completely coated. No dull, ungreased spots should remain and no big clumps of fat should be visible. You can use a paper towel or pastry brush if you'd prefer not to use your fingers.

When using cooking spray, shake the can well before using it. Spray over the sink to avoid a greasy floor, holding the can a foot or two away from the pan. Apply an even coating and don't over grease. There shouldn't be any standing oil in the pan.

Grease and Flour

If a recipe calls for a "greased and floured pan," first grease and 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 into the sink or trash.

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.

Other Nonstick Options

If you like using them, silicone liners (like Silpat and Exopat) are good in preventing sticking when baking on a sheet pan. You can also use parchment paper to line cookie sheets or cake pans for easy removal. A circle of parchment in the bottom of a round cake pan can make removing the layers of a cake a snap. Don't forget to also grease and flour the pan.

Wire Rack

Always cool your baked goods on a wire rack. Baked goods 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.

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

Removing cakes and breads from loaf or round pans is one of the trickiest kitchen jobs. The task will go smoother if you make sure to cool the cake as the recipe instructs. Then, gently and carefully run a knife around the edges, between the cake and the pan, to make sure the cake has released from the pan.

Gently but quickly shake the pan, moving it only about one inch 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 to 3 minutes. This melts some of the shortening at the cake's edges to help it 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, it will still taste wonderful.

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.

Removing Cookies

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 for a few minutes on the cookie sheets so they maintain their shape.

Stuck Baked Goods

If your carefully made baked good is stuck to the pan, then don't despair. It will still taste delicious. Stuck cookies can sometimes be dislodged with a good, thin metal spatula. If they end up in pieces, you can always use the crumbled cookies to top sundaes, cakes, and ice cream. If your layer or loaf cake comes out in pieces, try pasting it together with icing and then covering the whole dessert with icing to decorate. Crumbled or cubed cake can also be used in trifles for a delicious new dessert.

Yeast breads don't often stick, but accidents still happen. Use a knife to run along the edge of the pan and give it a shake. If it won't come out in one piece, then you can slice the cooled bread before serving and reserve the damaged portion for eating out of view of your visitors or for making croutons or breadcrumbs. Think about what you might have done wrong, learn from your mistakes, and avoid stuck-on baked goods next time.