Springform pans are called for when making cheesecakes, cakes with loose toppings, and attractive tortes and trifles. This special pan makes it easy to get delicate cakes out of the pan without damaging them, but they aren't a necessity, despite what any recipe says. You probably have something in your kitchen that you can use in its place.
What a Springform Pan Is
A springform pan is a type of cake pan that’s made in two parts. It has a base and a removable ring that serves as the side of the pan. When you attach the ring to the base, you have a complete cake pan that functions like any other cake pan.
But when you take it apart, that’s when the springform pan shines. After the cake, such as a cheesecake, has cooled, you remove the sides so the cake is still sitting on the pan's base but the sides of the cake are exposed. This makes slicing and serving your cake much more comfortable, and eliminates the need to transfer the cake from the pan to a serving plate, and the worry of breaking the cake in the process.
If you don't have a springform pan in your kitchen collection, don't sweat it. There are several things that you can use in its place.
Serve Your Cake From the Pan
Before you ditch the recipe or plan to go buy a springform pan, consider whether you need to remove the cake from the pan at all. If you're willing to skip posting a photo of the finished product, and you don't care as much about the presentation, serve the finished cake from the pan. As long as it's tasty, no one will notice.
Line a Cake Pan
Any cake pan or pie plate of similar size will do just fine as a substitute for a springform pan. And lining the pan with foil or parchment paper first will make it easy to gently lift the cake out when it’s done. (Leave a good length of foil or paper hanging out of the pan to make it easier to lift.) If using a square pan, line it with two layers, one in each direction, giving you a sort of sling that you can use to lift the cake without breaking it. Sometimes having a second person to assist with the lifting is also helpful.
Bake the Cake in a Silicone Cake Pan
If your cake can be inverted to remove it from the pan, silicone cake pans are marvels for releasing the cake intact, and they're available in every shape imaginable. Silicone pans won't work well for cheesecake, but they offer a good alternative for sturdier cakes. Be sure to spray and flour the mold well to help with the release.
Bake the Cake in a Disposable Foil Pan
Disposable aluminum foil pans are not only ideal when you are bringing a cake to a potluck, but their disposable quality also makes them a great sub for a springform pan. Once the cake has cooled, you can cut away the sides of the pan to reveal the outside of the cake. To get the cleanest release, cool the cake in the refrigerator. Then, run a sharp knife around the edges before cutting away the foil.
This will work just like a springform pan, without requiring you to buy (and store) yet another piece of kitchen gear. This approach is a definite winner if you plan to gift your cake or take it to an event because you don't have to worry about getting your pan back. The dollar store is a good source for these cheap, throw-away pans and they carry them in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Adjusting Recipes for Springform Pan Substitutes
Because springform pans tend to be fairly tall, you'll probably need to split your cake filling between two pans or use a large pan, like a 9 by 13-inch. In either case, plan to adjust the baking time as cakes in shallower pans will bake faster. Watch your cake closely, and pull it out of the oven as soon as it’s done.