Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Cake Pan of 2021

We put cake pans to the test from brands like All-Clad, Wilton, OXO, and more to find the best models for your baking needs
Credit: Aaron Rice
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 9, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
Have you been bit by the baking bug? Our comprehensive 2021 review covers 14 of the best cake pans available so you can take your baking to the next level. We researched dozens of the top pans on the market before settling on a variety to subject to our meticulous, side-by-side testing. We tested everything from classic round and square pans, to Angel Food Cake and Bundt tube pans, to springform pans and sets. Our team of kitchen experts baked a lot of cakes to help clarify important characteristics like cooking performance and versatility. Whether you are simply looking to replace an old pan or hoping to bake your first tiered cake, our review will help you find that perfect pan for your kitchen.


1

Best Overall Cake Pan


All-Clad Pro-Release 9" Pan


Material: Aluminized Steel | Coating/Finish: PFOA-free, ceramic reinforced nonstick
Easy-to-grab handles
Ceramic-reinforced coating
Wider than standard round pans
Requires hands-on baking
Handwashing recommended

From unsurpassed durability to an ergonomic design, the All-Clad Pro-Release 9" Pan checks all the boxes of a professional-grade cake pan. There is a common thread among the best pans we test — aluminized steel. This material combines the heating and cooling benefits of aluminum with the uniform heat distribution of steel, resulting in superior baking performance. This is also one of the few pans tested with a PFOA-free nonstick coating that is reinforced with ceramic, which, like [Dutch oven | enameled Dutch ovens], helps the pan withstand scratches, stains, and scrapes. Wide handles make this pan easy to maneuver, allowing you to tap out air bubbles, keeping the batter even so you can produce perfectly level cakes. Though subtle, the 9" diameter is also a nice improvement over standard 8" round pans, which might just allow you to squeeze one or two more cinnamon rolls in.

The All-Clad Pro-Release is highly responsive to temperature changes, and therefore requires some monitoring to ensure even baking. It's a good sign when our only real criticism is actually just a reflection of the exceptional conductivity of aluminized steel pans — or possibly a complaint on the uneven heating of most home ovens. While professional bakers may appreciate this trait, casual bakers could find it annoying. Still, we think this top-quality pan is sure to impress on all levels.

The All-Clad Pro-Release 9" will help you achieve beautiful cakes...
The All-Clad Pro-Release 9" will help you achieve beautiful cakes and so much more.
Credit: Aaron Rice

2

High Value Square Set


Wilton Perfect Results Non-Stick 8" Square (Set of 2)


Material: Cold-Rolled Steel | Coating/Finish: Nonstick
Affordable set of two square pans
Steel construction efficiently distributes heat
Large handles
No specific, petro-free coating
Ramped sidewalls are not ideal for some cakes

You don't have to sacrifice value for durability with the Wilton Perfect Results 8" Square Pan. As a testament to longevity, our lead tester's mother has baked brownies in these pans for decades. The pan's hardy steel construction cooks with an even heat distribution and temperature profile that is great for more than just a simple sheet cake like a brownie. We particularly love the large, wing-like handles that make these pans easy to remove from the oven.

Like all generic, PFC-based nonstick coatings, we would love to see the one on this pan replaced with something more natural, like a ceramic-based coating — even if it detracts a bit from the overall durability. While we didn't notice any flaking during our testing period, we know from previous experience that these will mildly scratch and scour over time, especially if you are rough on them or cut into your dessert with a serrated knife. The slightly slanted sidewalls are also not ideal for all cake shapes. At the same time, this set of two might just help you produce a tiered cake with a very unique design.

Brownies! We may be a bit biased, but delicious, chocolate-goodness...
Brownies! We may be a bit biased, but delicious, chocolate-goodness speaks for itself. Now, if only we could perfect Mom's recipe...
Credit: Aaron Rice

3

Best Bang for Your Buck


Chicago Metallic Non-Stick 3-Piece Set


Material: Carbon Steel | Coating/Finish: BPA-free nonstick
Set comprised of larger diameter, and thus more versatile pans
Easy to remove cakes thanks to remarkably nonstick coating
Heavyweight steel construction
Nonstick coating is still poly-based
Slippery exterior and no handles

From tiered cakes to a batch of cinnamon rolls, the Chicago Metallic 3-Piece Set is a collection of round pans that allows for versatility in your baking creations. This set includes a 6", 8", and 10" pan — when directly compared to other sets, the larger diameters make these pans more adaptable to a variety of kitchen tasks. The BPA-free (though not PTFE-free) coating is remarkably nonstick, with zero residue left in the pan after an effortless cake release. Their heat distribution is consistent, due in large part to the heavyweight, carbon steel construction, which also increases durability.

Although we love the size of these pans for versatility, plan on increasing your quantities — at least when baking a tiered cake — as they are a little too large for a single cake recipe. We'll spare you the redundancy of remarking on their PTFE-coating and comment instead on the fact that the coating is so nonstick that these pans are almost slippery to handle. These are a nesting set of pans, but the smaller two extend slightly beyond the rim height of the largest pan, somewhat abating their ease of storage.

Make sure to adjust your recipe to fit the larger capacity of these...
Make sure to adjust your recipe to fit the larger capacity of these wide-diameter pans. The cake may have turned out a bit flatter than we hoped, but nothing some fresh, edible flowers can't fix.
Credit: Aaron Rice

4

Best Round Pan


USA Pan 8" Round


Material: Aluminized Steel | Coating/Finish: "Americoat" (patented)
Heavy duty durability
Chemical-free coating
Fluted bottom eases release
Slower cooling time than comparable aluminum pans
No handles

Even though we only had the pleasure of testing the USA Pan 8" Round, we can only assume that all the shapes and sizes live up to the same top-notch craftsmanship — we're certain we could easily substitute any one of them and be just as satisfied as we were with this one. A heavy-gauge aluminized steel makes this a durable, commercial-grade option with outstanding heat distribution. The patented "Americoat" nonstick coating, which is free of PFOAs, PTFEs, and BPAs, is paired with a fluted bottom for easy cake release and cleaning.

A minor criticism is that the aluminized steel takes slightly longer to heat up and cool down than a fully aluminum pan. But even when baking a clafoutis — which cools in the pan — we had no issues with an over-browning crust. Based on price alone, this pan is likely better suited for the home-baker who aspires to create professional-level desserts than the professional chef looking to stock a kitchen. But considering it is available in a variety of sizes and shapes, either kitchen would benefit from the addition of this exceptional pan.

A beautiful clafoutis, thanks in large-part to this beautifully...
A beautiful clafoutis, thanks in large-part to this beautifully designed cake pan.
Credit: Aaron Rice

5

Best Square Pan


OXO Good Grips Non-Stick 9" Square


Material: Aluminized Steel | Coating/Finish: Ceramic-reinforced, PTFE nonstick
Even heat distribution
Dimpled bottom promotes easy release
Ceramic-reinforced coating seems to deter flaking
Extended cooling times
Thin rim

The OXO Good Grips 9" Square Pan improves upon your classic piece of bakeware in a number of significant ways. The aluminized steel is lightweight, yet more durable than a standard aluminum pan, and provides a much more even temperature profile that is perfect for cakes and brownies. The dimpled bottom improves cake removal, but the secret to this pan's success is in the nonstick coating. The ceramic reinforcement of the coating not only makes this cake pan exceptionally easy to grip but seems also to discourage the flaking that is so common after repeated handwashing.

Despite the improved durability of the nonstick coating, we would like to see poly-based finishes like PTFE (e.g., Teflon) become a thing of the past. Also, for a single pan, this product is pricey, which might dissuade many professional bakers looking to outfit a new kitchen. But it is available in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, from loaf and muffin tins to deep-dish pizza pans and even standard, quarter-sheet pans, making it an enticing option.

Are you baking brownies? This OXO pan is exceptional, even for...
Are you baking brownies? This OXO pan is exceptional, even for simple sheet cakes.
Credit: Aaron Rice

6

Best Bundt Pan


Wilton Perfect Results Non-Stick Bundt Pan 9" Fluted Tube


Material: Chromium Steel | Coating/Finish: Nonstick
Easy to remove thanks to the design
Easy-to-grab handles
A wide lip catches spill over during baking
Size makes it slightly difficult to store
Not available in multiple sizes

The Wilton Perfect Results 9" Fluted Tube Pan is not only an exceptional value for a specialty cake pan but also offers superb cooking performance to back that value up. The heavy-gauge chromium steel is the secret behind its evenly distributed temperature profile. Wide, shallow grooves give your tube cakes a classic look but also contribute to an effortless release. Most importantly, this pan is designed with ease of use in mind: solid handles offer an improved grip, and a wide lip is there to catch any extra batter, just in case your cake bubbles over while baking.

This sturdy pan is surprisingly lightweight for its construction, but its overall size means storage can be a pain. We would also prefer that the nonstick coating was both PFOA- and PTFE-free. Additionally, it would be nice to have this pan available in a variety of sizes because its deep, 9" shape ends up making a big cake — so make sure you're ready to share the goods.

One tap and out pops a perfectly formed coffee cake, and not one...
One tap and out pops a perfectly formed coffee cake, and not one crumb stuck to surface of this pan.
Credit: Aaron Rice

7

Best Cheesecake Pan


Hiware 6" Non-Stick Springform


Material: Steel | Coating/Finish: BPA, PFOA-, and PTFE-free nonstick
Lightweight and versatile
Includes pre-cut parchment bottoms
Chemical-free coating
Limited nonstick capability
Slightly delicate despite steel construction

No baker's cupboard is complete without a springform pan, and the Hiware 6" Springform is a durable option, thanks to its lightweight steel construction and stainless steel buckle. Springform pans are noted for their versatility and for excelling in baking delicate, crusted desserts and dishes, like cheesecakes. Not only is this pan thoughtfully designed to last, but Hiware graciously includes 50 pre-cut parchment linings. This pan is available in 6", 7", 8", and 10" diameters, and all are designed to fit either a six- or eight-quart pressure cooker.

We really appreciate the chemical-free coating on this pan but concede to the irony of wishing that it was more nonstick. Despite the springform design and pre-cut parchment inserts, we still had to use a knife to separate the Graham cracker crust of our cheesecake from the bottom of the pan. Fortunately, this pan is a cinch to clean and store and will undoubtedly become a constant companion in your baking adventures.

What's easier to use than a springform pan? A springform pan that is...
What's easier to use than a springform pan? A springform pan that is perfectly designed to fit a pressure cooker, so you can set-and-forget dessert and focus on cooking the main course.
Credit: Aaron Rice

8

Best Angel Food Cake Pan


Wilton Angel Food Cake 10" Tube Pan


Material: Aluminum | Coating/Finish: PFOA-free nonstick
Feet elevate pan, eliminating the need to cool on a bottle
Pop-up bottom improves cake removal
Quick cool time
Thin aluminum for a "professional" pan
Tough to clean

Just like the Wilton square pans above, the 10" Wilton Angel Food Cake Tube Pan offers a top-quality piece of bakeware at an exceptional value. Although it is also offered in a chromium-steel version with a nonstick coating, we opted to test the more professional, quick-cooling aluminum model. We picked this model particularly because it offers a removable bottom/core and feet that elevate the pan for uncomplicated cooling. When compared to the classic method of cooling a delicate Angel Food or chiffon cake — which requires careful balancing on a longneck bottle — this pan offers a simple alternative.

We are surprised at just how thin the aluminum sidewalls are on this pan but are overall impressed with its baking performance when compared side-by-side to the heavier-weight option from Nordic Ware discussed below. It is certainly not a "heavyweight" pan as advertised, but based on our baking experience, we see no reason why this pan won't last years with proper storage and care. The PFOA-free nonstick coating allows the sides of a cake to slide out with ease. However, we had a particularly tough time cleanly removing the pan's core without pulling away part of the cake top. But to its benefit, this is a constant struggle of baking cakes for which you cannot grease the pan.

The feet on the Wilton Angel Food Cake Pan (front) allow for...
The feet on the Wilton Angel Food Cake Pan (front) allow for a level of ease and efficiency that should speak for itself when compared to the classic technique for cooling this type of cake.
Credit: Aaron Rice

9

Great Price-Point for Professional Quality


Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" Non-Stick Round


Material: Aluminized Steel | Coating/Finish: Xylan nonstick
Even heat distribution
Top-quality durability
Fluorocarbon-based nonstick coating
No handles

The aluminized steel construction of the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" Round Pan provides the opportunity to bake top-quality cakes at a fraction of the cost. In side-by-side tests with direct competitors, this pan baked a simple yellow cake more evenly than even the top-scoring pans. Even though the aluminized steel is not quite as thickly cast as other comparable pans, you still reap the benefits of uniform heat distribution and enhanced durability.

It is unfortunate that this pan is coated with Xylan, a PTFE-based nonstick coating. Regardless of the potential health concerns, Xylan is at best a mid-tier nonstick coating, which doesn't befit an otherwise great pan. But if you are able to care for it properly, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" is nearly a professional quality pan at a much more affordable price point.

Without a doubt, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" has one of the most...
Without a doubt, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" has one of the most even heat profiles of any pan we tested.
Credit: Aaron Rice

10

An Ideal Set for Professionals


Fat Daddio's 3-Piece Celebration Set


Material: Hard-Anodized Aluminum | Coating/Finish: Non-reactive finish
Perfectly designed for a single cake recipe
Quick heat-up and cool-down times
Should be washed or soaked immediately
Stacking set doesn't sit quite flush

Whether you are already a pastry chef or a soon-to-be Cake Boss, the Fat Daddio's 3-Piece Celebration Set might be your next set of professional bakeware. From the pro-perspective: hard-anodized aluminum construction is lightweight, durable, and offers incredibly rapid temperature adjustment. For the home-baker: the set perfectly fits the batter from a single recipe (even a single box-cake mix), and the 3", 5", and 7" pans offer versatility at an affordable price.

Why we make the distinction that these are best suited for a professional kitchen comes down to cleaning. These pans have a non-reactive finish which reduces chemical residue or off-putting metallic taste. But without a coating, they must be washed (or at least soaked) immediately after a cake is removed. Annoyingly, this is also another nesting set that doesn't stack quite evenly. But their durable aluminum construction makes it likely that these pans will last generations, even if they get knocked around in the cupboard.

Although we wouldn't normally bake a cake-in-a-box with a...
Although we wouldn't normally bake a cake-in-a-box with a professional set of pans, we had to test this set's claims that it is perfectly sized to fit a single-box recipe... that claim is verified.
Credit: Aaron Rice

11

Perfect for Single-Serving Desserts


Fat Daddio's 3" Round Cheesecake Pan


Material: Hard-Anodized Aluminum | Coating/Finish: Non-reactive finish
Lightweight and durable
Available in a variety of sizes and depths
Should be washed or soaked immediately
Skeptical of push-up bottom for clean removal of larger cakes

The Fat Daddio's Round Cheesecake Pan is, for all intents and purposes, identical to the pans included in the Celebration Set described previously. The main distinction is the removable, "push-up" style bottom, which makes it a great alternative to the classic springform pan. Just like the other Fat Daddio's pans we tested, this is made with a lightweight, quick-cooling, and impressively durable hard-anodized aluminum — perfect for the rigors of a professional kitchen. Like the Hiware Springform pan, this cheesecake pan is designed to fit into a pressure cooker for easy baking. But unlike the Hiware, this one is offered in more sizes and depths to accommodate 3-, as well as 6- and 8-quart instant pots.

We only tested the miniature, 3" diameter pan, which was perfect for baking adorable, single-serving cakes — or, in the case of a rich cheesecake, a perfectly shareable portion. The non-reactive aluminum cleans easily enough, just as long as you remember to soak it as soon as the cake is removed. While the push-up design works well for smaller cakes, we can see it providing a bit of trouble for clean removal of larger diameter cakes, at least until you perfect this style of removal.

Have you ever seen a more adorably-sized cheesecake?
Have you ever seen a more adorably-sized cheesecake?
Credit: Aaron Rice

12

A Unique Bundt Pan


Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Heritage Bundt Tube Pan


Material: Cast Aluminum | Coating/Finish: Nonstick
Heating and cooling properties of aluminum, with steel-like weight and durability
Cast construction results in superb heat distribution
Unique shape makes it difficult to clean well
No handles

We absolutely love this Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan, not only for its unique design, but for its unsurpassed baking performance. Cast aluminum is very different from extruded or hammered alloy — the metal is actually poured into a cast rather than stripped or pounded thin, resulting in a pan with the heavy-duty durability of steel plus all of the heating and cooling benefits of aluminum. The cast construction gives this Bundt pan superb heat distribution, with the ability to produce intricate cakes that cook perfectly and pop out easily without falling apart.

As a specialty item, this tube pan is not nearly as versatile as other bakeware we tested. It could best be improved with handles to help support its heavy weight, especially when removing it from the oven. The Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan is designed with a beautifully complex shape that turns heads at any bake sale, but unfortunately, these deep grooves prove difficult to clean. Beyond those relatively minor flaws, it is simply tough to justify spending nearly twice as much on a Bundt pan that performs only marginally better (yet lacks the improved design characteristics) of our top choice, the Wilton Perfect Results Fluted Tube pan.

Looking for a design that will undoubtedly set your cake apart from...
Looking for a design that will undoubtedly set your cake apart from the rest of the crowd? Look no further.
Credit: Aaron Rice

13

A No-Frills Tube Pan


Nordic Ware Heavyweight Angel Food Cake 10" Tube Pan


Material: Chromium Steel | Coating/Finish: Silicone nonstick
Easy to clean thanks to silicone coating
Lightweight despite durable steel construction
Rounded sidewalls make it difficult to cut cakes free cleanly
Lack of design features makes it all-around difficult to remove cakes

The battle between tube pans — in both subcategories of Angel Food and Bundt — was overall a very similar one. For each category of tube pan, we directly compared models from Nordic Ware and Wilton. The chromium steel construction of the Nordic Ware Heavyweight Angel Food Cake Pan is plenty capable of producing a well-baked cake but completely omits any of the design attributes that help you through the baking process.

The rounded seams actually make it harder to cleanly cut away a cake because you cannot bend a knife blade to cleanly separate the cake from the pan where the sidewalls meet the bottom edge. It took a lot of effort to remove cakes from this pan — involving multiple rounds of cutting and knocking — only to end up with a lot of the cake still stuck to the pan. The silicone coating of the Nordic Ware Heavyweight Angel Food is indeed very easy to clean, but that's only a slight reprieve after fighting to free your cake. So unless you exclusively cook with nonstick, steel bakeware, we suggest saving half of your money and checking out the Wilton Perfect Results before baking your next Angel Food or chiffon cake.

A classic design for a classic cake. This pan will certainly put...
A classic design for a classic cake. This pan will certainly put your skills and technique to the test on your way to mastering a beautiful chiffon cake.
Credit: Aaron Rice

14

An Affordable Carbon Steel Pan


Simply Calphalon 8" Nonstick


Material: Carbon Steel | Coating/Finish: Nonstick coating
Even heat distribution
Deep design makes it versatile for more than just desserts
Durability issues
Expensive for its quality

The Simply Calphalon Nonstick 8" Square pan is a price-point option if you want to experience the difference of carbon steel for yourself. Carbon steel pans are significantly lighter weight, yet provide many of the same heat distribution advantages of cast iron. While it will not heat up as quickly as aluminized steel or a simple aluminum pan, once up to temperature, you can expect an even heat distribution that results in ideally browned cakes. While carbon steel cooking pans do need to be seasoned like cast iron to avoid a sticky mess, the toffee-colored nonstick coating of pans in Calphalon's Simply Nonstick series lives up to the claim that it "releases twice as easily as Calphalon Classic Nonstick" — indeed, even an accidentally overbaked yellow cake slid out with little effort.

For all of its positive qualities, the Simply Calphalon Nonstick presents some potentially serious durability issues. We noticed that the "interlocking" design of the nonstick coating scratches very easily, which can allow moisture to get up underneath and loosen the layers of nonstick coating. Once the coating has been compromised, water can penetrate and begin to rust the iron core. There are many reports of this happening to folks, though we did not experience it during our relatively short testing period. If you are able to avoid scratches by using silicone utensils, this pan does present a fairly good value for quality bakeware.

As long as you can take good care of it, the nonstick capability of...
As long as you can take good care of it, the nonstick capability of the Simply Calphalon 8" certainly makes life easier when it comes to both baking and cleaning.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Why You Should Trust Us


One of our kitchen experts, Aaron Rice, volunteered for the tough task of baking and eating all of these cakes (although admittedly, many were shared with friends.) More of a self-proclaimed cook than a baker, Aaron also enlisted the help of his talented wife, who has baked everywhere from professional kitchens to Dutch ovens over a campfire while leading expeditions in Alaska. Together, they also co-manage an on-site culinary garden for a fine-dining restaurant in Santa Fe and spend much of their free time cooking and baking at home — the perfect arena for the ensuing bake-off that put all of these cake pans to the test. Beyond cooking, baking, and growing food, you will likely find Aaron somewhere in the high mountains of New Mexico — he additionally works as a full-time ski patroller and avalanche educator.

The proof is in the pan, and the USA Pan 8" Round consistently...
Our side-by-side comparison testing allows us to examine the subtle...
No cooking task is complete without the subsequent washing...

Before any actual baking occurs, our experts perform their collective due diligence, spending hours online researching the market's top products. After narrowing the selection down, we purchase all products at retail value so that we can write as unbiased and objective reviews as possible. This comprehensive review of cake pans is the result of weeks of intensive, side-by-side testing. We used these products daily in our kitchens — ones that likely look very much like the one in your own home — and back-up that home-grown experience with assessments designed to scrutinize every detail of each pan. By directly comparing some of the highest quality products on the market, we can bring you a truly helpful and definitive review. Whether you are a professional with years of experience or a home-baker looking to hop on the train of the next baking craze, this guide will help you find a pan (or pans) that best suit the needs of your kitchen.

Time to enjoy the cakes of our labor! We hope that this review...
Time to enjoy the cakes of our labor! We hope that this review brings you one-step closer to recreating this same scene from the comfort of your own home.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Analysis and Test Results


It doesn't really matter whether you would like to build a beautiful, tiered cake or bake a simple batch of brownies. If you want to bake your own delicious sweets, then you are likely going to need a baking pan — often referred to as a "cake pan" — to help satisfy that sweet tooth. To directly compare the options, we considered four key components that help define a great cake pan: baking performance, utility, ease of use, and versatility. We recognize that heat distribution is likely more important to you than storage capability, so these factors are all individually weighted. Beyond technical examination, we baked a list of items nearly as varied as the shapes and sizes of these pans, including everything from boxed cake mixes to a classic French clafoutis. We compared these pans side-by-side, which allows us to rank them relative to one another within the confines of these comprehensive and mutually exclusive metrics. It is important to note that since we only test high-quality products, we firmly believe even the lowest-scoring pans are a worthy addition to any bakeware collection.

Both the Nordic Ware and Wilton angel food cake pans bake very...
Both the Nordic Ware and Wilton angel food cake pans bake very similarly, but the major differences reveal themselves when it comes to the critical task of cake removal.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Baking Performance


Baking performance is mainly a question of how a pan controls temperature; namely, how efficiently and evenly heat is distributed and dispersed within a pan. That question can often easily be answered by determining the type and quality of the material used to make the pan. Steel tends to be great in terms of consistent heat distribution and an even temperature profile but often takes longer to heat and cool due to its thermal properties. Conversely, aluminum has the ability to heat up and cool off quickly but doesn't always disperse heat evenly. Both materials have their merit, depending on what you want to bake.

The thick sidewalls of the round pans in the Chicago Metallic...
The thick sidewalls of the round pans in the Chicago Metallic Professional set helps bake cakes with perfectly browned sides, that slowly separate themselves from the sidewalls to make for easy removal.
Credit: Aaron Rice

But when it comes down to the quality of material and craftsmanship, it is hard to argue a fine-quality pan against one of a lesser constitution. Our testing has proven that aluminized steel is at the top of the list when it comes to baking performance. Options like the All-Clad Pro-Release 9", USA Pan 8", and Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" round pans, as well as the OXO Good Grips 9" square pan bake with even, well-dispersed heat that offers the feel of a commercial-grade product.

Testing a clafoutis baked in the award-winning USA Pan 8" round.
Not all aluminized steel pans cook the same. Baking a simple yellow...

Not far behind are the cold-rolled and chromium steel-built pans like the Wilton Perfect Results 8" Square and 9" Fluted Tube — these pans are slightly heavier and cool a bit slower than their aluminized steel counterparts but still offer impressively even heat distribution. The surprising outlier is the Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan, which likely produced the most well-baked cake of our entire review. We attribute this to the cast-aluminum construction — this process results in a thick-walled, heavyweight aluminum pan that practically combines the best qualities of aluminum and steel.

The Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan produced beautiful, perfectly...
The Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan produced beautiful, perfectly browned coffee cakes that had no trouble maintaining their shape, despite an intricate design.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Utility


The more frequently we use a piece of cookware or bakeware, the more sentiment we tend to attach to that item — if we're lucky, they get passed down as an heirloom pan, to be enjoyed for generations to come. In assessing the overall utility of a baking pan, we heavily weight durability in our considerations. But it is also important to focus on how this new piece of bakeware influences your here-and-now. Be sure to take into account certain design specifics, such as the nonstick coating or finish, that help you produce more beautifully baked goods.

The even temperature profile and impressive non-stick qualities of...
The even temperature profile and impressive non-stick qualities of the Wilton Perfect Results Premium Bundt Pan allow you to bake cakes that all but fall out of the pan.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Good ol' steel — whether cold-rolled, aluminized, carbon, or chromium — is a safe bet when it comes to the durability and longevity of a pan. Notably, we have consistently been impressed with aluminized steel for its ability to deftly incorporate chemical-free, nonstick coatings into a strong pan with the weighty feel one would expect from a professional pan. The highly-regarded All-Clad Pro-Release 9" Round and OXO Good Grips 9" Square pans are the only two pans we tested that have ceramic-reinforced nonstick coatings for extra durability. The lightweight steel construction of the Hiware 6" Springform pan also utilizes a PFOA-, PTFE-, and BPA-free nonstick coating. Although it isn't finished with the same chemical-free coatings as the pans we just described, the heavyweight, cast-aluminum build of the Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Bundt pan certainly passes our standards of what may be considered a true "heritage" piece of bakeware.

We appreciate that the folks at Hiware include pre-cut pieces of...
We appreciate that the folks at Hiware include pre-cut pieces of parchment paper with their 6" Springform Pan. But we would appreciate it even more if we were able to remove this cake without having to cut it away from the base.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The Science of Nonstick Coatings


We've already made a major point of discussing the different types of nonstick coatings, and it is probably obvious that our lead-tester is not a fan of PTFE-coated cookware. So what's the big deal?

PTFE, commonly known by the brand name Teflon, has been used to coat pans since the late 1950s and is still considered safe according to the American Cancer Society. However, PTFE is a fluorocarbon-solid and like other PFCs, still presents a significant pollution risk.

But PFOA is a more nefarious chemical that, up until 2013, was used to make PTFE. PFOA-based nonstick coatings can produce toxic fumes when heated near 500 degrees Fahrenheit — well within the range of any oven, even if you are not generally baking at those temperatures.

Finally, many of us are aware of the concerns surrounding BPA, particularly as related to water bottles. But that same chemical compound is sometimes used in the production of cookware and is particularly toxic when heated.

Ease of Use


In general, when it comes to cookware, it is safe to pass initial judgment on a particular product by asking a fairly simple question: does it make it easier to complete the task at hand? We tack on serious bonus points if there are certain characteristics that are thoughtfully applied to a design. Of course, cooking is always followed by the inevitable task of cleaning, so we also assess these pans on how easy they are to clean and store.

Thanks to a superior ceramic non-stick coating, we were able to lift...
Thanks to a superior ceramic non-stick coating, we were able to lift a full sheet of brownies from the OXO Good Grips Pro Cake Pan with hardly a crumb left behind.
Credit: Aaron Rice

The more complicated the cake or pan design, often the more there is to dissect in terms of ease of use. The tube pans — both Angel Food and Bundt pans — presented plenty to discuss on this topic. In both categories, the Wilton Perfect Results pans won out over the Nordic Ware pans, offering better design features and a better value. The Wilton Angel Food pan includes feet which allow for a much more effective cooling method, and the Wilton Fluted Tube pan includes large handles and a nice, wide lip to catch any over-bubbling batter that would otherwise be destined to burn to a crisp on the bottom of your oven. As it seems that Wilton built their company on thoughtful design, the Perfect Results 8" Square pans also have wing-like handles that greatly improve their stability when removing a hot pan from the oven. The same benefits of oversized handles extend to the award-winning All-Clad Pro-Release 9" round pan.

The oversized handles of the All-Clad Pro-Release are the stand-out...
The oversized handles of the All-Clad Pro-Release are the stand-out characteristic of an already exceptional cake pan, allowing you to easily maneuver this pan in and out of the oven.
Credit: Aaron Rice

We certainly appreciate any pans that incorporate a base design that not only helps improve its nonstick capability but cuts down on scrub time — this includes the fluted bottom of the USA Pan 8" Round, the dimpled texture of the OXO Good Grips 9" Square, and the wide, shallow grooves of the Wilton Fluted Tube pans. Even though we love the unique design of the Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt pan, the deep grooves that make the shape so spectacular are also surprisingly tough to get clean, despite its top-notch nonstick coating.

The non-stick qualities of its aluminized steel construction, and...
The non-stick qualities of its aluminized steel construction, and the fluted design on the bottom of the pan make the USA Pan 8" round incredibly easy to clean.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Versatility


We ranked versatility less than the other metrics, simply because when it comes to the world of baking, you often need a specific pan to bake a specific cake. For instance, you wouldn't expect to use a tube pan to bake lemon bars, just as you could never produce a classic Bundt from a round pan. There are certainly types of pans, like a classic springform pan, that can be used to bake a variety of dishes from sweet to savory, cheesecakes to quiche. While we take that adaptability into account, we also heavily adjust versatility scores based on the variety of shapes and sizes available for a particular model of cake pan.

Sure, we're prepping another cake here. But imagine all of the other...
Sure, we're prepping another cake here. But imagine all of the other delicious things you could bake with the Chicago Metallic 3-Piece Round Set...
Credit: Aaron Rice

It should not come as much of a surprise that the sets we tested score highly in terms of versatility because you are getting two or three pans for the price of one. In this regard, the Chicago Metallic 3-piece set offers more value than the Fat Daddio's 3-Piece Celebration Set because you are able to use these wider diameter pans for baking pies, family-size crisps, and even cinnamon rolls. If you're seeking the versatility of a wide pan without having to invest in a set, the Cuisinart Chef's Classic 9" round pan offers a nice median between standard 8" pans and the 10" ones that often only come in sets.

Without a doubt, a tube pan is a specialty baking item. At the same...
Without a doubt, a tube pan is a specialty baking item. At the same time, a pan like the Wilton Fluted Bundt Pan is a staple of any complete set of bakeware.
Credit: Aaron Rice

As single pans, the models from USA Pan and OXO Good Grips score highly because these manufacturers offer a large variety of shapes and sizes. The versatility of a quality springform pan like the Hiware model cannot be understated for any dessert involving a crust. It is just as amazing the mileage you will get from a truly quality set of square pans, like the set offered from Wilton Perfect Results. We particularly like the extra depth of the Simply Calphalon 8" Square pan for baking other things besides dessert, like a deep-dish lasagna.

The Fat Daddio's 3" Cheesecake Pan might be a specialty item as a...
The Fat Daddio's 3" Cheesecake Pan might be a specialty item as a small pan. But this same well-designed, push-bottom pan is available in a huge variety of sizes.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Conclusion


However you decide to move forward with your baking, whether personal or professional, any of these pans will offer a great place to start. We hope that our comprehensive review similarly offers a great place to start, breaking down some of the nuances between these pieces of bakeware to better inform your purchasing power.

We baked a lot of cakes for this project with the hope that our...
We baked a lot of cakes for this project with the hope that our comprehensive review allows you to spend your time baking instead of buying!
Credit: Aaron Rice

Aaron Rice