Learn this now, O Bakers. In the cake pan world, non-stick is a myth. If you really want to get your cake out of the pans in one piece (particularly if it's a very moist one), you cannot rely on Teflon.

Careful greasing and flouring, together with the proper technique for extracting a cake from the pans, will serve you better, and longer, than any non-stick coating.

The Theory

Greasing and flouring a cake pan is intended to create an edible, but unimportant, layer between your sticky cake batter and its hot pan. This layer should have no inherent cohesiveness; it should stick better to the cake and the pan than to itself.

When you take a cake out of a proplerly greased and floured pan, this layer splits. The pan will retain a coating of oily flour, as will the cake. It's flavorless, and can be brushed off or frosted over.

The Technique

The best grease to use is softened margarine or butter. Vegetable oil will do, but since it's liquid, it produces a thinner layer and increases the risk that the cake will stick. The exact nature of the flour used is less important: as long as it is white flour and contains no raising agents, it should be OK.

Place a knob of soft butter in the pan. Using a paper towel, spread it evenly all over the inner surfaces. Don't neglect the corners and sides.

Shake in a dusting of flour. Tilt and tap the pan until a layer of flour is coating all of the butter. Don't be sparing. A good way to coat the sides of one pan is to pour flour into another while slowly rotating it.

The flouring may highlight areas you missed in greasing. Use your buttery paper towel to fill any gaps, then sprinkle and tap until the holes are covered.

As a final step, sprinkle a little loose flour into the pan.

After Baking

Wait for the cake to cool before removing it from the pan. If you try to take it out before it's cool enough, you risk sinking the cake. (Besides, the cake will contract slightly as it cools, pulling away from the pan on its own.) It doesn't have to be stone cold. A good rule of thumb is that if you can't handle the pans with your bare hands, the cake is too hot to come out.

Once it's cool enough, run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Then turn the whole thing over. Hold one hand under the cake and grip the edge of the pan with the other. Your goal in the next few minutes is to keep the cake supported (so it doesn't tear) while avoiding taking all of its weight for very long (or it will sink).

Tap the edge of the pan sharply on the edge of a counter to shake the bottom of the cake loose. Turn the cake pan a few degrees and repeat until the cake starts to peel away from the pan. Don't try to use the cake's weight to pull it away from the pan; it is very likely to tear. Just keep turning and tapping until it's shaken all the way loose.

If the cake won't come out, use the bottom of a knife handle to tap around the edge of the pan base to help shake it loose.

If the cake wasn't completely stone cold when you took it out of the pan, be sure to let it cool all the way before frosting it.

ccunning and wertperch both inform me that another technique is to cut a circle of waxed paper (greaseproof paper in the UK) to fit the bottom of the pan. It should be put down after greasing. You should still flour the sides, though.

If you have waxed paper in place, it is easier to get the cake out of the pan. However, there still remains the matter of getting the paper off of the cake.

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