Pankind: Choosing The Best Materials For Cake Baking Dishes

Posted on: 18 October 2016

Even the most accomplished and skilled baker won't get far without a sturdy baking pan, and most bakers worth their salt will keep a number of baking pans for making cakes, loafs, brownies and other sweet treats. However, while we generally pay close attention to size, shape and capacity when shopping around for baking pans, it's easy to forget that the material your pan is made from can have a significant effect on your baking, and you should choose a pan made from a material that suits your needs. Here are the most common baking pan materials, along with their individual advantages and disadvantages:

Ceramics 

Ceramic baking dishes can be made from a wide variety of ceramic materials, ranging from traditional earthenware to modern heatproof porcelains, but they all perform in essentially the same way. Beloved by the high-temperature baker, these dishes are excellent at conducting heat, but are also thick enough to retain heat for a respectable period once out of the oven. They are also reasonably durable, and their clean, stain-resistant surfaces are beloved by kitchen aesthetes.

Unfortunately, while ceramic baking dishes can take a significant beating without shattering, they are prone to chips which can mar the appearance of your dish  and disrupt the shape of your cakes. These chips also act as a focusing point for heat, and can lead to burnt spots. You should also bear in mind that the high heat conductivity of ceramic means that some recipes (particularly very sweet and syrupy cakes or bars) may become overly-browned on the outside before the insides have finished cooking.

Glass

Glass baking dishes are made from specially manufactured heat-resistant glass designed to resist shattering even at incredibly high temperatures. The result is a baking dish with excellent heat conductivity, striking transparent looks, and (unlike ceramic dishes) no propensity to chip or scratch. The transparency of glass dishes also makes keeping an eye on your cakes while they bake very easy, a tremendous boon when cooking heat-sensitive recipes such as souffles.

However, while a glass baking dish will not shatter as a result of heat they are still as brittle as you would expect glass to be, and dropping one on a hard surface or benchtop can damage it beyond repair. Glass can also suffer the same problems with surface overheating as ceramics, and should not be used for very sweet recipes.

Metal

Metal baking dishes can be a useful addition to any cake baker's arsenal; however, choosing the right type of metal is important, as you have a number of very different metals to choose from:

  • Steel baking dishes are generally very cheap, and provide excellent heat conductivity. However, the thin layer of steel is poor at retaining heat, and may rust rapidly if not properly stored and cared for.
  • Aluminium baking dishes are more expensive and conduct slightly less heat than steel dishes, but do not suffer from rust problems. However, cakes should not be stored in an aluminium dish for long periods, as the corrosion-resistant oxide that protects the metal can also taint your cakes, giving them a bitter metallic flavour.
  • Stainless steel dishes are usually the most expensive metal baking dishes on offer, but are totally rust-resistant and retain heat better than other metals. Unfortunately their heat conductivity is relatively poor, and large stainless steel baking dishes can heat up unevenly to leave raw spots in your bakes.

Silicone

Silicone pans are highly prized by bakers with a sweet tooth, as their steady rate of heat conduction helps to prevent sugary recipes from becoming over-browned and scorched. They are also quite inexpensive, and their flexibility means they can be heavily abused without fear of damage. Silicone's greatest advantage, however, is its naturally non-stick surface, which makes removing even the sweetest and stickiest cakes from your dish a breeze.

Unfortunately, relatively slow rates of heat conduction mean that these pans will not brown recipes that actually benefit from browning, so these dishes are far from the most versatile choice. You should also be careful when slicing cakes in a silicone pan, as a sharp knife can easily puncture the flexible sides of your dish.

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