Have you ever ruined a cheesecake? We’ve been there, too. But never again: We tested every top-selling springform pan to find the best on the market.
Last Updated Dec. 1, 2020. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Elegant French Desserts
Imagine toiling for hours over a cheesecake—the final act in your showstopping holiday meal—only to unmold your perfectly baked, seemingly beautiful cake and find that it is crumbled, mushy, or cracked due to a faulty springform pan. Sadly, springforms are too often the culprit in dessert disasters. Unlike traditional cake pans (which require the baker to unmold the cake by flipping the pan upside down), springforms consist of two pieces: a round, flat base and a circular collar that latches open and closed, allowing delicate cakes to be unmolded upright. Unfortunately, the two-piece design leaves small gaps where water from a water bath (we sometimes place springforms in a roasting pan with water to control heat during baking) can seep in and butter from the crust can leak out.
Despite a decade of searching, we’ve yet to find a completely leakproof springform; even our previous winning pan from Nordic Ware leaks a bit. But we’ve kept an ear to the ground and noticed that a number of major manufacturers recently redesigned their metal springforms. A few also started making pans out of heat-resistant silicone. We tested eight top-selling models, including our old winner, priced from $13.95 to $49.95—two silicone and six metal options with, variously, glass, ceramic, and nonstick bases. We used each to make no-bake cheesecake, oven-baked cheesecake, and water bath–baked cheesecake.
The silicone pans were disastrous: They smelled like burnt rubber in the oven, they let water leak in and butter seep out, they had loose parts that were easily lost (ours went right down the drain), their soft silicone sides squished crusts, and their glass and ceramic bases underbrowned the crusts and wouldn’t release them.
Glass bottoms were problematic in general: One metal pan with a glass base made pale, pallid crusts that were practically glued into the pan. Darker metal makes for darker baked goods, and one pan’s black finish slightly overbrowned crusts (though not enough to affect flavor). We favored pans with light-colored nonstick finishes, which browned slowly and released readily.
A good springform pan should release cakes effortlessly, but a nonstick base wasn’t the only factor; time after time, cakes tore, crumbled, and cracked when we removed them. Some pans tore cakes along the collar, where a protruding seam clung to fragile swaths of crust. Other pans trapped crust on their bases: Springforms with flat or recessed bases were difficult to maneuver a spatula or knife along, and we often lost parts of the crust when we moved the cake or cut slices. We preferred raised bases, which gave us a full view of the cake and more room to leve...
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