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A tube pan may not seem like essential baking equipment—until you try making angel food cake in any other pan.
Published Jan. 30, 2019. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 20: Spiced and Sweet
What You Need To Know
Do you need a tube pan? We've posed and tested this question numerous times throughout the years, and each time we come back to the same answer: For the best angel food cake, yes, a tube pan is essential. While most other cakes get their lift from baking powder and/or baking soda, egg-foam cakes rely on whipped eggs folded into the batter for lift. Because the cake is so delicate, it will collapse into a sticky mess if it's not cooked and cooled properly.
Tube pans—tall, round pans with a conical tube in the center—are designed to help egg-foam cakes in three ways. First, the tall sides provide a surface for the batter to cling to as it bakes, so it can rise high (unlike other cake pans, tube pans are typically not greased so that the cake can cling to the pan as it rises). Second, the conical center provides more heat to the middle of the cake, so the center rises and sets at the same rate as the outside. Third, a hole in the middle of the pan allows you to invert the pan onto a bottle for cooling; the pull of gravity prevents the cake from collapsing into the pan. Many tube pans have additional features to aid in cake release or inversion; we surveyed the market and found pans with handles, feet, and removable bottoms. Do these features really make for a better cake?
Easy Baking, Not-So-Easy Cooling
We tested five tube pans, priced about $15.00 to $30.00. Our lineup included a mix of nonstick and uncoated pans with a variety of features: three had removable bottoms, two had feet, and one had handles. We used them to make Angel Food Cake (a classic application) and Cold-Oven Pound Cake, a denser, more traditional cake that we sometimes make in a tube pan.
All five pans produced angel food and pound cakes of roughly the same height, shape, and interior texture; none of the cakes tasted or looked unacceptable. Despite differences in the color of the pans, most also browned the cakes sufficiently; only one pan made from a very light aluminum turned out cakes that were a tad pale. While this wasn't a deal breaker, we preferred pans that browned more deeply, which added a crunchier crust and more caramelized flavor.
We also preferred pans with feet—little pieces of metal that stick out from the top of the pan to support it when it's upside down. These feet allowed us to invert the pan onto a flat surface rather than try to balance it on a potentially tippy bottle for cooling. (However, the bottle trick works pretty well if you happen to have a pan without feet.) Finally, we liked the maneuverability of pans with handles, but we didn't think they were essential—all the pans were easy to hold, rotate, and flip.
Removable Bottom: Goo...
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