For cakes and brownies, you need a square baking pan.
Last Updated Feb. 14, 2022.
After receiving some complaints about our winning 8-inch square cake pan, the Fat Daddio's ProSeries Square Cake Pan, we decided to retest it. We also tested two pans that have come on the market. After retesting, we demoted our previous winner because it didn’t release baked goods as easily as others and because it was harder to clean. We have a new overall winner, the All-Clad Pro-Release NonStick Bakeware 8 Inch Square Cake Pan, and a Best Buy, the Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-Stick Bakeware Square Cake Pan. If you’d like a pan with straight sides—best for making layer cakes—our favorite is the Williams Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Square Cake Pan.
Square baking pans are handy for making cakes and brownies, but that's not all. We also use them for recipes such as Chocolate Fudge, Honey Cornbread, and Nanaimo Bars. Because we call for them in so many of our recipes, we decided to find out which of the many pans on the market was the best. We chose several models made of various materials. To test them, we made yellow cake and brownies in each, sliced the cooled baked goods in the pans with a knife, and then washed the pans repeatedly to evaluate durability.
What did we discover? Most pans baked food well. The pans produced slightly different-looking cakes, one model couldn’t hide a glaring durability issue, and cleaning these pans was not always an easy task. Happily, though, we found several models that excelled.
The materials of the pans in our lineup varied. We tested models made from metal, glass, silicone, and stoneware. Six of the metal pans had nonstick coatings; none of the other models did.
The first thing we noted was the slight differences in baking times. Because metal is generally a better conductor of heat than glass or stoneware is, the nonmetal models required more time in the oven to finish baking—5 to 8 minutes longer for yellow cake and about 5 minutes longer for brownies. Even with these differences, the baking times in all the pans fell within acceptable ranges.
Our recipes called for either greasing or greasing plus flouring the pans, which was sufficient to prevent sticking in almost every pan. We preferred models with a nonstick coating, which ensured that cakes and brownies released effortlessly. Models that lacked this coating sometimes had cakes or brownies stick to their interiors, making for less pretty results and more scrubbing during cleanup.
Regardless of material, all the pans produced appetizing brownies and cakes with golden-brown tops. Two of the cakes had slightly darker exteriors than the others, likely because they baked in darker-colored pans, but they were still perfectly acceptable.
We also evaluated how the cakes looked. Some of the cakes had rounded corners and edges that tapered outward. Some of the cakes were noticeably squarer, with straight sides. While these straight-sided cakes are important if you're making a layer cake—they make uniform, easy-to-frost tiers—for single-layer applications, home bakers will be just as happy with the cakes that have tapered sides.
We also noted was whether a pan had defined handles. Four models in our lineup featured rolled edges wi...
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Carolyn is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She's a French-trained professional baker.