When a recipe calls for greasing a baking pan — cake pans in particular — many bakers reach for the can of cooking spray. But the spray has some drawbacks.
One drawback of cooking spray is the build-up of residue on your pans due to lecithin used in the product . This means that cooking spray is not recommended for use on non-stick bake-ware or cookware. If you bake using cooking spray, you are likely familiar with that brown/gold sticky buildup that gets on your pans and is next to impossible to remove over time.
In addition to lecithin, cooking sprays also contain dimethyl silicone, which is an anti-foaming agent; and a propellant such as butane or propane.
Using cooking sprays when preparing cake pans can result in the edges of your cake “frying” in the pan while baking due to using too much spray, often resulting in a thick, dark brown edge; not necessarily visible on a dark cake or quick-bread, but a sharp contrast on a white or yellow cake or light-colored loaf of bread. Many cake decorators do not like that result.
Alternatives to cooking spray
There are several viable alternatives to prepping baking pans with cooking spray.
Shortening does a good job creating a non-stick alternative. Take it one step farther; grease your baking pan with shortening, then dust with flour, and you get a pretty good method for getting cakes and baked goods to easily slip out of their bonds after baking.
Add a strip or round of parchment to a lightly greased pan (greasing lightly holds the parchment in place when filling the pan), and you also get terrific ease-of-release results. but not every baker has parchment lying around — and parchment can be expensive.
My favorite method that enabled me to ditch the cooking spray when prepping baking pans is homemade baking release (aka “cake release”, “pan release”).
This release is used by professional bakers and is available in spray or tub form. There is even a home spray version from the grocery store that combines cooking spray with flour. But not everyone has access to these products and they are not necessarily budget friendly.
Enter the answer to your pan prep needs – make your own baking release for pennies!
A simple combination of equal parts cooking oil (vegetable or canola), shortening, and all-purpose flour that mixes up in minutes, homemade baking release can be stored in the pantry for up to two months, ready for use to brush on baking pans with wonderful results without the expense and drawbacks of cooking spray.
A lot or a little
The other thing I like about using baking release is that I can mix up as much or as little as I want. The ratio is always the same: one part oil to one part shortening to one part all-purpose flour. I usually mix up batches using 1/4 cup of the three ingredients, but it depends on how much baking I anticipate in the near future
I use an small glass jar with lid to store my release. I keep it in the pantry in a cool, dark spot; there is no need to refrigerate it and the mouth of the jar allows me to dip my silicone pastry brush right in. However, you can refrigerate it to extend its shelf life.
I stir the release before using if needed, then brush on an even coat, making sure to cover the bottom of my baking pan generously, but not so much it puddles, paying attention to edges and corners. I don’t grease my pans very far up the side (usually to where I anticipate the level of raw batter to reach); batter needs to “cling” to the sides to help it rise while baking. I go more generous on the coating of the release when prepping the pans for chocolate or runny cake batter.
I have not used parchment in cake pans in a long time, and now usually only use cooking spray to coat utensils or measuring cups to keep ingredients from sticking, protect plastic containers from staining from tomato sauce, lightly coat rising dough to keep it from sticking to plastic coverings, and some other kitchen tasks.
As much as cooking spray does have a place in my kitchen, it is no longer welcomed in my cake and loaf pans!
Homemade Baking ReleaseDifficulty: Easy
Homemade baking release that replaces cooking spray for baking pan prep.
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup solid shortening
- Place all ingredients in medium bowl and whisk well by hand OR electric mixer until smooth and creamy, a few minutes.
- Store in airtight container in the cool, dark pantry or refrigerate.
- To use
- Dip a pastry brush into the mixture and spread over bottom and sides of cake pan coating evenly, paying attention to corners and edges. Stir before using if needed.
- Make this in any amount you wish. Halve, double, or triple the recipe to suit your baking needs.