After spending 12 hours researching and testing six different springform pans, we think the best option for most bakers is the Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 9-Inch Springform Pan (also see our guides to cake pans and bundt pans). It was the sturdiest pan we tested at such a reasonable price (around $15), and though no springform is entirely leak-proof, it was the closest to watertight than most. It has a nonstick coating that releases cakes and cheesecakes cleanly, and in our tests it didn’t overbake cakes the way many of its competitors did.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $18.
Before turning to writing, I worked for several years as a professional baker in Brooklyn, at Pies ’N’ Thighs and the Greene Grape Annex, so I’m familiar with all the ins and outs of making everything from bundt cakes to cupcakes. Now that I don’t bake for a living, I still love doing it in my spare time, and will use any excuse to bake a fancy layer cake.
When starting research for this guide, I read through reviews and recommendations from Cook’s Illustrated, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Fine Cooking, and The Kitchn (though not all of them cover every pan reviewed here). I also looked at threads on forums like Chowhound, Food52, and Cake Central.
I also interviewed three well-respected experts in the realm of cake baking, all of whom have extensive experience with home baking. Rose Levy Beranbaum is an award-winning cookbook author; she wrote The Cake Bible, which is considered one of the essential resources for cake bakers. Nick Malgieri is a former pastry chef and the current director of the baking program at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, as well as a James Beard Award-winning author of 12 cookbooks, including Perfect Cakes. Tish Boyle is the editor of Dessert Professional magazine and the author of multiple cookbooks, including The Cake Book.
The most important quality in a springform pan is that it should leak as little as possible. You don’t want cake batter leaking out into your oven. And you also don’t want water leaking in if you bake your cheesecake in a water bath, as so many recipes recommend. Unfortunately, no one has invented a totally leak-proof springform yet—you’ll see this reflected in the wealth of negative Amazon reviews for even the best of pans—but some leak a lot more than others. You should always wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil when using a water bath, but should that system fail, you at least want a pan that won’t leave your cake completely soggy.
A good springform pan should also be well-built. The latch should work smoothly and stay rust-free. It should be easy to fit the bottom tightly in place. The bottom should be sturdy enough not to warp or dent, and to double as a serving platter, since delicate cheesecakes and flourless tortes can’t usually be picked up off the bottom in one piece. The pan should be heavy enough to bake any cake or crust gently and evenly, not so thin that the edges come out overbaked. And for the same reason, light-colored pans are preferable, since dark pans absorb more heat, cooking cakes too quickly.
Springform pans most commonly come in a 9-inch or a 10-inch diameter size, but I chose to test only those that came in a 9-inch size, since in my experience and the experience of the experts I spoke to, this is the size most commonly found in recipes.
There are also a few things to look for in any pan. A good cake pan, no matter what the shape, should be sturdy and resistant to denting or warping, otherwise you risk ending up with a misshapen or leaning cake. The large majority of cake pans are made of metal—either aluminum or coated steel—and I think it’s best to stick to those. Thin, flimsy metal pans or pans with a dark-colored nonstick coating (pan coatings come in many shades of gray; “dark” means anything closer to black than silver) should also be avoided because both conduct heat too quickly. They’ll completely bake the outside of your cake well before the middle is done, so that by the time the middle is done, the crust will be dark and dry, if not burned.
A good pan should release a cake effortlessly and clean up easily. Many cake pans these days come with a nonstick coating, though a few widely used varieties don’t. I chose to test both, because each has its pros and cons. Both Boyle and Beranbaum told me they like nonstick pans best, because they release cakes like a charm and can be quickly wiped clean with a sponge. As Boyle explained, “You really want any little bit extra that’s going to ensure that the pan is not going to stick.”
That being said, nonstick pans can be easy to scratch—you’re not supposed to use metal utensils on them, and most are not dishwasher-safe—and the coating can wear off over time. For that reason, you’ll never see them in professional kitchens, and Nick Malgieri told me he “would never trust them.” He prefers uncoated pans, which may be prone to sticking, but will work just fine if lined with parchment.
Following the example of Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), I first filled each pan with water to see where and how much it leaked. Then I baked a simple, classic cheesecake in each pan, using this recipe from The Kitchn. I buttered each pan before using it, and I wrapped the bottom in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil before baking the cheesecake in an inch-deep water bath. After baking, I paid attention to how easily and cleanly the sides came off, and how easy it was to cut and remove a slice.
Since cheesecake has a bottom crust that prevents batter from leaking out, I also baked a simple yellow cake in my four favorite pans, to make sure that they could hold batter tightly. Batter is thicker than water, which means it doesn’t leak out nearly as much as water does, but a bad springform pan might still drip some onto the floor of your oven. Finally, I noted how easy each pan was to clean, and whether crumbs were hard to remove from the seam or the rim.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $18.
Arguably the most important test for a springform pan is the leak test, and in that the Farberware pan was at the top. When filled with water, it didn’t leak noticeably anywhere except at the latch, where it released a slow but steady drip. As mentioned above, no springform will be leak-free, but the Farberware was significantly better than many of the other pans. The Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum 9-inch Springform Pan, for example, poured out so much water from all sides that we decided not to even test it (we also weren’t fans of how much cake stuck in our test of Fat Daddio’s simple round cake pan). The pricey Kaiser Bakeware LaForme Plus springform pan also poured rather than dripped water from the latch area, and dripped elsewhere, and the other pans we tested all had at least some slow dripping all the way around the seam.
Leakage may not matter as much if your pan is tightly sealed around the bottom with aluminum foil, but as we learned in testing, foil can fail unexpectedly. If the foil does leak, it’s better not to have a pan like Wilton’s Excelle Elite Springform Pan, which let in so much water that a good inch or more of crust was thoroughly soaked all the way around. The Farberware, which barely dripped when filled with water, is likely to let less water in, leaving the cake salvageable. Plus the aluminum is less likely to fail on the Farberware than on pans like the Nordic Ware or the Kaiser, which have a lip jutting out around the bottom that prevents the foil from reaching as high. But if you’re really worried about leaking, both Rose Levy Beranbaum and Tish Boyle recommended this trick: Set the springform inside a 9-inch round silicone baking pan, which will stretch to fit around the springform for a tight, fail-proof seal. Though that’s only if you’re willing to spend extra on the silicone pan, which, as discussed in our cake pans guide, isn’t actually good for baking cakes.
When baking yellow cake, none of the pans leaked terribly. A few drips made their way into the bottom lip of the Kaiser pan, but otherwise no batter escaped. When it came to the quality of the cake, however, the Farberware pan was the only one that didn’t overbake the edges. This was thanks to its light-gray finish, which didn’t absorb too much heat too quickly (do note that the photo of the pan on Amazon appears much darker than it actually is). The finish on the Nordic Ware and the Kaiser is completely black, while Frieling Zenker’s Handle-It Glass Bottom Nonstick Springform pan has black sides, and the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 9-Inch Nonstick Springform pan has dark sides with a light bottom. The dark coloring absorbs heat more efficiently, and all of those pans yielded a darker cake than the Farberware.
Cake also released more cleanly from the Farberware than from any other pan. In particular, bits of cake clung so tightly to the sides and bottom of the Nordic Ware pan that it was hard to push open the latch. The glass bottom of the Frieling Zenker and the heavy bottom of the Kaiser pan also tended to hold onto the cake more tightly than the rest, and the deeply corrugated sides of the Frieling Zenker had the added problem of leaving deep imprints around the side of the cake.
At around $15, the Farberware feels nearly as sturdy as the expensive Kaiser pan (about $45) and much sturdier than the Nordic Ware pan. The Farberware’s lighter coloring on both the ring and bottom means it won’t overbake cake edges like those darker pans would, either. I didn’t find any specific recommendations for the Farberware pan, but it does have a rating of 4.7 across 166 reviews on Amazon, the highest of any springform pan so widely reviewed.
One flaw of the Farberware pan is that the bottom has a small lip around it, which makes it a little tricky to slide a serving utensil under slices of cheesecake. It was easier to remove slices from the Nordic Ware and the Kaiser pans, which have a bottom shaped like an upside-down plate, and Frieling Zenker’s glass bottom was best for serving, since it has no lip at all, is scratch-proof, and looks elegant. But these pans had bigger flaws than the Farberware in other areas—leakage, sticking, and overbaking—that ultimately outweighed the ease of slicing and serving.
If the Farberware pan sells out, the Cuisinart 9-Inch Chef’s Classic Nonstick Pan is quite similar. It’s about the same shape and weight as the Farberware pan, and it also has a nonstick coating that released cleanly. I didn’t like the “Silver” colored pan as much because its dark sides can overbake a cake, but a lighter, “Champagne” colored pan is also available. With four stars across 261 reviews, this one isn’t as highly rated on Amazon as the Farberware, and it sounds like some people have experienced more leaking than we did (which was none), but it’s the best alternative for the price.
The Nordic Ware Leakproof Springform Pan is a best-seller on Amazon, but it felt flimsier than all the other pans we tested. Cakes stuck, and its dark coating tended to overbake cakes.
Wilton’s Excelle Elite 9-Inch Springform Pan also felt thinner than most, plus it leaked terribly when water got past the aluminum foil barrier.
We liked the handles of the Frieling Zenker Handle-It Glass Bottom and Non-Stick Springform Pan, and the glass bottom makes a nice serving platter, but it’s not worth the price for dark, corrugated sides that don’t bake as pretty a cake as the Farberware.
A lot of bakers, including Nick Malgieri, swear by the Kaiser Bakeware LaForme Plus 9-Inch Springform Pan, but we didn’t think it produced significantly better cakes to warrant paying the extra $20.
And water gushed out of the Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum 9 Inch x 3 Inch Round Springform Cake Pan so quickly that we didn’t think it was worth testing further.
The Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Springform Pan is the newest pick from Cook’s Illustrated, but at $50, it’s just too pricey.
Originally published: April 11, 2016