NOTE: This is just a small slice of a much larger information pie. Follow this link to access an updated, comprehensive version of this video tutorial: How to Fill Layer Cakes in the Pan
VIDEO: How to Depan a Filled Cake
Releasing a frozen cake from a the pan is not unlike wrestling with a Jell-O mold. Fortunately, a cold cake is a lot easier to handle than jiggly jello.
Once the cake is frozen, it may be unwrapped and popped it out of its pan. Note that it must be frozen to yield the best results. If it’s not cold enough, there’s a chance it might not come out all in one piece. If that happens to you, press it back into the pan, freeze it some more, then try again later.
4 Ways to Remove a Frozen Cake from the Pan
Hot Water Bath Method
The hot water bath method involves submerging the frozen pan partway into a larger vessel half-full of simmering water. This is the traditional way to de-mold molded desserts, the only caveat being that you need to find a vessel big enough to accommodate your pan. For larger cake tiers, this may prove difficult.
At one of the wholesale bakeries where I was employed, we produced a lot of 7″ – 10″ cakes. In that kitchen, we used the hot water bath method with a 12″ diameter deep sauce pan set atop a portable propane burner with the flame set to low. The flame kept the water hot for hours while racks of cakes were de-panned. I didn’t love how the water made the work station wet and messy but it was an economical and efficient method for depanning 50-100 cakes per day.
Heat Gun Method
One reader of this blog has reported success using a heat gun in place of the blow torch method listed below. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I suspect this may be the ideal method as a heat gun is safer than a blow torch.
Blow Drier Method
Another reader of this blog has reported success using a hair drier in place of the torch method listed below. I would only opt for a hair drier as a last resort since it would heat up the temperature of the kitchen and create wind. It’s also not the most sanitary choice as far as tools go. However it’s an option you may consider if you don’t own a heat gun, torch, or vessel big enough to make a hot water bath.
Blow Torch Method
My preferred method is the blow torch option because it’s quick, easy and doesn’t involve water. Moreover, this is how I was originally trained in a kitchen where we relied on a blow torch for several different baking techniques.
The torch method may be used on any size or shaped pan so it comes in especially handy when dealing with the larger tiers of a wedding cake.
1. Invert the cake in its pan and place it on a turntable.
2. Spin the wheel slowly with one hand while torching the outside of the pan with the other. Keep the flame moving to avoid overheating the pan. Do this for 5 seconds for a small cake (4” – 9” diameter) or 10 seconds for a large cake (10” or wider).
3. Stop and touch the outside of the pan; it should feel a little warm all around. The warmth of the pan will soften the sides of the cake, releasing its hold on the metal.
4. Flip the pan so that the cake is face up. Do not delay at this stage as the warmth you’ve created will quickly dissipate, causing the sides of the cake to once again freeze against the pan.
5. Run a small offset spatula around the outside of the cake to release the filling that likely has a suction hold on the pan’s sides.
6. Invert the pan and shake it in mid-air until the cake falls out. Be patient. It can take time for the cake to work its way out. You’ll know it’s working when you hear a sucking sound. Some forceful jiggling helps.
If the cake won’t release, repeat steps 4 and 5.
The end result should be a cold cake in the exact shape of the pan.
A cake assembled using this filling method requires far less buttercream frosting to crumb coat because (as long as the filling was spread all the way out to the edges of the pan) there are less holes/uneven parts to patch.
A cake assembled using this method is also easier to frost with buttercream because it starts out in the exact shape that is the desired result.
When using this method, make sure to leave time for frozen cakes to thaw in the refrigerator. Small cakes require 6-12 hours to thaw. Large cakes take 12-24 hours to thaw. It’s better to wait to start decorating a cake until it is fully thawed or condensation may form on the surface.
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