Perfecting our banana bread might be up there as one of the smallest, yet most significant silver linings of the past year. Lockdown has turned us into a nation of upskilled home bakers.
Whether we’re rustling up scones for a neighbour, whiling away a rainy Saturday making jam tarts or trying to master the perfect birthday brownies, home baking – amped up by the sugar-frosted delights of Channel 4’sThe Great British Bake Off – continues to be having its time in the sun. And behind every excellent cake is the tin it springs to life in.
When it comes to cake tins, size really matters. Following the recommended tin size is crucial to a good bake. It can be the difference between an inedible, soggy sponge and a victoria sandwich good enough to swipe gold at the village fete.
The breadth of materials, styles, tin quality and price points across the bakeware sector is vast and seductive, so it’s worth raiding your cupboards to see what’s gathering dust and building from there.
“Decide which kind of cakes you like to make – there’s no point buying a fancy bundt tin if you’re unlikely to use it more than once,” advises home economist and food writer, Sue Ashworth, who has been baking up a storm in professional kitchens and at home for more than 30 years.
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Ashworth says she “always look for easy-release tins – with either a good non-stick coating, a loose-base or a spring-release function – though I still usually line with baking paper. Remember, baking is a science – and one of the most rewarding skills you can master”.
If you’re new to baking, a 900g loaf tin, muffin tray and (preferably two) 20cm sandwich tins will make a decent starter kit without breaking the bank.
For seasoned bakers, or those that bake regularly, investing at the pricier end will almost certainly pay-dividends: the Lakelands, Le Creusets and Nordic Wares of the bakeware world have more than earned their stripes.
We’ve found something for every baker and budget. On our quest to find the best, we tested a variety of cake tins using the following criteria: strength and durability, the evenness of the bake and convenience factors such as ease of cleaning, non-stick coatings and invaluable, user-friendly design – basically anything that helps create a smooth, no-fuss, baking experience, allowing the cake to steal the show.
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Lakeland loose based round sandwich tin, 20cm
The classic 20cm tin is one of Lakeland’s bestsellers – and for good reason. Its exceptionally non-stick coating means greasing is kept to a minimum and the inner fill lines offer a useful indicator of just when to hold back on the cake batter for the perfect rise. The star performer across a competitive class of sandwich tins, our sponge rose with perfect even-ness and the loose-based bottom enabled a seamless transition to the cooling rack. Extra points for generous, grippy handles, perfect when you’re trying to exit a poker-hot oven at speed. A brilliant buy for a decent price.
Samuel Groves mermaid silver anodised aluminium fluted flan tin
Designed and made in England, the mermaid range of bakeware oozes style and substance and offers a lifetime guarantee to boot. This 8-inch fluted flan tin, perfect, too, for tarts and quiches, produced a cracking bakewell tart. The pastry, cooked to golden underneath, came away from the sides with ease and zero sticking thanks to the corrosive-resistant anodised aluminium which only improves with age. We’re also impressed by Samuel Groves’ green thinking outside of the kitchen: tins arrive boxed and protected by a hessian sack, instead of plastic, and the company are partnered with ClimateCare which helps to offset carbon emissions.
Tala performance brownie pan
A tray bake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and perfect when you need to stash lunch boxes with a slab of something sweet and hearty. After 122 years in the baking business, Tala knosws its tins. This heavy-duty non-stick brownie pan proved the perfect vessel for our fruity flapjack. At 34.5 x 24.4 x 4cm it required some filling but cooked evenly and washed up a treat in hot, soapy water. Perfect for batch baking, the tin is listed as safe in dishwashers, fridges and even freezers if you want to put the slicing up bit on ice.
ProCook non-stick bun sheet
This super-heavyweight 12-cup tin will make a worthy addition to your collection. Made from 1mm gauge carbon steel, it’s lab-tested non-stick coating was put to the test with a batch of cupcakes. A row baked with no grease, a row baked in paper cases and a row baked with the lightest greasing all rose to the challenge, appearing golden in colour and thoroughly cooked through, popping perfectly from each mould. Throw in a 10 year guarantee and we think it’s a sound investment – just try not to drop it on your toes.
Wilko shotblast round cake tin, 20cm
Perhaps one of the most surprising results of a two-day bake-a-thon was this deceptively simple contender from Wilko. Unlike its smooth and shiny counterparts, the shotblast has a rough, stone-like feel and a fixed-base bottom, yet produced a flawless sponge thanks to its non-stick coating that rose with just a smudge of grease for good luck. The tin washed up easily and is nestable, stacking up neatly with the rest of the Wilko range which features cake tin, roasters and oven trays, all at affordable prices. Ideal for novice bakers or anyone looking for great, budget bakeware options.
Judge muffin tin non-stick
Designed in Bristol, Judge has been honing its kitchen and bakeware since 1898. While there are certainly cheaper muffin tins on the market right now, this six-cup tin delivered the kind of results we’d only seen on the counters of boutique cafes and has become our go-to for wholesome giant muffins, packed with fruit, veg and seeds. At batter stage we tested half with a whisper of grease and half in muffin cases – the case-free muffins stole the show, fitting to the snug of the mould and rising to create beautiful golden, springy domes. Splodges of misplaced batter from the assembly fell off with ease and the tin washed up new in seconds using hot, soapy water alone. A stand-out tin for the muffin crowd.
Le Creuset springform tin, 20cm
As a baker you know you’re in safe hands with Le Creuset. This 20cm springform tin, part of the toughened, non-stick bakeware range, was hard to fault. The beauty of the springform tin is that its two-part clasp and release method enables the smooth, safe release of everything from delicate cheesecakes and tarts to fiddly, experimental bakes straight from the tin. The heavy gauge, carbon steel body produced a golden, well-baked Victoria sandwich which we left to cool in the tin before releasing to ice. The signature orange of the rubber clasp is a tactile, practical feature of a classic tin which, like all of the Le Creuset range, also happens to be very easy on the eye. Available in 20cm, 24cm and 26cm.
Judge baking sheet non-stick
We love a multi-tasking tin. Though pretty shapeless, a good, solid baking sheet will see you through from morning croissants to midnight cookies – with everything in between. We tested the two-coat non-stick properties of this carbon steel sheet from Judge with ready-made cookie dough and some simple, homemade bread buns. Both rose to an even bake with minimum greasing and the rolled edges at each end made handling the sheet a doddle, even with thick oven gloves. It also worked well for an extra batch of cased fairy cakes and cleaned up with ease.
Le Creuset loaf tin
Amid a sea of excellent loaf tins, we had to go forensic for this round of testing. The Le Creuset 900g/2lb loaf tin shone as a clear winner. On first sight and feel, it seemed over-sized but the ingenious thing about this brand is that they consider the experience of the baking process just as much as they do the final bake. The generous, wide rim and heat-resistant silicone handles mean transferring to and from the oven is – ahem - a piece of cake, and the lifetime guarantee takes a little of the sting out of the price tag. After executing an evenly cooked tea loaf, its heavy duty, glossy black veneer washed up a breeze. A loaf tin for life, not just for lockdown. Available in 23cm and 30cm.
Nordic Ware anniversary gold bundt cake pan
From hearts, swirls and forests to gingerbread houses and cathedrals, Nordic Ware’s line of architectural Bundt bakeware takes the form and sense of occasion of cake-making to joyful new heights. The anniversary pan, celebrating 75 years, is a nod to the classic: a heavyweight cast aluminium tin that, once baked, upturns to create a majestic ring of cake fit for a queen. Taking care to lightly grease the tin and the central cone with a little baking spray, our lemon and poppyseed cake batter was poured in to just three-quarters full, allowing enough space for the perfect rise following Nordic Ware’s helpful online tutorials. Once cooled and inverted, the cake came away with ease, ready for a lavish lemon frosting. Certainly not an everyday purchase but for special occasions it’s a showstopper.
The verdict: Cake tins
Lakeland’s loose-bottomed cake tin takes some beating. Practical, stylish and under a tenner, it’s a baker’s best friend. For anyone that struggles with pastry and achieving an even bake, the light and durable Mermaid fluted flan tin is a solid investment and it’s worth checking out the full Mermaid collection which is equally as reliable. We have to mention the wild card Shotblast cake tin from Wilko, too. Bargain-priced, and producing top-notch results, it does just what it says on the tin, quite literally. And we can’t ask more than that.
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