Cake stuck in pan: HELP!

You found the perfect recipe, you smelled the aroma of a freshly baked cake, and now the cake is STUCK! Noooooooooo! Sadly, it happens to the best of us. Here are a few things you can try to get a cake stuck in pan out of the pan.

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Fair warning: sometimes you just can’t get it out in one piece. (Like my beautiful lemon cake in the photo below.) Don’t give up without a fight! IF you cuss, feel free to let it fly throughout this process.

A cake stuck in pan. Half on the cooling rack, half in the bundt pan.

Don’t take to banging on the bottom of the pan to try and smack it out.

This usually results in the part that is unstuck coming out and the part that is stuck staying in the pan and lots of cussing.

This is one of those things that other people say to do and I say don’t. It only works about 50% of the time. (Isn’t that how percussive maintenance always works?) Sadly, the other 50% of the time the cake loses. I’m trying to SAVE the cake here so try more stable methods first)|

Reheat the cake pan in the oven

Try reheating the sides of the pan by popping it back in a warm oven for 5 minutes. 

Run a butter knife or spatula around the edges again, paying special attention to the corners of the pan.

After that see if you can get it out by inverting it onto your plastic wrap or cooling rack.

See if steam can help release the cake stuck in the pan

If the other suggestion didn’t work, you can try a steaming hot towel.

Invert the stuck cake and pan onto the cooling rack or dry towel on a countertop.  Lay a steaming hot damp towel over the pan, covering the entire pan.

Let it sit so the steam and heat can work to release the stuck bits. When the towel is no longer steaming, but still warm, remove it. Run a butter knife around the edge again and see if that worked.

Try a little more force

If you still cannot get it out,  try to use a silicone spatula and gently pry the cake away from the sides of the pan. Gently smoosh in on the sides of the cake to see if it’s stuck in the corners. Most of the times, the sticking is occurring right around the bottom corners.

A cake is a little spongy and can hold up to this as long as you are not too rough. At this point, it’s getting desperate, a small amount of breakage is better than losing the whole layer. 

Freeze it out

If the cake is STILL stuck, try more cussing, and then just let it cool in the pan all the way to room temperature. Then, wrap it in plastic and freeze it for 6 hours or until you feel like looking at it again. A frozen cake is a sturdy cake.

Now it will be able to take you wrestling it out of the pan! Remove the frozen cake by running a buttered knife around the edge and trying to get it to fall out. You can also try prying it out with an offset spatula or a fork. This may get a few damaged edges, but nothing a little frosting won’t hide.

NOW try percussive maintenance

If all of that failed, try banging it out, shaking it out, or whacking it very hard onto a hard surface, like a countertop or floor with a clean towel to catch the cake.

I know, there I was saying don’t, now I’m saying might as well try everything.

If it breaks in that aggravating way where a chunk of the top is stuck but most of it is fine, press the pieces back together, invert the layer on the cake plate and frost it.

Yay, the cake is saved! No one will even know the difference.

This German chocolate cake lived through just such an ordeal:

Cake stuck in pan but survived. 4 layer german chocolate cake with naked sides.

If the cake breaks in that really tragic way where it’s just a crumbly mess, there’s always trifle, cake jars, or cake pops!

Don’t be too discouraged, it happens sometimes.

Avoid the trouble next time: 3 ways to grease a baking pan

Questions or comments?

I hope a cake stuck in the pan hasn’t happened to you, but if you bake very often, I’d be surprised. It’s just one of those things that happen to the best of us. Hopefully, this post helps! Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment.

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A cake stuck in pan graphic with a 4 layer german chocolate cake picture
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About Mikel Ibarra

Mikel Ibarra holds a BFA in painting, is a certified cake decorator, teaches baking and cake decorating classes, and frequently combines her passions for the sake of art. Sweet Bytes is where she shares everything she knows about the art of baking and running a baking business.