Have you ever been tempted by those brightly coloured bakeware pans made of silicone rubber and in various pastel or ice cream shades? There must be a terrific market for these products, for you see these silicone kitchen gadgets everywhere these days, particularly as the interest in home baking has increased recently1. If you search online for 'how to use silicone baking trays' you will find more complaints that they are impossible to use than reviews that give glowing reports. It makes us wonder how many of these cute baking trays and moulds2 are now lurking at the back of your kitchen cupboard, never to be used again, or just thrown away in disgust.
Recently, some dedicated h2g2 Researchers pooled their thoughts and with a bit of urging, some actual testing was carried out. From a baseline of complete failure to get a cake out of an intricately-shaped mould to total success, we bring you our top tips. Don't believe us? We have photographic evidence to back us up.
We've discovered that bread is the easiest item to bake in these moulds. Being a dry dough, and not containing sugar, it tends to leave the sides of the pan easily, shrinking a little away from it once cooked. Just turn your bread out before it starts to cool, so as to allow the steam to escape from the bread and not let the crust soften.
First things first, cake mixtures vary. They vary a great deal and what is a standard cake mix in one country is an exotic type in another. In the UK for example, we have what is known as Victoria sponge, with equal parts of butter/marg, sugar, flour and eggs. It is this type of cake that we experimented with.
How to Ensure Your Cake Does not Stick to the Pan
Make sure the silicone mould is scrupulously clean. Wash it in very hot soapy water to remove any residue, then rinse and dry it carefully to make sure that no soap or water remains behind. This is particularly important if you've tried using the cookware once before, especially if your results were poor and your cake was glued to the silicone case.
Beat your cake mixture, but delay adding the flour until after the next step, which is coating the mould with oil.
Pour some vegetable oil into the tray and rub it well into all the surfaces with clean fingers. If you've used too much, pour the surplus out once you've coated every last bit. Dispose of it suitably, it's had your fingers in it! If you have spray-on oil, you might find this easier to apply. Any mild-flavoured vegetable oil will do, for example sunflower oil.
If the silicone mould is large and floppy, it's a good idea to use a flat baking sheet underneath it in order to steady it, as once it is filled with mixture it will be even harder to keep flat. However, this will affect the temperature of the base of the cake, so it's better if you can cope without this additional tray. Try removing one of your oven shelves and use this to transport the mould to the oven.
Fold in the flour to the cake batter then gently spoon the finished mixture into the mould, being careful to add the mixture evenly across the pan. Don't 'drag' the mixture around, as this will disturb the fine layer of oil and may result in areas where there is no oil between the cake mixture and the silicone surface.
Next, bake the cake as normal. Don't open the oven door until you're fairly sure the cake is cooked. If you have a browning facility3, don't use it. This will help the cake rise slowly and evenly rather than develop a cooked surface too soon in the process. The top of the cake will be the base once it is turned out, if you're using a mould as shown in the photos. Therefore the base is the part that needs to be slowly and thoroughly, but gently cooked. As with a metal baking tin, the cooked cake should be shrinking slightly away from the mould at the edges.
Then, and this is the part that is the single most important step: leave the cake to go completely cold, inside the mould. This is totally counter-intuitive to anyone who has baked a cake before. Run a knife around the outer edges, just to break any little areas where the cake may be hanging on.
Once the cake is cold, it will have become a bit firmer so you can handle it without it falling apart so easily.
Turn the cake over by placing a flat board or large serving plate on top of the mould and then turn the whole thing upside down. Using both hands, start peeling the mould away upwards, you can turn the mould inside out as you work. Do it as carefully as you can, checking that your cake is not breaking. If it does start to do so, then stop trying to remove that section and start in another place. You may find that the cake releases easily from everywhere else. If it does break away a bit, you can fix it later with a bit of icing.
And then, hey presto! Your cake has turned out, and with luck and a following wind you will find the pattern is visible on the lower surface, now the top of your cake.
Ice it as required. Enjoy!
As well as large cakes, the moulds are available in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Cupcakes are incredibly popular right now and much more economical to make at home rather than to buy. Our advice when using these moulds is to leave the cake in the mould, as you would a paper case, and decorate as normal. Advise your guests that the cases are re-usable (and not to dispose of them when your back is turned). Gather them up and wash them after the cakes have been eaten. They can go into the dishwasher to sterilise them before the next use.
If you prefer you can turn the cooled cakes out, ice them, then serve and eat. You can see a photo of some cupcakes that were baked in silicone moulds in this Entry about chocolate cherry cupcakes.