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Tube Pans

Published January 2019

How we tested

Do you need a tube pan? We've posed and tested this question numerous times throughout the years, and each time we come back to the same answer: For the best angel food cake, yes, a tube pan is essential. While most other cakes get their lift from baking powder and/or baking soda, egg-foam cakes rely on whipped eggs folded into the batter for lift. Because the cake is so delicate, it will collapse into a sticky mess if it's not cooked and cooled properly.

Tube pans—tall, round pans with a conical tube in the center—are designed to help egg-foam cakes in three ways. First, the tall sides provide a surface for the batter to cling to as it bakes, so it can rise high (unlike other cake pans, tube pans are typically not greased so that the cake can cling to the pan as it rises). Second, the conical center provides more heat to the middle of the cake, so the center rises and sets at the same rate as the outside. Third, a hole in the middle of the pan allows you to invert the pan onto a bottle for cooling; the pull of gravity prevents the cake from collapsing into the pan. Many tube pans have additional features to aid in cake release or inversion; we surveyed the market and found pans with handles, feet, and removable bottoms. Do these features really make for a better cake?

Easy Baking, Not-So-Easy Cooling

We tested five tube pans, priced about $15.00 to $30.00. Our lineup included a mix of nonstick and uncoated pans with a variety of features: three had removable bottoms, two had feet, and one had handles. We used them to make Angel Food Cake (a classic application) and Cold-Oven Pound Cake, a denser, more traditional cake that we sometimes make in a tube pan.

All five pans produced angel food and pound cakes of roughly the same height, shape, and interior texture; none of the cakes tasted or looked unacceptable. Despite differences in the color of the pans, most also browned the cakes sufficiently; only one pan made from a very light aluminum turned out cakes that were a tad pale. While this wasn't a deal breaker, we preferred pans that browned more deeply, which added a crunchier crust and more caramelized flavor.

We also preferred pans with feet—little pieces of metal that stick out from the top of the pan to support it when it's upside down. These feet allowed us to invert the pan onto a flat surface rather than try to balance it on a potentially tippy bottle for cooling. (However, the bottle trick works pretty well if you happen to have a pan without feet.) Finally, we liked the maneuverability of pans with handles, but we didn't think they were essential—all the pans were easy to hold, rotate, and flip.

Removable Bottom: Good for Angel Food Cake, Bad for Pound Cake

Angel food cake is baked in an ungreased pan so that it can cling to the pan as it rises and won't slump during baking; the ungreased interior also helps prevent the cake from slipping out of the pan when it's cooling upside down. However, the lack of greasing makes it a challenge to cleanly remove the cake from the pan. For this reason, we liked tube pans with nonstick coatings, which made the process easier. Only one model in our lineup was uncoated, and while it was a bit more scratch-resistant than the others, we had trouble removing cakes.

A removable bottom was also essential. It allowed us to pull the entire cake out of the pan and then lift it off the base with no fuss. For fixed-bottom pans, we had to use a knife and significant shaking to coax out the cakes. While none of the cakes was ruined by our extra efforts, the exteriors of angel food cakes made in fixed-bottom pans looked splotchy and ragged compared with the crisp, picture-perfect cakes made in pans with removable bottoms.

This design comes with a drawback, though: the potential for leaks. We didn't experience any leakage when we made angel food cake, likely because the batter is very airy and light. But pound cake, with its wet, dense batter, was a different story. All but one of the removable-bottom pans leaked when we made pound cake in them. These pans also took longer to clean because pound cake batter pooled on the undersides of the pans. Fortunately, our favorite tube pan with a removable bottom didn't leak at all—its bottom fit snugly against the pan's walls, minimizing the gap and preventing batter from escaping.

Ultimately, we ranked pans with removable bottoms higher because angel food cake is the quintessential purpose for these pans and its success relies on their unique design. Pound cake, on the other hand, can be made successfully in a loaf, Bundt, or cake pan. If you choose to make a pound cake in a tube pan with a removable bottom, we recommend either wrapping the exterior of the pan with aluminum foil or placing the pan on a baking sheet to prevent messes.

Our winner was once again the Chicago Metallic 2-Piece Angel Food Cake Pan with Feet. Its removable bottom made releasing cakes fast and easy, and the snug fit of its base against the pan's walls prevented leaking, even with denser pound cake batter. Cakes made in this pan were nicely browned and perfectly tall, and the pan's feet made for sturdy cooling.

Methodology

We tested five tube pans, a mixture of nonstick and uncoated models, priced roughly $15.00 to $30.00, all with a 16-cup capacity. We used each pan to bake Angel Food Cake and Cold-Oven Pound Cake, and we made Tunnel of Fudge Cake in our winning pan. Angel food cakes were cooled upside down, either on the pan's feet or on the top of a wine bottle. A panel of tasters compared and evaluated all the cakes for appearance, texture, and flavor. We also tested durability by running a butter knife around the edges of the pans five times and washing the pans by hand five times. We compared the used pans with brand-new ones, taking note of any scratches, dents, or discolorations from testing. Results were averaged, and products appear below in order of preference.

Rating Criteria

Cake Appearance: Highest scores went to pans that browned cakes evenly and produced a light, fluffy, evenly baked crumb. We deducted points if the cake was overly pale or uneven.

Ease of Use: We liked tube pans with feet for sturdy cooling, handles for maneuvering the hot pans with ease, and removable bottoms, which made releasing the cakes a cinch. We docked points from pans that leaked or made it difficult to remove cakes, causing the cakes to emerge dented or splotchy.

Durability: We ran a knife around the edges of the pans five times and washed all the pans by hand an additional five times. Products lost points if they emerged from testing with scratches.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*