The Benefits Of Baking Your Cake In A Cast Iron Skillet

Classic American layer cakes are a labor of love. You need two cake pans that are the same size, space in the oven to bake them properly, and time to cool, trim, and frost them — it's no wonder we tend to think of cake as a celebration dessert. But if you're looking for an easygoing cake method, something that is for a quick weeknight treat or that's perfect for a casual dinner party, look no further than baking in your cast iron skillet.

Cast iron has a lot of benefits for baking. The thick metal sides and bottom will give the sides and bottom of your cake a little protection from the heat of the oven, and that allows the batter to heat evenly and prevent the dome in the middle that can happen when the edges cook first. But better yet, the gentle heat retained in the cast iron can give your cake a lovely crisp edge, as recipe developer Hailey McLean notes in this recipe for a simple honey cake. With all the flavors and beautiful golden color, there's no need to whip up frosting for this one, and the pan makes a charming serving dish, too.

Baking your cakes in cast iron

There are a few things to consider before swapping out an aluminum cake pan for your cast iron skillet. The first is the diameter of the skillet. Most standard layer cake recipes are designed for 8 or 9-inch pans, and the diameter of a pan makes a huge difference in baking. If you don't have two 8 or 9-inch cast iron skillets, you'll be better off baking layer cake batter in matching standard baking pans. Another is how much batter your skillet can hold – you'll want to allow room for your cake to rise, so don't overfill it. 

Cast iron is great for recipes you can serve directly from the pan in a single layer, like rich coffee cakes and single-layer chocolate cakes. If you prefer to pop them out of the pan before serving, use a circle of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan to ensure they'll come out without sticking. Of course, there's nothing better than a warm upside-down cake, and cast iron is perfect for creating that bronzed sugar syrup to layer the fruit on before baking. Cobblers and fruit crumbles are perfect for cast iron cooking, too. The heat of the pan helps to keep them warm for serving, perfect for a melty scoop of ice cream on top!