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A Big, Sparkly Secret That'll Change the Way You Bake Cakes

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Grease and flour is the go-to method for preparing cake pans, but something about it always rubbed me the wrong way. Too little and the cake clings. Too much and the cake develops a pasty exterior.

Then, one of my friends (also a baker), let me in on a little secret: You can grease and sugar instead.

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Sparkling with potential.
Sparkling with potential. Photo by Julia Gartland

If you imagine a cartoon, where my jaw opens, then falls right off, and my pupils dilate wider and wider, until they consume the entire screen, and everything is black and, suddenly, fireworks! Well, you get the idea of my reaction.

I have fifty-eight cookbooks in my apartment and forty-six include cake recipes. So I randomly selected one cake from each book. Methods vary by context, but mostly authorial preference, and here’s how they broke down:

  • Grease: 9 (19.6%)
  • Grease and flour: 19 (41.3%)
  • Grease and line: 11 (23.9%)
  • Grease, line, and flour: 7 (15.2%)
  • Grease and sugar: 0! (0%)

You don’t see grease and sugar on the chart because... zero cookbooks recommended it. Which means, this isn’t a little secret—it’s a big one.

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At first, I worried that the sugar would caramelize, creating a sticky sauce—but the sheer, lace-like coating does nothing of the sort. Unlike flour, which clumps, sugar granules want to establish an even layer. And unlike raw-ish flour, which no one wants on the outside of their cake, toasted sugar creates a sweet, sparkly, crunchy crust.

Tahini Cake with Blueberry Swirl

Tahini Cake with Blueberry Swirl by Sarah Jampel

Party-Trick Peanut Butter Cake

Party-Trick Peanut Butter Cake by molly yeh

Grease the pan, add a big scoop of sugar, tap around until there’s an even coat, then toss the excess. Use the trick anywhere you would grease and flour—save for savory applications. You can even grease, line, and sugar, too. I love the texture it lends to pudding-soft cakes, like this olive oil number; the sturdy crust that stands up better to frosting; and the oomph it adds to everyday snack and pound cakes.

If you’re feeling fancy, add salt or ground spices to the sugar. Or, if you’re making chocolate cake, stir in cocoa powder.

Just leave the flour on the shelf.

Want to try out this tip, like, right now? Start here:

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Chocolate Bundt Cake by Kelsey Banfield

OMG! Coconut Pound Cake

OMG! Coconut Pound Cake by ChefJune

Almond Coffee Cake

Almond Coffee Cake by Sarah Jampel

Strawberry Cake for Mother's Day (and Other Days)

Strawberry Cake for Mother's Day (and Other Days) by drbabs

Gingery Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemon Crunch Glaze

Gingery Olive Oil Zucchini Cake with Poppy Seeds and Lemo... by Sarah Jampel

Louisa's Cake

Louisa's Cake by Jennifer Wagner

What's your best cake baking tip? Tell us in the comments below!