A Harte Appetite: The Versatile Springform Pan

Mar 29, 2021

From a culinary perspective, every season is joyous, but for me it’s always spring, at least in my kitchen. 

That’s because my favorite item of kitchenware is the springform pan.  The function of the pan is to make it possible to take out of the pan a cake which is too fragile to trust to the conventional method of turning it upside down and keeping your fingers crossed that it comes out in one piece.  A pan with a removable bottom allows the sides to be separated from the base, thus eliminating the need to risk inverting the cake.

A cheesecake might be the best example of a cake needing such a special contraption, and this was just the use the late Pierre Franey was thinking of when he introduced the springform pan to New York Times readers back in 1980.

The pan he had in mind was made by Kaiser, a German metal goods company founded in 1919 by Wilhelm Ferdinand Kaiser to provide quality equipment to avid bakers like his wife.  The company claims to have invented the springform pan, what it calls “the intelligent round cake pan,” and is the world’s largest manufacturer of them.  They make thirty types, including one with a glass bottom that can double as a serving plate.  Their inventory surely demonstrates the truth of culinary historian Alice Ross’ observation that the proper pan can be as critical to a cake as the batter itself.

Though I’ve made my share of cheesecakes over the years, I’ve learned that it would be a mistake to think of the springform pan merely as a cheesecake pan.  You can bake almost anything in it that you can in a regular pan, and not just cakes, for that matter.  For example, brownies, bar cookies, cornbread, bread pudding, and even lasagna.

Clearly, with the right kind of pan, spring can be popping out all over your kitchen any time of year.

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Mexican Lasagna

I wouldn’t try this recipe, adapted from cookbook author Katie Workman, in any pan other than a springform.

1 and ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 and ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 and ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
1 can (15½ ounces) white beans
1 can (15½ ounces) black beans
1 can (15½ ounces) kidney beans
salt and pepper
2 and ¼ cups frozen corn
4 and ½ cups coarsely chopped spinach
6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
cilantro
sour cream
salsa

Heat oil over medium heat, add onion, cumin, chili powder, and garlic and sauté until onion is softened.  Drain tomatoes and stir into mixture with ½ cup reserved juice and tomato paste.  Stir in beans, drained and rinsed, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until heated thoroughly.  Add corn and spinach, stirring until spinach is wilted and ingredients are blended and thoroughly heated.  Place one tortilla in the bottom of a 9x3-inch springform pan which has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Spread 1 and 1/3 cup of the bean mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle with ½ cup cheese.  Repeat with five more layers.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until heated through.  Let stand five minutes, cut into wedges, garnish with cilantro and serve with sour cream and salsa.