*&%$#@! Silicone Pans

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I swore I would never use or buy silicone bakeware.

Now I just swear at silicone bakeware.

Am I alone?

I gave in to those flexible silicone pans because of the promise of muffins and madelines and cakes that would never stick. No more hunks of cake left behind in a cake bottom.

Even so, the thought of putting a piece of flimsy plastic bakeware in a 350-degree oven made about as much sense as putting a piece of Tupperware under the broiler.

Nothing says lovin’ like plastic burning in the oven. How do you spell carcinogenic?

What ultimately swayed me was a pastry chef at the former the Oregon Street Tea Co., a young woman who said she loved, loved, loved her silicone baking pans.

Her testimonial inspired me to cave in and buy my first silicone cupcake pan. I’m so impressionable.

I started with a little red cupcake pan.

I used a tried-and-true cake batter and counted the minutes until they were done.

Out they came. The good news was they didn’t stick. The bad news was they were all off-centered. Every one.

I tried again, this time I enlisted the help of my special batter dispenser. I poised the dispenser’s opening directly over the cupcake well and allowed the batter to gently fill precisely in the middle. It didn’t  matter. They ended up leaning to the left or the right, as if they were trying escape something scary as they baked.

I blamed that pan and bought a round silicone cake pan.

Same result.


I tried my sister’s silicone loaf pan and ended up with a delicious marble cake that was highly peaked on one end and deeply sloped on the other.

Thank goodness for serrated knives.

As someone who baked her first cake at 7, I know a bit about baking cakes. But the silicone pans had me questioning and cursing my baking ability.

Everything I baked in silicone looked as it had been baked in the Titanic’s oven.

I went online and searched for answers, and found none. What really frustrated me were those sites where people raved about how great silicone pans were for their flawless results. Show offs.

Finally, I quit using the pans. I returned to my old metal and glass pans. I made peace with taking a few seconds to butter and flour the pans, so the cakes wouldn’t stick, which is why I turned to the stupid silicone pans in the first place.

Even so, I wondered if I were to blame. Maybe I’d lost my touch. Maybe my oven thermostat was out of whack. Maybe my batter was weird. Maybe I misread the recipe.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was the fault of the silicone pans. Maybe, if God had wanted us to bake in floppy rubbery material he wouldn’t have created Pyrex and Wilton and Calphalon and Bundt pans in the first place.

That’s what I was thinking, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then son Joe emailed me about his plan to make chocolate ganache cupcakes for Valentine’s Day to serve to his Czech family and friends.

He said he’d bake them in his new silicone cupcake pan.

I tried to warn Joe. I told him how everything I’d made in silicone looked like a Gumby hairdo.

He said he’d never heard such a thing.

Kids. They do what they want. They live dangerously, even after we warn them.

Fine. Be that way.

He baked the cupcakes. And sent me a photo. (See above.)

His cupcakes had cookbook-perfect symmetrical rounded tops. No cupcake deformities. No need to perform cosmetic cupcake surgery or frosting sculpture to even things out.

Maybe it’s because Joe used paper liners.

Maybe it’s because the silicone pans sold in the Czech Republic aren’t defective.

Or maybe it’s because my son is a better baker (than his mother).

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Northern California in the tiny town of Igo.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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25 Responses

  1. Avatar Liz Merry says:

    Maybe put them on a baking sheet to keep the bottom level?

  2. Joe Domke Joe Domke says:

    The student has become the master…

    (I think it was the cupcake papers)

  3. Avatar Erin Friedman says:

    No, Doni – you are not alone.

    A friend gave me a couple of silicone baking mats – I put off using them for the longest time because it just seemed…well….wrong to put something that looked like plastic in the oven.

    Then I ran out of parchment paper and tried them. Once was enough. The cookies weren't crisp, the mats didn't seem to get hot enough. and the mats felt greasy even after repeated washings. I'll stick with tried-and-true parchment paper and grungy ol' cookie sheets.

    Glad to know I'm not the only Mom with kids who do whatever they darn well please. Cupcakes look scrumptious, Joe.

  4. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    Can't you tell people that asymmetry is all the rage in Parisian baking circles? Or that the uneven style cuts out some of the fat and calories?

  5. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    I put all my silicone pans in the sandbox for the kids to play with. That is where they seem to work the best.

  6. Avatar LJ says:

    Thanks for the input… I have often been tempted, but never could make myself buy one when I had 3 perfectly good "tins" and 4 just fine cookie sheets in the cupboard at home!!! So, will no longer be tempted and instead will chuckle each time I see one…. remembering what you said above!!!

  7. Avatar Lynda Bos says:

    Do they lean to the left or to the right? They could be making a political statement.

  8. Avatar Susan Daugherty says:

    Sorry, Doni, I love my silicon bakeware. I do use the bottom sheet underneath, the one with all the holes that is sold by Silpat. I always wondered why it was necessary, now maybe I know the reason. I received the set as a gift along with a silicon mat. I use the mat continually for roasted veggies and sweet potato fries.

    I also appreciate the fact that cleanup of the silicon muffin tray doesn't cause the granddaughter on dish detail to run screaming from the room.

    • Avatar dave joss says:

      Susan, I was enjoying the comments re. the silicone bakeware but this has nothing to do with that…when i saw "Daugherty" I flashed on the ones that were our neighbors in South Bonnyview Live Oak Lane in 1970. He was USFS and was transferred soon after we moved there. I'm pretty sure Ray was his first name…just wondered?? If i ever do start baking i'll stay away from Silicone! Dave Joss

  9. Avatar Jeannette Logue says:

    I used many different madeline pans and always wound up with dry, too-dark, ugly madelines. Not exactly the poetic result I was aiming for. I finally bought a silicone madeline pan and the cookies come out perfectly every single time. It's a little cooking miracle! Of course, madelines are actually baked upside-down, so if they are off-center, it's on the bottom that no one sees anyway.

  10. Avatar Larry says:

    Or…It could be a powerful vortex out your way, spinning its energy in ways that are beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

  11. Avatar jacki g. says:

    Joe, Doni…wait, did I miss the recipe for those "Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes"? A 'cupcake' search of anewscafe did not turn one up…is this an insider thing? They look wonderful, Joe…what kind of chocolate did you use?

  12. Avatar Tammy D says:

    I have given up on using the silicon baking pans because things do not seem to cook right and they stick. I now use them in my greenhouse. I am satisfied with the silicon baking sheets. I would definitely not buy the pans as a gift for anyone!

  13. Avatar Doreen Olson says:

    Doni, I know this is really, really tacky to question the honesty of someone I haven't even met, but did you specifically ask your son whether or not he trimmed his cupcakes up a little before applying the frosting? Or did he choose only the best to photograph? I could see one of my sons doing such a thing, just to flaunt his good results. I'll go wash my mouth out now & you can pretend I never said anything so mean.

  14. Avatar Lita says:

    I bought a set of those silicone cupcake cups also! After one use I decided they would make great paint cups…

  15. Avatar Art & Carmen Sho says:

    Doni, That was such a great story,so funny and very informative, thank you. I've also been tempted to buy new silicone bakeware, but won't now, no need. Sure glad I read this story!! I have plenty of good bakeware on hand and will continue to use them as they are safe. I loved the comment someone made regarding the cupcakes if they leaned right or left, LOL. And coming from Joe, I know that your cupcakes indeed were perfect. Look who mentored you! Great story. Love you!!

  16. Avatar Loves to Eat says:

    Doni, I enjoyed your story on the cookware, but really I was just glad to be reading one of your articles! I have missed your writing for some time. You just don't do enough anymore and I miss it! What happened to the 'Friday Dish' you used to do?

    • Avatar Karen Whittaker says:

      I, also, have missed Doni and Kelly~~ HEY! Where are you?!!! I hope you might be enjoying traveling the world, but if that's not the case, how about bringing back the Friday dish?!!! And some other things, like regular Blogs?

  17. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the kind words. Expect to see more of me.

    • Avatar Ginny says:

      You have had many wonderful humorous columns over the years.. Happy to know you are back in the swing of things, with your writing. All most of us need is YOU!

      God Bless.

  18. Avatar jacki g. says:

    Thanx for getting back to me! My sister-in-law, Michele, made that 'gateau' a few weeks ago and it IS grand! Would make wonderful cupcakes! How 'bout more foodie/cultural input from the Czech Republic? It's great to hear from you…Love to Marie, too!

  19. Avatar Doug says:

    As always, when in a panic in the kitchen, I breathe deep, take a sip of wine and ask myself "What would J do?" (er, Julia, not the other One…)