If you have a cake recipe that calls specifically for a tube pan, do you have to use one? Can you substitute a similar pan, like a Bundt cake pan? Generally, speaking, if your recipe explicitly names a tube pan, you probably should use one. Although a tube pan may look superficially similar to bundt pan, they are not always interchangeable.
What is a Tube Pan?
A tube pan has a tube in the center, hence its name, But so does a bundt pan. However, a tube pan will have high straight sides, a removable bottom, and, strangely, feet on its top.
Tube Pan Purpose
These pans are meant for very light delicate cakes like angel food cakes, chiffons, or sponge cakes. For this reason they are often called Angel Food cake pans. These cakes rely primarily on whipped egg whites for leavening and contain very little flour and chemical leaveners. Because of this, they don’t develop a sturdy gluten structure as they rise to hold them aloft. A tube pan helps these delicate cakes rise by allowing them to clink to the sides. This is why there is a tube. So that there is more surface area for the cake to cling to as it bakes. Otherwise, the cake would collapse in the center.
Once the cake is baked, it is still very delicate. So most of the time, the pan is turned over onto those weird feet. Cooking the cake upside down keeps it from collapsing and the feet allow for some air flow.
If you try to bake one of these egg-foam based cakes in a Bundt pan or other type of pan, it will generally fail. The cake will not rise and will simply collapse into a dense mess.
What is a Bundt Pan?
The name of the bundt cake pan was not just a weird idea for the name of a weird cake pan. The design of the Bundt cake pan was based on a traditional pan and the name came from the cake made in that pan. But first, notice I capitalized bundt the second time? That is because Bundt used to be a trademarked term for this type of cake pan.
A bundt pan is a ring-shaped cake pan with fluted and scalloped sides. The design of it is based on centuries-old German cakes called Bundkuchen (boonkt-ku-hun), or Gugelhupf (google-hopf).
Bundt Pan Purpose
Bundt pans are meant for very dense cakes. In fact, the first cakes baked in these pans were more like breads than cakes. Originally, these cakes were made in ceramic or cast-iron pans. The fluted design helped the cakes bake, apparently, more quickly and evenly, since the areas where the pans were scalloped meant that heat could enter into the dough more quickly. Obviously, esthetics may have played a part.
Yes, these cakes were made with a dough, not a batter, and the dough was traditionally yeast-leavened, although modern recipes exist using baking powder.
Today, they are used for coffee cakes, pound cakes, and other very dense cakes that will not tend to stick to the fluted sides and will easily hold the fluted design once baked and removed. Other types of cakes are baked in them often. Most boxed cake mixes also include instructions for baking them in a Bundt pan. However, if you’re like me you dislike cakes meant for layer cakes or sheet pans being baked in a bundt pan. They come out denser than they were meant to be and they are always hard around the edges due to the longer time required to cook the batter though. If you want to be able to bake a layer cake as one cake, I’d advise you to use the appropriately sized sheet pan. It may not look as pretty but it will be much more enjoyable.
Using Tube Pans in Place of Bundt Pans, but Not Vice Versa
You can’t bake an angel food cake or chiffon cake in a Bundt pan. However, you should be able to bake any cake that calls for a Bundt pan in a tube pan quite successfully. In fact, the cake will probably be easier to remove due to the removable bottom. Very dense cakes with toppings are often baked in a tube pan, so that the toppings can go on the bottom, to be revealed once the cake is turned upside down and removed from the pan. My wife bakes a quite awful apple cake in a tube pan, with a layer of baked apples on its “top” once it is cooled and removed.
So, to sum it up: You should not substitute a Bundt pan for recipes that call for a tube pan but you can substitute a tube pan for recipes that call for a Bundt pan.
Both types of pans come in different sizes so make sure you are using the correct size. The size called for may be in terms of the size of the pan or its volume. For further explanation on tube pan and Bundt pan sizes, see Kitchen Encounters.