Big ones, little ones, and bowls shallow and deep. I use bowls not just for eating out of but for collecting keys and glasses, keeping bedside-table necessities wrangled, for storing rolls of twine and string in the kitchen, or just about anything else.
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It’s no secret we have a borderline obsession with cast-iron cookware—those trusty pans would be the first thing we’d try to save in a house fire. (Although, to be honest, if there’s one thing that could survive a raging inferno, it’d be one of these skillets.)
Cast-iron pans excel at transferring and retaining heat, and if treated properly, even your sunny eggs will slide onto your plate with ease. Seasoning, a process in which layers of fat bond to the pan’s surface and form a slick coating, is a crucial step for any new cast-iron aficionado. And even if the packaging claims it comes pre-seasoned, we strongly encourage you to season your prized skillet yourself at least once before cooking up a few burgers. Here’s how to go about it.
Eliana Bernard is a maker of beautiful things. A local ceramics artist, Bernard creates delicately designed dinnerware and exquisite jewelry and decor — all of which feature show-stopping, intricate details. We recently interviewed the celebrated Bernard, who discusses her trajectory as an artist, her creative process, and her personal favorite artworks.
CultureMap: When did you realize that you wanted to be a creator?
Eliana Bernard: I’ve always been artistic growing up, but I became more aware of it when I started pursuing an art degree in college. That desire to create was always there, but it took a few years of trying out different mediums for me to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with it.
CM: What drew you to making ceramic art?
EB: Ceramics was a class that I took to see if this could be the right medium for me, and at the same time I decided to get an internship outside of school. I didn’t have any experience in ceramics, but one of the ceramic artists that I contacted hired me anyway and I learned so much from it. That was the starting point of my interest in ceramics. I immediately fell in love with the material and knew that this was the right path for me.
CM: What has been your trajectory as an artist thus far?
EB: I studied ceramics in college and interned with a few local ceramic artists outside of school. Once I graduated, I continued working as a studio assistant and eventually a studio manager at Keith Kreeger Studios. I used my time outside of work to experiment with different ideas and to build up my collection. This past year has been the best one so far for my business, and February marks the first time that I will be pursuing my business full-time. Yay!
CM: Your work is so timelessly elegant and full of gorgeous detail. Can you tell us a little more about what inspires you and what you hope to communicate with each piece?
EB: I’m inspired by color, design, patterns, and the materials that I use. I am always experimenting with the material and playing around with different ideas. That’s how I started the marbled collection. I was in the studio playing around with colored slip (liquid clay) and mixing it with the cream-colored slip, trying out different line patterns. Eventually I found a style that I liked, but it’s always different with each piece — which I love! I think it’s important for us to surround ourselves with things that we enjoy using and having in our spaces. The work is beautiful, but it is also functional and meant to make mealtimes more enjoyable.
CM: What does your current creative process look like? Do you have any creative patterns or rituals that you follow?
EB: I always start my day in the studio by cleaning all the surfaces and tools that I use. I think it’s important to start with a clean space every day. It’s like a fresh start. Then, I’ll write a list of things that I need to make for the day, and start making them. I try to work for at least three or four hours straight without taking a break, and then I treat myself to a drink or snack before getting back to work.
CM: What are some of your favorite artworks or artists?
EB: I feel like I’m always being introduced to new artists via social media, Instagram specifically, so that list of favorites just keeps growing. I really love Porcelain and Stone! She makes stunning porcelain jewelry out of Boston. I am also obsessed with everything that Riffle Paper Co. produces. Their stationary and lifestyle products are beautiful!
Shop Bernard’s collection online or make an appointment to visit her showroom at Canopy.
Welcome to FW Gear Guides. Each week on Wednesday, we publish a buyer’s guide for an essential piece of kitchen gear. Our recommendations come from real-world testing.
Is there such a thing as a best bundt pan? After narrowing the field based on online reviews, articles published by other sites and the recommendations of our favorite bundt-obsessed pro bakers, we assembled a lineup of five promising pans to test. After baking a bevy of bundt cakes, we found a clear favorite. Read on to discover what made one bundt pan better than all the others.
In Search of the Best Bundt Pan
Invented around 1950 by a young husband-and-wife team in Minnesota, and popularized during the 1960s by a Texas bake-off contestant, the bundt cake has since become an all-American classic—and the bundt pan, a modern kitchen essential. Originally conceived as a lightweight, modern alternative to the heavy cast iron cookware traditionally used to make the central European cake called kugelhopf, the pan’s basic design was simple: a round tube-shaped loaf with a hollow center and a decorative, fluted pattern around the body.
Today, variations on the form abound—bundts come in the shape of rosettes and castles and even pine forests—but from the simplest design to the most elaborate, the requirements of a quality bundt pan remain the same: it should be well-constructed to stand up to repeated use without denting or warping (which might mar the decorative shape); it should be generously-sized to accommodate the large batches of dough needed to feed a crowd (the name bundt is actually an adaptation of the German word bund, which loosely means “an alliance or gathering”); it should yield a cake that is evenly browned and shapely, with the well-defined curves that are the hallmark of the form; and it should be non-stick, allowing the cake to release effortlessly from the pan’s ridges and crevices without cracking or sticking.
Hoping to single out a pan that best meets those criteria—and earns a place in every baker’s arsenal—I spent hours baking my way through a bevy of of bundts, comparing their design, functionality and ease of use. What did I learn? While the competition may be stiff, most classics become classics for a reason—and in the case of bundt pans, the original remains the gold standard.
Using the recommendations gleaned from that research, I narrowed the field to five commonly available and classically shaped bundt pans with capacities ranging from 10-15 cups and a price of $12 to $31. To keep the variables the same, I baked the same recipe—this moist, orange-scented, olive oil bundt individually in each pan, in the same oven, for the exact same amount of time. Then I compared the results, checking to see how comfortable the pans were to handle, how evenly the cakes baked and browned, how well they kept their shape, how easily the cakes released from the pan, and how cumbersome the pans were to clean.
The Bundt Pans
While it’s possible to find bundt pans made of glass, stoneware and silicone, the overwhelming consensus among professional and amateur bakers is that metal—either aluminum or coated steel—is the best material in which to bake a bundt cake, thanks to both its sturdiness and its even and efficient heat conductivity. Silicone bundt pans, in particular, get routinely poor reviews—and just mentioning them can get professional bakers all worked up. “Never, ever, ever use a silicone bundt pan,” Lewis and Poliafito told me. The reason? Silicone is squishy and unstable—a bad match for hefty bundt batters, which may spill or sag when not properly contained. Also, due to the material’s poor conductivity, batters baked in silicone will never brown deeply—a must for a properly-baked bundt cake. Considering this, in the end I chose to test only metal pans.
I also found that most cooks agree that when it comes to bundts—with their elaborate whirls, curves, and crevices that seem tailor made for trapping cake—a nonstick surface is indispensable. Indeed, even when using a nonstick surface, most professional bakers and cookbook writers recommend buttering and flouring your pan, or coating it thoroughly with a nonstick cooking spray before filling.
The color of a bundt pan’s surface will also play a role in the texture and attractiveness of the final product: In general, light-colored surfaces perform better than darker ones, as the dark surfaces may produce a crust that is dry is overly browned before the cake’s interior has had enough time to bake properly.
The market is littered with mini bundt pans of assorted shapes and sizes, but because the most common size for bundt pans is between 10 and 12 cups, I confined my experiments to models that fell in or near that range. Generally speaking, if you want a larger pan, it’s smart to seek out one that looks taller, not wider—wider pans produce squatter, less dramatically architectural cakes.
Most recipe developers design recipes for 10-cup bundt pans, so home bakers will be best served by a pan that accommodates that amount at a minimum. If you want to adapt a non-bundt specific recipe, the form is fairly forgiving—in general, a cake recipe that yields enough batter for two 9″ rounds or one 9″ x 13″ pan will also fit a typical bundt pan. One rule of thumb that Lewis and Poliafito recommended: any sturdy cake batter or quick bread that is typically baked in a loaf pan will also do well in a bundt—but avoid delicate, airy cakes, which will just fall apart. When you are filling your bundt, ideally the batter should come ⅔ up the sides of the pan before baking. Overfill it and you’ll have a mess on your hands, underfill it and you’ll wind up with a thin, squat cake. If you are unsure of the capacity of your pan, you can measure it by filling it with water one cup at a time.
Finally, when ranking the pans I kept in mind the small design features—like easy-grip handles, a satisfying weight, and attractive proportions—that can add up to a big difference in the experience of baking and the aesthetics of the finished cake. And while today’s makers produce bundt pans in a dizzying array of creative designs, I limited my tests to the “classic” shape: a ring-shaped series of peaks and rounded curves that Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito call Bundt 101, and is beginner friendly, always beautiful, and easy to glaze. The more elaborate shapes, they warn, can be trickier to turn out of the pan and—while Instagram-friendly—don’t take as well to a variety of frostings or glazes.
Our Favorite Bundt Pans
The good news? It’s hard to go wrong with bundt pans—and no matter which one you buy, you’re likely to produce a cake that your friends and family will be thrilled to tear into. Every model I tested except one produced an evenly browned cake with a tender crumb, and released from the pan without incident. But when it came to ease of use, caliber of construction, and the aesthetics of the final product, one contender still stood out from the pack.
The Best Bundt Pan: Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Bundt Pan, 10-15 cups ($22 on Amazon Amazon)
Nordic Ware is the company responsible for introducing the bundt pan to America and, more than half a century later, their products are still the baker’s gold standard. With a sturdy cast aluminum body that was taller and narrower than its competitors, and deeply defined curves and ridges, the Nordic Ware bundt pan I tested produced a cake that was elegant and shapely, with clean lines and eye-catching architectural edges. I loved how easy the generous handles made maneuvering the pan into and out of the oven, and was glad to have something to grip when it came time to turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. With a capacity of 10-15 cups—the largest of all the models I tested—it would be large and versatile enough to accommodate an array of recipes. And though, at $30, it is considerably pricier than the other models, it comes with a lifetime guarantee and, given its superior performance, feels worth every penny. What’s more, Nordic Ware is still a family owned company and produces all of its products in the USA. Ultimately I had to agree with Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who put it this way: “Nordic Ware pans are just special. You can still feel the enthusiasm about the product from the company—it’s still got a mom and pop feeling, even though it has grown to a global scale.”
Best-Value Bundt Pan: Wilton Recipe Right Fluted Tube Pan ($11 on Amazon)
I was impressed by the even golden color of the bake in this simple, inexpensive pan, and appreciated the durability and reliability of the nonstick surface. Also: aside from the Nordic Ware pan, this was the only other model to produced a cake with decent height and somewhat well-defined fluting. It also cleaned up easily.
Runner-Up: Anolon Advanced Nonstick Bakeware 9.5″ Fluted Mold Pan ($17 on Amazon)
I enjoyed the feel of the soft, easy grip handles on this sturdy pan, and was pleased by the consistency and depth of color of the cake it produced. The nonstick surface also worked well, and the finished cake slid out readily after just a few minutes of cooling. My only qualms? The surface of the cake seemed a bit artificially shiny in comparison to the matte texture of the Nordic Ware cake, and the decorative ridges and curves were considerably less pronounced, resulting a less visually interesting cake.
Runner-Up: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 9 ½ inch Fluted Cake Pan ($14 on Amazon)
This basic pan was a serviceable contender, producing a uniformly browned cake that was well baked all the way through and slid neatly from the pan with cracking or crumbling. But I was unimpressed by the lackluster looks of the under-defined decorative curves and ridges, especially considering that such features are one of the defining hallmarks of the bundt cake form.
Bakers Secret Basics Nonstick Fluted Tube Pan ($12 on Amazon)
The only model I tested that did not produce an evenly browned cake, this inexpensive pan was the weakest performer of the lot and its decorative curves were too shallow to produce a dramatic silhouette. Still, to its credit, the nonstick surface worked well, and the cake was tasty if not as pretty as the others.
Grace Howard skips into her family’s Cardiff kitchen, smiling at her possessions: a knife set, ingredients for sophisticated dishes like sushi and pasta, a food processor, Vitamix Blender and KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
“This is a pairing knife,” she says on a recent Friday afternoon while sharpening the utensil. “It’s good for cutting fruits and vegetables. … This is my Vitamix. I use it to make smoothies and hot soups.”
The tools are all very real, and Grace knows how to work every one of them with ease.
That might not be surprising if she were an adult, but it wasn’t that long ago Grace was playing in a plastic toy kitchen.
The fourth grader at The Rhoades School was selected last year into the top 40 of the reality TV show MasterChef Junior to show off her adult cooking skills to Gordon Ramsay.
The celebrity chef has become commonly known for his hot temper.
“If he was a stove, I would tell him to turn down the high heat just a little,” said Grace, giggling. “He’s not the sweetest muffin in the pack.”
Grace’s mother, Melissa Howard, contested her daughter is actually a big fan of Ramsay.
“He’s her cooking idol,” she said. “She literally ran down toward him, and I thought she was going to run up and hug him. Her thing was she was going to be best friends with Gordon Ramsay. She was ready to jump out of herself but she kept her cool.”
Grace was 8 and the youngest competitor on the show when her episode filmed last March.
In the episode, which aired Feb. 16, Grace and three other contestants were challenged with creating a chicken dish in under 40 minutes.
For Grace — who started cooking as a toddler — her idea came easily.
“I had to think about the four different parts of a chicken: breasts, legs, wings and thighs,” she said. “I wanted to go with something that would cook easily but I could get it done in time. So, definitely, I chose the breast. I wanted to show them my special adult skills.”
The girl made a stuffed chicken breast with ricotta cheese, lemon, mashed potatoes and spinach-garlic salad.
The dish was judged by Ramsay’s counterpart on the show, Christina Tosi.
“It was heart-racing when she was walking over,” Grace said. “I was definitely really scared.”
Tosi ended up eliminating Grace, saying her chicken was a bit undercooked, but praised the girl for her creamy mashed potatoes.
Grace said she was initially sad but not completely defeated.
“I’m a winner for just being selected to compete,” she said, adding she plans to audition for the show again.
She hopes to open her own bakery someday, with an emphasis toward donating to charity.
Melissa Howard said her daughter has a giving heart.
“She’s always wanted to make something for somebody,” she said. “She makes things for the neighbors. She made sushi and delivered it around the neighborhood. She’s got a really good heart and some really good ideas about her bakery to give back.”