Hospital Corners Make For Better Baking

Yesterday, no fewer than three people -- in completely unrelated conversations -- asked me if I bake with parchment. Apparently this question was prompted by some of the pictures on this blog, which show something resembling tan paper on my baking sheets. I do bake with parchment, almost all the time, for several reasons. First, it prevents anything from sticking to the pan and makes unmolding my finished products a breeze. Few things are more frustrating than having a sheet cake or pan of brownies stick and refuse to come out of the pan (or worse, to unmold the top half of a cake only to have the bottom half remain behind!). Second, it prevents burning. I generally use dark pans that absorb a lot more heat than shiny aluminum finish pans; parchment paper will prevent excessive browning where a cake or cookie would otherwise directly touch the pan. Third, it makes clean up much easier. When I pull a batch of cookies out of the oven, I let them cool and firm up a bit on the pan, move the cookies to a rack to cook completely, and then wipe off the parchment and reuse it for the next round of cookies to go into the oven (but yes, the paper does get thrown away at the end of the night when the baking is finished!). It definitely beats having to wash the pans between every batch.

I line cookie sheets, square and rectangular pans, and springform pans (I trace the bottom and cut out a circle) with parchment. Basically, anything except a Bundt pan. I use unbleached parchment paper that comes on a roll, which I buy in bulk at (I don't have anything against bleached paper; it's just more cost effective for me to get the unbleached variety). It's very easy to fold and cut a piece of parchment paper to perfectly fit into a straight-sided square or rectangular cake pan, by following the steps illustrated in my amateur diagram below. Essentially you just have to fold modified hospital corners.

  1. Cut a piece of parchment large enough to cover the bottom of the pan with an extra 2-inch overhang on all sides
  2. Fold in the edges of the paper such that the paper will exactly fit into the bottom of the pan
  3. Make four cuts as illustrated by the red dotted lines above
  4. Fold over the corners 90 degrees to make a little hospital corners and the result should fit perfectly into the pan
As I did the process last night, steps 2 through 4 looked like this:

Last night I baked a One-in-a-Hundred Fudge Cake for another office party today (another week, another party!). Because I lined my pan with parchment, I skipped the steps of buttering and flouring the pan as directed in the recipe, which is from the the August 30, 2000, Food Section of the Los Angeles Times. This wonderfully easy cake includes 2 cups of sour cream, is mixed in a single bowl, and is somehow simultaneously dark, chocolately, moist and light. It is my favorite standard chocolate cake recipe.

The LA Times published a chocolate frosting recipe to go along with the cake, but I have never been a fan. Usually I frost this cake with a vanilla buttercream, but this time I decided to try something different and made a Chocolate-Raspberry Frosting. I didn't have raspberry brandy and used cherry brandy instead. The frosting stayed fluffy and never set, even after spending the night in the fridge. Being the teetotaler that I am, I didn't care for the brandy flavor and scraped off all of the frosting before I ate my piece at the party. But the cake... Mmmmmm, chocolate cake!

Cake Recipe: "One-in-a-Hundred Fudge Cake" from the Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2000.
Frosting Recipe
: Chocolate-Raspberry Frosting from