How to Keep a Cake from Sticking to the Cooling Rack

Dear Home Ec 101,
I really need help. I found an awesome chocolate cake recipe and can keep the cake from sticking to the pan with the parchment paper/oiled/flour method. However, once the cake is on the wire rack, that’s another story. It sinks into the wires and sticks to the rack. When I try to remove it, it rips and breaks apart. Mama didn’t teach me any tricks to keeping the cake from sticking to the wire rack.

Any suggestions?
Sticky Bits

how to keep a cake from sticking to the cooling rack

Heather says:

There is such thing as a non stick cooling rack which can help, but if you’re not in the mood to run out and buy a new one, there are still a couple of things you can do to keep your cake from sticking to the wire rack. First, unless your recipe states otherwise most cake recipes call for the cake to cool in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure you’ve given the cake this important cooling time. (You may already be doing this step) The cake pan should be resting on the rack, to ensure that even the bottom of the cake pan also has air flow.

You can try spraying the rack with non-stick cooking spray, this should help in many cases. As a last resort, you could also experiment with a using a sheet of parchment paper on the rack. A slightly steamed cake is preferable to the destroyed version.

To remove a cake that has stuck to the wire cooling rack place a plate -with the right side of the plate in contact with the cake. You should now have a cake sandwich: wire rack, cake, plate. Place one hand under the rack and the other over the plate. Your hands should be as centered as possible and your fingers splayed, you want to support the weight of the cake as evenly as possible. Turn the sandwich over and let it rest for a minute. If the cake is only lightly sticking to the rack it should separate without much damage. If it is badly stuck, grab a length of unwaxed dental floss and floss the cake to separate it from the rack. While you will lose the topmost portion of the cake it should prevent large chunks of cake from separating which can make frosting a royal pain in the rear.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Here’s a recipe for Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing.

Good luck with your future cake baking! Would you be willing to share the recipe?

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  1. ThatBobbieGirl on September 21, 2010 at 7:10 am

    My perfect solution: get someone else to bake the cake.

    Well, it WAS perfect until my baker moved out of the house. Something about getting married and wanting to live with her husband? Sheesh….priorities, people!

  2. Fleur on September 21, 2010 at 5:47 am

    You could try laying a clean tea towel across the cooling rack, before you turn out the cake. It still allows the air to flow around the cake, but it stops it coming in contact with the wire rack. I know that is a trick used by our serious country bakers in Australia.

    • HeatherSolos on September 21, 2010 at 7:58 am

      That is a great suggestion, Fleur. I would add that it should be the floursack style towel rather than a terry cloth kitchen towel. 🙂 I'm not sure which is more prevalent where you are, but I see a lot of terrycloth ones around here and that may give lint ridden results.

  3. Keter Magick on September 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    Wait a minute… y'all flip the CAKE out on the cooling rack? I have always just put the whole pan on the cooling rack, usually with a small fan blowing on it to speed the cooling process. When the cake is almost completely cool it usually pulls away from the sides. If not, I run a rubber spatula around the edge to make sure it's loose. Then I put the plate on which it will be served, upside down, on top of the cooled cake in the pan. Flip. Tap bottom of pan. Remove pan. Done. Haven't had a cake stick or split since my age was in single digits.

    On the other hand, I would love to see y'all's method done with a bundt or upside down cake… *giggling*

    • Keter Magick on September 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm

      I should add… so long as I don't have to clean it up!!! ;o)

    • HeatherSolos on September 21, 2010 at 5:51 am

      Always the comedienne.

      Over the years several cakes I've made have specifically said to cool in the pan for ten minutes and finish on the rack.
      I assumed her recipe was long those lines.

  4. Stacy on September 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I rarely make cakes, partly because I'm completely ignorant about how to make things turn out right. I appreciate the help!

  5. Aquavit on September 20, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This is handy advice! I recently made David Lebovitz's chocolate cake (altered for 7,000 foot altitude), and even after cooling in the pan, I had terrible problems with it sticking to the rack. I find cake sponge tends to be far more "sticky" up here compared to my former sea-level cakes. The spray/flour trick may be the best bet for me.

  6. xarkGirl on September 20, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I spray and flour the cooling rack. Heather's advice about not forgetting to let the cake cool in the pan before you flip it is key. This lets the cake pull away from the sides of the pan and solidify, so you won't have a sticky top and splitting middle. Warm cakes are likely to crumble under the stress of moving. If you are looking for a cake that's easy to handle for stacking and decorating, try a firmer cake such as a pound cake.

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