Greasing your cake pan is important if you don’t want your cake to stick when you bake it. Butter is a good choice because it not only prevents sticking, it also tastes good. If your cake recipe includes butter, grease your cake pan with butter to echo the flavor already present in your cake.
To grease your cake pan with butter, hold a stick of butter in your hand like it’s a big spoon that you’re using to stir a pot. Work under bright light so that you can easily see exactly where you’ve buttered and where you still need to apply butter. Rub the butter all over the surface of the pan, and turn the pan under the light so you can see clearly. It’s OK if you butter an area of the pan more than once, but don’t let any part of the inside of the pan go unbuttered -- even at the tops of the sides. As the cake bakes, it will rise and climb up the sides of the pan. You don’t want your cake to stick because you missed buttering a spot.
After you butter the pan, sprinkle a little flour into it -- about ¼ cup for a regular 8 or 9-inch cake pan, or a little more for a larger cake pan. The flour will stick to the butter, clearly showing you where you’ve floured and where you still need to flour. Tap the sides of the pan and gently shake it around to evenly distribute the flour. Carefully guide the flour around the sides of the pan, too; put flour everywhere you put the butter earlier. If your cake is chocolate, and you’re worried about unsightly flour specks, use cocoa powder instead of flour. It will still keep your cake from sticking to the pan, and will make your chocolate cake look flawless.
Once you’ve buttered and floured the cake pan, trace the bottom of the pan on a piece of parchment paper. Cut the parchment paper along the lines you’ve traced, then place the paper in the bottom of the pan, on top of the butter and flour. This is the final safeguard to ensure that your cake doesn’t stick to your cake pan. It’s up to you whether or not you use it, but using parchment paper in addition to butter and flour is common practice in professional kitchens because it guarantees good, non-sticking cake results.
If you’ve buttered, floured, and applied parchment paper, your cake should have no trouble coming loose from the pan once it’s baked. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. When a cake has fully baked, the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, making your task easier. Place an upside-down wire cooling rack across the top of the cake pan. Turn the rack and the cake pan upside down, so the rack is sitting on your counter and the pan is upside down on top of it. Because of the butter, flour, and parchment paper, the cake should slide right out onto the cooling rack. Pull the cake pan off, then peel away the parchment paper and allow your cake to cool before decorating.