Creating these cakes requires skill and special equipment to make the magic happen, but buying novelty pans can be quite the investment, especially if you’re not sure you’ll want to jump aboard the creative-cakes train. And if you have a small kitchen, you might not want to pack your cabinets with pans you won’t use very often. That’s why an unlikely place is branching out to help aspiring bakers — local libraries.
Gone are the days when libraries just lend out books. For years, they’ve carried DVDs, music CDs and video games. Now, select libraries around the U.S. are stocking up on bakeware that adventurous cake-makers can take home. These special library sections have a wide range of cake pans, from the classic bundt cake to licensed characters, complete with baking and decorating directions.
It didn’t take long for Ohio’s Akron Library to reply to Dooling with a photo of its own collection:
We lend cake pans, kitchen tools, and artwork! pic.twitter.com/ZvgJa9kagP
— Akron-Summit County Public Library (@akronlibrary) August 27, 2019
Maryland’s Charles County Library started in on the cake-pan fun way back in 2012, and the staff went all out to introduce its newest collection. Librarians collected nearly 50 pans for the inventory, stored the pans and directions in hanging plastic bags and even etched the catalog number into each pan. On the day of the collection’s debut, one librarian spent the entire morning baking. “We wanted the library to smell like cake,” branch manager Cindy Thornly told Library Journal.
Within 10 days of the program’s launch, more than half of the pans were checked out, and the program has continued to grow.
Sara Slymon, director of the Brookline Library in Massachusetts, began her library’s collection back in 2016 from her own cache of cake pans.
“I donated a half dozen of my own. I had some really good ones from Williams Sonoma, but my kids are grown and I don’t need an octopus cake pan anymore,” Slymon told the International Housewares Association.
Brookline’s collection has grown to include more than 55 pans (including heart-shaped pans, castles and even a fire truck) that were acquired from a combination of library purchases and donations by local bakers who wanted to find a good home for their gently used pans.
Thornley said these collections are a win-win for the library and the community. They save new bakers money by letting them experiment before investing in new equipment. And, it prevents bakers from having to toss out their unused pans. They can donate them instead.
“People get to about my age where their kids are grown or in college, and they say, ‘I’m not going to use that pan again, what do I do with it?” Thornley told Library Journal. “They feel like the cycle’s been completed if they can give it to somebody and save it from the landfill.”
So if you want to try a new recipe but need a special pan, check your local library before you buy one. Many libraries that have cake-pan collections post them on their official websites. If your library hasn’t risen to the cake trend yet, just wait. Many libraries continue to expand their collections to help patrons save money and expand their opportunities to try new hobbies.