A solidly made pan that makes nice little three-bite cakes.
The removable bottoms of the molds are easy to lose, and the nonstick coating is prone to chipping.
If you can figure out how to avoid losing the bottoms, this pan is cool to have around to make palm-size cakes, muffins, quiches, and even frittatas.
Washington state–based Norpro is a go-to source for, among other cooking equipment, specialty bakeware: Norwegian kransekake forms, aebleskiver molds, rectangular quiche pans. And it was the specialty factor in this Nonstick 12 Mini Cheesecake Pan (3919) that triggered our general skepticism about unitaskers (gadgets or gear that performs just one specialized task). Would anyone want to store a pan they’d maybe use once a year, to cook for a finger-foods party? Still, we were intrigued enough to give it a try, testing the pan with one question front and center in our brains: Does anybody need this pan badly enough to drop $25 and two vertical inches of cupboard space on it?
Basically, this is a mini muffin tin with the functionality of a removable-bottom baking pan. It has 12 slightly tapered molds measuring 1 3/8 inches deep and slightly less than 2 inches in diameter at the top (the official specs round up to 1 1/2 by 2 inches), and 1 3/4 inches at the bottom. The removable bottoms are disks that sit on a rim around the bottom of each mold, and the box includes 13 bottoms, so you have 1 to lose. The pan feels substantial, an impression enhanced in this model by shiny stainless steel handles (a sibling pan, the 3917, is identical to the 3919 except for the handles). Including the handles, the dimensions are 14 inches long by 8 1/8 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches high. Norpro recommends hand washing (though the 3919’s Amazon page says it’s dishwasher safe).
Not surprisingly, our testing centered on mini cheesecakes—the recipe Norpro includes on the box. But we also made blueberry muffins and, though it’s not specifically called out as an application, mini frittatas, just to see how the removable bottoms would handle a runny filling.
Cheesecakes: The recipe on the box is a little sketchy about yields and what you should grease the molds with, but we did our best. We opted for greasing with a paper towel dipped in melted butter (a bit of a pain, since the removable bottoms wanted to flip out when we put the paper towel to them, but no biggie). We lightly tamped loose vanilla wafer crumbs into each mold, poured in the standard cheesecake mix, and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooled to a warm room temperature, the mini cheesecakes popped right out of the molds with a slight push from the bottom, then slid easily off the bottoms. So far so good.
Muffins: The nonstick surface worked well, and we liked the cylinderlike shape of the finished muffins. Our abiding question—would we use this pan for more than mini cheesecakes?—seemed to have an answer: Yes, we would totally make mini muffins in here, just to be able to serve things with a cool, novel shape.
Frittatas: Again we greased the molds, then poured thin egg frittata batter into each. We placed the Mini Cheesecake Pan on a baking sheet, since we figured the molds would leak. And to see what would happen if we lost a bottom and had to improvise, we lined two of the molds with foil, wrapping the mold underneath for one and lining it from the inside for the other. Once the frittatas were baked and removed from the pan, we saw the leakage results: overall pretty minimal. Perhaps a teaspoon or two of frittata mixture had leaked through the bottoms (check out the photo above, bottom right, and read the next paragraph to see the results of our MacGyvering with foil). We would happily make mini frittatas (and quiches, and brownies) in this pan.
General stuff: After initially fearing this pan’d be lame, we ended up taking a liking to it. We could imagine a number of applications for it, and even fantasized about buying two, so we could double production when prepping for parties. Among the things we didn’t like, hand-washing is a bit of a pain, but only slightly more so than for a full-size muffin tin. The nonstick coating is prone to chipping (see photo above, middle right); that’s a complaint we read about in Amazon reviews, and after only three tests we noticed that the coating on the bottom of our pan was starting to come off in about five places. And last: The removable bottoms are easy to misplace. We had to recover three from the garbage disposal—they slip easily down the drain, and if your sink is stainless, they’re easy to lose track of. Our experiment with using foil to replace them didn’t turn out very well, since our frittata mixture stuck horribly to the foil. So if you buy this pan, come up with some kind of system to keep the bottoms secure when not in use, maybe a zip-top bag or a jar. Something.
Photos by Chris Rochelle