So I think of all the supplies listed on my Getting Started Part 1 post, Cake Pans, require the most in-depth description.  A great cake starts with the right pans!
What you probably have for cake pans is the “standard” ones you can find in any set of baking pans.  They’re about 1” high and usually 9” in diameter.  These are perfectly okay to use, BUT if you want a beautiful, tall, straight sided cake I recommend you purchase some cake decorator pans.  Take a look at the pans you have (assuming they are the ones I mentioned above), they probably have a slight, or not so slight, slope to the sides.  To get a straight side you’ll need to do some trimming later, and we really want to make this as easy as possible.  SO, I say ditch those pans (or at least use them for something else) and invest is a set of proper pans!
The standard cake industry serving size is 1” wide x 2” deep x 4” tall.  To get that nice 4” tall piece of cake, you will want to bake up two 2” layers of cake.  Guess what?  Cake decorator pans come in 2” heights!  They also come in 3”, but I recommend starting with the 2” height.  So now, we are on the look out for straight sided, 2” high cake pans….
What else to look for
Well, a good weighted cake pan also makes a difference.  They bake up more evenly and don’t brown as much on the outsides.  Other than that, you just need to decide what shapes and sizes you want!  Starting out, I would recommend investing in a set of ROUND pans that are 6” – 8” – 10” in diameter (these are the sizes I use most often) and then you can add to your set as the need arises.
Where to buy and what brands
Most craft stores will have a cake decorating aisle (or two).  You will typically have only they Wilton cake pans available to you at these stores.  The Wilton pans are really fine starting out with.  They are a bit “soft” (watch out for 1 year olds wielding wooden spoons- I speak from experience) and the light metal enables more browning.  But they are widely available and if you buy them piece mail using the 40% OFF coupons that stores like Michaels*, A.C. Moore or Hobby Lobby offer they become very affordable. (*Michaels is switching their stock to the Celebration line, their own product.  It is comparable to the Wilton pans, if not a bit better)
However, if you are looking to invest in a better quality set of pans, more akin to what the “pros” use, you are looking at two popular brands:  Magic Line or Fat Daddio’s.  These are a bit pricier.  You will need to buy them at a specialty cake decorating supply store, or an online retailer (and thus pay shipping).  But the quality IS superior.  I don’t have experience with Fat Daddio’s pans, but I do have a couple of Magic Line pans.  They bake up much more evenly and the outside stays nice and light, you don’t have a dark outer “crust” which could be unsightly when cutting into your cake.  I’ve also found that they are a tiny bit wider in diameter (even though they are marked the same size) than the Wilton pans, so use 2 of the same brand to make things easier on yourself.  You can either buy a set or buy the individual sizes you need.  Both brands are available at Global Sugar Art, a popular online retailer.  But a Google search will turn up countless other online stores.
Now, the last few questions you may have about cake pans are the serving yields of the different sizes, amount of batter required for each pan and baking times.  If you check out Wilton’s website the have a really nice chart that explains all of this!  Even if you are using the Magic Line or Fat Daddio pans it should give you a good idea of what you are looking at.  This is also the serving chart that most people in the industry go by.
Happy Caking 🙂