Charming Holiday Cake Pans

Holiday cake pans give me mixed feelings. Are they one-use? Yes. Still tempting? Oh yes. There's something that makes me look wistfully at the pan I'd use just once to create that marvelous setpiece, a fabulous fantasy dusted with powdered sugar or silver bells. In that mood, here's a few of the charming holiday cake pans available this season.

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Train and railway: This Railway Cake Pan (Williams-Sonoma, $34) made my jaw drop. So I have a soft spot for whimsy. Each car is a separate cake, and put together they are so cute. This could work just as well for a child's birthday, and decorated with candy and bright frosting it makes a sweetly nostalgic holiday centerpiece.

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Upright Christmas tree: This Christmas Tree (Shop.com, $36.98) is unusually dramatic, since the two cake halves get sandwiched by icing and stand up straight on a plate. If you put it on a pedestal cake plate this could be quite a tall cake indeed, great for a holiday table. It can be decorated with simple sugar, or elaborately with piped ornaments.

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Classic cathedral: A Williams-Sonoma exclusive, this Cathedral Cake Pan (Williams Sonoma, $29.95) is beautiful and stately. All it needs is a dusting of powdered sugar to make an elegant presentation, and it has the advantage of that dramatic look without the specifically holiday shape. So you could justify buying it, you know, to use all year long.

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Bright star: Another purchase that could be justified for non-holiday use, this Star Cake Pan (Crate & Barrel, $24.95) is good for Christmas, Hanukkah, and pretty much any other time of the year. It's special and dramatic without being too fussy. It also looks like it would turn out cakes that just beg to be cut into big, sweeping slices.

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Jolly snowman: One more piece of whimsy from Williams-Sonoma, this Snowman Cake Pan (Williams-Sonoma, $29.95) is another upright cake that looks like it would be a lot of fun to bake, decorate and serve. Carrot nose, anyone?