Freezing cakes in advance might just be the ultimate way to bake it easy. Whether you’re whipping up a towering wedding cake or a simple smash cake, going into your event with all of your cake’s components baked and at the ready will leave you with more time to decorate and enjoy the festivities.
Full disclosure: while many decorators swear by freezing cakes, my preferred method for prepping ahead of time is freezing batters and doughs. What can I say? I’m a sucker for that fresh-baked-cake smell, texture and flavor.
I am also a realist and a mom, so I thoroughly understand that under some circumstances freezing baked cakes in advance is the best route. Keep in mind that cakes that are high in fat content freeze best. Angel food and chiffon cakes are a no-go when it comes to the freezer.
How to freeze baked cakes
Allow your cake to cool completely before wrapping it for the freezer. If there’s any bit of warmth left in the cake, wrapping it will trap steam in the package, which can cause freezer burn.
Trim off the domed tops of your cake. Leveling the cake first will make it easier to stack in your freezer. Crumble up the cake scraps and freeze them separately in a zip-top bag for making cake pops and cake crumbs later.
Wrap your cake in a layer of plastic wrap. Then, turn the cake a quarter turn (so that the seams will be staggered) and wrap in another layer of plastic wrap.
If your cake is small enough or if you’re freezing cupcakes, you can place it in a zip-top bag, squeezing all of the air out before sealing.
For larger cakes or if you don’t have zip-top bags, wrap the cake in two layers of aluminum foil, staggering the seams just like you did with the plastic wrap.
Label your cake with the flavor and date it was baked. (Doodles optional.)
How long your cake will be good for in the freezer depends on a few things. If you have a dedicated cake freezer (hey, a girl can dream) the shelf life will be longer since they won’t be exposed to other freezer smells. In a home freezer, the quality of the cake will deteriorate the longer you keep it in the freezer. Using it within a month is ideal, any longer than three months is not recommended.
Tips for using frozen cake
Pull the cake out a day before you need it and place it — still wrapped — in the fridge to thaw. Condensation will form as your cake thaws. It’s better that it forms on the wrapping and not the cake, compromising its taste and texture.
It’s totally OK to fill, layer, carve and crumb coat frozen cakes. However, throw on the brakes after that crumb coat, especially if you’re finishing your cake in a final layer of crisp, smooth buttercream. When anything that contains liquid freezes, it will expand a bit. As the liquid in the cake thaws, the cake will contract. This can cause the exterior of your buttercream to crack or bubble. Wait until your cakes are refrigerator temperature or warmer to finish.
Freezing cake layers is cool, but don’t freeze the finished decorated cake. I know some people have had success freezing and thawing finished cakes, but I don’t recommend it. The expanding and contracting process can wreak havoc on a filling’s stability, crack a crumb coat, and cause a finished cake to weep with condensation. My best advice is to freeze your components and assemble before you need the cake.