It’s not always easy to make a layer cake the same day you plan to serve it. Large celebratory cakes and wedding cakes are even more difficult, especially if you are baking out of your own home kitchen without a professionally-sized oven!
Thankfully, it’s easy to freeze cake layers and keep the cake fresh until you’re ready to assemble, decorate, and serve! (It may even be preferable, because chilled cake is much easier to work with than warm or even room-temperature cake.)
What You Need to Freeze Cake
Freezing cake layers does not require any specialty equipment or tools; however, you will need plastic wrap and resealable zipper bags if you want to freeze for a longer period of time (i.e more than a month).
- For 8-inch cake layers: These layers will comfortably fit in a 1-gallon zip-top bag, as long as they are not too thick.
- For 9-inch cake layers: These may be a tighter fit in a 1-gallon zip-top bag, but if they are under 1-inch in thickness, they will fit.
- For 10-inch cake layers and above: If you have a thicker layer or a larger diameter cake you might need to find bigger 2-to-2.5-gallon Ziploc bags to accommodate the cake layers. Extra-large tiered cake layers (12-inches and up) might not fit in any resealable bags, but can be wrapped in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil instead.
Freezing Cake Layers
- Let the cake layers cool in the pan after baking for at least 20 to 30 minutes, so they are firm enough to handle. Cake layers right out of the oven are too hot and fragile to remove from the pan. Once the cake has cooled enough, run a thin rubber spatula or flexible bench scraper around the edges of the cake to release it. Cool the layer onto a wire rack and until it is at room temperature, a minimum of 2 hours, but longer if necessary. (This will depend on the temperature of your kitchen.)
- Remove the parchment: Once the cakes are completely cool, remove any parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.
- Wrap the cake in plastic: Place a piece of plastic wrap – long enough to completely wrap the cake layer – on the countertop. If the cake layer is larger than the width of the plastic wrap, you may need to double up the plastic wrap, making sure there is an overlap in the two pieces of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic wrap completely around the cake layer. Put another piece of plastic wrap on the counter, then place the wrapped cake layer on the plastic wrap, seam down, making sure the length of the plastic wrapper is perpendicular to the direction of the first piece of plastic wrap. The idea is to wrap the cake and keep as much air out as possible, with all sides of the cake layer completely covered. Wrap the cake as tightly as possible.
- Place on a baking sheet in the freezer: Place the cake layer on a baking sheet or thin cutting board and then move it to the freezer. You can stack cake layers on top of each other if you do this, but make sure there is room the freezer for the supporting baking sheet or board underneath. Let the cake layer completely freeze solid before removing the baking sheet.
Cakes frozen this way can be stored in the freezer for one month. If you need to freeze the cake longer than a month, place each layer in a large Ziploc bag. Remove as much air as you can then seal the bag. Ziploc bags will keep out moisture from the cake better than just plastic wrap. Cakes frozen this way will stay fresh for up to 3 months.
If your cake layer is too big for a Ziploc bag, wrap the cake in a pieces of aluminum foil in the same double-layer-cross method like the plastic wrap.
Thaw frozen cake layers by moving them to the refrigerator and leting them thaw slowly for 8 hours, or overnight. Do not unwrap the cakes; just leave them in their plastic wrap while they thaw.
You can also thaw them at room temperature for about 2 to 3 hours, but I find it more convenient to just thaw out the cake in the fridge overnight and have them ready to frost in the morning.
Can You Freeze a Frosted Cake?
The answer is…it depends! Most cake layers freeze well but not all frostings and fillings do.
- Frostings and cakes that freeze well: American buttercream and cream cheese frosting both freeze well, as do European-style frostings like Italian and Swiss buttercream (although the egg in those frostings means they will keep for a shorter period of time). Cakes frosted with American or cream cheese frosting will keep up to 3 months in the freezer, but cakes frosted with Italian or Swiss buttercream should be thawed and eaten within a month.
- Frosted cakes that do NOT freeze well: Cakes covered in whipped cream frosting will not freeze well. Also, do not freeze mousse cakes or cakes with a custard, pudding, or cream filling (like Boston cream pie). The filling could separate in the freezing and thawing, leading to a soggy cake.
To freeze one of the recommended frosted cakes, place the entire cake in the freezer, unwrapped, until it is frozen completely through, about 4 hours. Then tightly wrap the frozen cake in plastic wrap. Once wrapped in plastic wrap the cake will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Individual slices of cake can be stored between layers of parchment paper or wax paper inside an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Keep in mind freezing and thawing decorated cakes might not have the same quality as a freshly made cake. Both the cake and the frosting freeze and thaw at different rates so there might be contraction or shrinkage that will occur. The cake decoration might also suffer from the freezing and thawing.
Can You Freeze Cake Batter?
I don’t recommend freezing cake batter, but it can be done if it’s the right batter.
The best candidate for freezing is a cake batter that uses a creaming method wherein the sugar and the butter are creamed first, and one that uses baking powder (as opposed to egg whites) as the leavener. Our old-fashioned strawberry layer cake is a good example.
Freeze the batter in freezer resealable Ziploc bags and then thaw in the refrigerator. Make sure to bring the batter to room temperature (about 1 hour to 90 minutes) from the fridge before baking. If you bake it directly from the refrigerator, increase the bake time by a couple of minutes and expect the cake to be a little denser than a cake made with freshly-created batter.
Cake batters that require you to fold in whipped egg whites, like Angel food cake or chiffon cakes, or one that uses baking soda as the primary leavening agent should not be frozen. The resulting baked cake will be dense and gummy.