After you spend all that time finding an amazing cake recipe and baking the cake, you don’t want the layers to dry out before you actually assemble the cake! Sometimes you have to store baked cake layers for later.
(Chocolate cake recipe I used for this article)
You might be decorating an elaborate cake or maybe you have to run to the store to buy more butter. Whatever the reason, by learning how to store cake, you can keep the cake fresh.
Here’s a quick guide to how I store baked cake layers
- Cool the cake until I can safely handle the pan with my bare hands. DO NOT let the pan cool too long or your cake could get stuck! I love my Fat Daddios Pans.
- I roll out a piece of plastic wrap on the counter; I estimate enough to wrap around the top and bottom of the cake. Don’t let the wrap get all stuck together. **curses plastic wrap**
- Then I run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, keeping the knife pressed against the side of the pan. I don’t gouge the bottom of the pan. If it’s a fancy pan, I use a small heatproof spatula in places where the cake might stick, but I keep the cake safe.
- Confidently and swiftly flip cake pan over onto plastic wrap so the cake will fall out of the pan.
- I remove the pan and gently fold the plastic wrap around the still warm cake. Yes, that’s what I do. I don’t let it cool to room temp despite popular wisdom. **Side note on this at the bottom.
- I then roll out the second piece of plastic wrap and lay that over the top and sides of the wrapped cake layer. I have to flip the cake over to seal the second layer of plastic wrap.
- Since the cake layer is still warm, I use a Corrugated Cake Circle or my Cake Lifter to support the layer as I flip it over to finish cover it in plastic wrap.
- I lay the cake on the Cooling Rack and let come to room temperature.
How to store cake overnight
Often, especially for decorated cakes, baking and assembling the cake will happen over days, not hours.
I always bake the cake layers at least one day ahead, but sometimes I store baked cake layers up to a week before decorating them. The cake doesn’t go stale or become “unfresh” as long as I follow the proper storage method.
IF I am going to complete the cake within 24 hours, I leave the cake at room temperature until I am ready to work on it.
When it’s time to decorate the cake, I pop all the layers into the freezer for a good chill before I start. (Chilled cake is MUCH easier to decorate.)
How to store cake in the freezer
IF it is going to be over 48 hours, I place the layers in the freezer to wait for me.
I rarely leave it there for more than a few days, but I promise the cake layers will be fine for 3-6 months if you keep them wrapped airtight.
If I have extra cake layers or we don’t eat all of an entire cake, I freeze it until I use it and it’s always been GOOD. My freezer isn’t prone to frost, and I wrap my cakes completely airtight, and that’s why they stay fresh.
Your freezer is your friend
People who don’t bake a lot may not appreciate the workload or the salvation of a freezer, but your freezer is your best friend as a baker.
Indeed, you will pull off amazing feats of baking by spreading out your workload.
It also makes sense not to toss out something just because it wouldn’t stay fresh in the refrigerator. The freezer is an amazing piece of technology.
A lot of world-famous bakers and cakers freeze all of their cakes, even IF they are making it all on the same day. There are excellent cases for freezing time.
Many swear that the same recipe can be transformed with a good freeze. If you aren’t sold, I challenge you to run your own experiments and let me know how they go.
PS: If you’ve ever had a cake from a restaurant, it was probably “frozen” cake and it was delicious. (Ahem… Cheesecake Factory.)
How to store big cake layers
A large 1/2 sheet, full sheet or otherwise hard to handle cake layer can be treated just like your little round cake layers. You just have to get a little crafty.
I use my sheet pans to help me support the cake. You could also use a large cake cardboard or foam board. Basically, always keep the cake supported and you will have no problems.
Frequently Asked Questions about how to store cake layers:
How long does cake last in the fridge? The standard for ready to eat food is 7 days from the date it was made. Longer than that and you should go ahead and freeze it.
How long can you freeze cake? The answer for taste and safety is 4 to 6 months, but many bakeries put a 1-month time limit on items in their freezer just to be certain there is no freezer burn or taste of freezer. If you choose a standard time and stick with it, you’ll be safe.
How to keep cake moist after baking? If you wrap the cake as soon as it is cool enough to touch, it will stay moist. As long as you keep your unfrosted cake parts from touching the air, they will stay moist. (Unless you over baked your cake, then that’s a completely different problem.)
Do I defrost the cake layers before decorating them? I just pull them out after the frosting is ready. I let them get soft enough to trim and then I decorate. A frozen cake is easier to stack, carve, etc. I return the cake to the refrigerator to firm up the buttercream and by the time the cake is finished, it is very “thawed.”
Why do I need to serve the cake at room temperature? This applies especially to cakes made with real butter. When a cake has a large amount of butter in the recipe, it will become very firm when cold, much like a stick of butter. When the cake returns to room temp, it will be soft, much like a stick of butter.
**SIDE NOTE from above:
A popular cake forum member swears that wrapping cakes while they are warm is unsafe because it keeps the temperature in the wrong zone for too long and creates an unsafe moisture level that could promote the growth of pathogens. She/ he then adds the credential that she/ he is a Certified Food Safety Manager and Teacher. This credential doesn’t make her/ him right.
For food to become unsafe in this way it has to:
A. Be food that requires time/ temperature control for safety (TCS).
B. Be a TCS food AND remain in the danger zone (70- 104 degrees for over 2 hours.
C. The moisture level in food has to be extremely high (as in liquified) to promote the growth of pathogens and it has to meet all the other FAT TOM conditions to be hazardous. (FAT TOM is an acronym to help remember what fosters the potential growth of food-borne pathogens: Food, Acidity, Time, Temperature, Oxygen, Moisture)
Many baked goods are non-potentially hazardous foods. TCS foods are meat, dairy, cream, sliced vegetables and fruits, eggs, dairy, sauces, protein-based plants, cooked potato dishes.
AHHHHH, I had been wanting to get that off of my chest for well over a year. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it to argue online, you know? I need you to know that the information was false, because of SCIENCE. (Plus, I too, am a Certified Food Safety Manager).
Frozen Food Storage Chart: https://www.almanac.com/content/frozen-food-storage-chart-how-long-can-you-freeze-foods
Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer: https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html
TCS Foods: https://www.statefoodsafety.com/Resources/article/category/Resources/article/time-temperature-control-for-safety-tcs-foods-poster
FAT TOM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAT_TOM
Water Activity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_activity