How to Make Cake Layers in Advance

This year I’m trying to blog my answers to the questions you guys ask the most! Some of the questions have pretty elaborate answers, and it’s hard to answer them thoroughly across my different platforms.

I decided to start with the most popular questions I get asked, regarding how far in advance you make make cake layers.

I’m hoping this post will also answer other common questions, like:

  • When do I freeze a cake?
  • How do I freeze cake layers?
  • Should I level my layers before I freeze my cake layers?
  • Do I thaw the layers before I make the cake?
  • How far ahead of time can I make cake layers?
  • How should I store my cake layers?
  • Why should I freeze my cake layers?

Making a cake from scratch takes hours of work, from baking all the layers, to preparing the frosting and decorations. If you try to do it all in one day, it takes forever, and seems like so much more of a chore.

I work full time in corporate finance, and frequently bake after work or on the weekends. I love to bake my layers one night, prep my frosting and cake fillings another, and then enjoy the decorating process over the weekend.

While baking is therapeutic in it’s own way, my favorite part of making cakes is decorating them! It brings me so much joy, and is truly my creative outlet. I find I’m able to enjoy it most when I’m not worrying about how much longer my layers need to bake, or cleaning up the clouds of powdered sugar that seem to coat my kitchen whenever I make frosting.


I almost always make my cake components in advance! When making my cake layers ahead of time, I take my pans out of the oven, run an offset spatula around the edge of the pan to separate the layers from the pan, and then place the warm pans directly into my freezer.

Sounds crazy, right?? Hot pans right into the freezer?? It drastically accelerates the cooling process, and I love being able to speed up the process a bit. After about 30 minutes, once the pans are cool to the touch, I remove my cake layers from my pans by gently tapping the pans upside-down on my counter, and carefully removing the layers with my hands.

To be completely honest, if I am just freezing my cake layers overnight, I don’t wrap them. I just place them back into the freezer, on cardboard cake rounds to ensure they freeze flat. I’ve found it makes no difference in taste, and makes the whole process simpler.

However, if making my layers more than a day in advance, I either wrap each layer in Saran Wrap, or place them into a large tupperware container (if the layers are small enough). I prefer the Tupperware route since it’s less wasteful, but when freezing cake layers for longer periods of time (more than a few days), I think Saran Wrap works best.

wrapped cake layer on cardboard round

If you plan to make you cake layers more than a few days in advance, I highly recommend doubling up to protect your cake layers from freezer burn. There are a few different ways you can do this:

  • Wrap cake layers in two layers of Saran Wrap
  • First wrap cake layers in Saran Wrap, then wrap in second layer of foil
  • Wrap in Saran Wrap then place in air tight tupperware container
  • Wrap in Saran Wrap, then place into large ziplock freezer bag

My layer cake recipe can be made two weeks in advance, if wrapped properly.  I’ve only made layers two weeks in advance, and I haven’t tested the upper limits. If any of you have frozen my cake layer recipe for longer, please let me know the duration, and how they tasted.

I’ve talked to other bakers, and some like to immediately pop their layer out of their pans, wrap them in plastic wrap while they’re still hot, and then place them in the freezer.

Both methods help keep moisture in the layers! If you think about steam rising from a baked good hot out of the oven, it’s moisture evaporating right out whatever you just baked! By reducing the steam that leaves your cake layers, you’re helping them stay moist and delicious.


So now that you’ve frozen your cake layers, what do you do when it comes time to make the cake?! I like to remove my layer from the freezer about 30 minutes before I want to begin frosting a cake. I unwrap each layer and lay them out on my counter to thaw. Just after doing this (and while they’re still completely frozen), I like to trim the caramelization from the sides of my layers.

I then let the layer thaw for 30 minutes (this can vary depending on the size of your cake layers). At this point they’re still chilled, but also slightly firm. This is when I level my cake layers using a serrated knife. If you try to level the cake before it has thaw, it will be extremely difficult to cut through, making it more likely that the layers break.

IMG_7843 (2)

Once the layers are trimmed, leveled, and still slightly chilled, I begin to make the cake. I know sounds strange, but chilled cake layers are so much easier to stack and frost! Chilling the cake layers reduces the amount of crumbing, and helps the buttercream firm up once it’s added to the cake. This minimizes any shifting of your cake layers as you add a crumb coat.

Chilled cake layers are also much easier to carve, if you’re working on a sculpted cake. If my cake layers are at room temperature, and I try to carve them, I find that my layers kind of crumble, and are very difficult to shape. When my layers are chilled, I can cut and shape them into whatever shape I’m after.

MVI_1619_Moment (2)

This ended up being much longer than I intended, so here’s a little recap of the main takeaways of making cake layers in advance:

  • Cake layers can be made several weeks in advance if properly wrapped as described above (doubled wrapped!)
  • Layers should be thawed for about 30 minutes before leveling and building the cake
  • Making a cake with chilled cake layers (thawed out of the freezer for 30 minutes) reduces crumbing
  • Chilled cake layers are easier to stack and carve

Please let me know if you use any different methods for making cake layers in advance, I’d love to hear about them!!

28 thoughts on “How to Make Cake Layers in Advance

  1. How long after the 30 min thaw do you think it takes to come to room temperature for a 4 later cake? I find that if I freeze the cake layers, even after a few hours it’s still super cold and it doesn’t taste very good.

    1. if you want to eat the cake shortly after making it/want it to be at room temp more quickly, I’d recommend letting the frozen layers almost fully thaw before frosting the cake!

  2. Hi, Chelsea! I have definitely had your cakes frozen for longer than 2 weeks. Possibly 4-6 weeks and after the cakes defrosted, they honestly tasted just as good, if not better, than fresh! I had double wrapped them in saran wrap and then stored in a freezer bag and had no issues with freezer burn.

    1. thank you so much for sharing Cara!! I’ll update the post to include that πŸ™‚ Also so happy to hear that!!!

  3. Hello Chelsea
    I am wanting to start baking cakes as a hobby. All types of cakes. What do you recommend me to start with as a beginner?

    1. start with something simple! I have a few great tutorials on baking basics up on my YouTube channel, which i recommend watching πŸ™‚

  4. Super helpful! Just one question, you mentioned making the frosting in advanced too. Do you just store it in a sealed container in the fridge and how long do you let it thaw out for? Thanks πŸ™‚

  5. Hello
    I would like to know if I can make cupcakes ahead of time, if yes what’s the method of storing it??
    And what is the shelf life if baking ahead cupcakes?

    1. yes! i like to bake them and freeze them in tupperwear! Just be sure not to stack them on top of each other. I let them thaw the day of, then frost and serve them. I’ve only ever made them a week in advance, but i’d bet they’d last longer than that!

    1. I do sometimes with my chocolate cake layers, or if I’m making a super larger cake (like a wedding cake or a sculpted cake). but for most of my standard layer cakes I don’t!

  6. Hi chels, thank you so much for this! Extremely helpful !!! Please let me know how to store decorated layer cakes. The best way. Store in fridge or freezer?
    Also Do you prefer fridge or freezer after you put on crumb coat on cakes?

    1. I prefer using the freezer for my crumb coat, and then the fridge for my decorated cakes! If I won’t be cutting into a cake for more than a few days, I’ll put it in the freezer. Otherwise I prefer the fridge! just be sure if you use the freezer to store a decorated cake, you move it the fridge a day before you need to cut into it. This will help minimize the temperature shock <3

Let me know what you think!

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