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.

HOW TO FREEZE CAKE LAYERS IN ADVANCE

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.

HOW TO THAW AND USE FROZEN CAKE LAYERS

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.

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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.

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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!!

56 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 itโ€™s still super cold and it doesnโ€™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.

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hello
    I would like to know if I can make cupcakes ahead of time, if yes whatโ€™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. Can I put frosted cupcakes back in the fridge? Covered in a box/container so they donโ€™t melt a few hours before serving? I have to take the cupcakes to a party but itโ€™ll be a hot summer day and I donโ€™t want them to melt before we get there!

      2. Hi Trina! I think chilling them in a container in the fridge for a couple hours before serving them should be ok! Usually I say frost right before serving them, but I totally get that it can be hard with the summer heat <3

    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

  7. Hello! I love your vanilla cake recipe itโ€™s my
    Go to everyone always loves it! I usually make my cakes the day before eating so Iโ€™ve never had to freeze but I am going to make a cake on Thursday that wonโ€™t be decorated until Saturday. If I freeze it Thursday and then decorate it Saturday morning do you think it will be good to eat (thawed out) by Saturday noonish? Your advice would be great! Thank you

    1. Aw I’m so happy to hear that Elizabeth! I definitely think if the cake has a couple hours to sit at room temp once it’s decorated, they should be thawed and ready to eat around noon ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope that helps, happy baking!!

  8. I double wrap my cake layers individually in plastic wrap and foil then freeze a week in advance. I like the idea of adding cake boards between the layers. Thank you Chelsea!

  9. Hi. I baked some cakes from your recipe for naked cakes and I froze the layers for a wedding. I didn’t use simple syrup but am wondering if I should now. Can I put the simple syrup on right after I take them out of the freezer and have leveled them before I’m ready to frost them? Meaning they would still be slightly frozen (30 min. out of the freezer) and if so, how long after I put the simple syrup on should I wait to ice the cake? Thank you.

    1. you can, and I recommend adding simple syrup for wedding cakes! I’d recommend letting your leveled layers thaw for about 30 minutes (give or take for bigger or smaller layers), and soak them in simple syrup before frosting and assembling your tiers. hope that helps, best of luck with your wedding cake!

  10. So, I’m making a homemade birthday cake for my sister and came across your site. Love it!! I’ve never heard of freezing cakes, but I’m going to start trying it now. I too work in corporate finance and don’t have much time during the week, so love the idea of make the cakes one night, icing the next, decorating the next. I’ve always been told not to put decorated cakes in the fridge, that it dries them out, that cakes should always be left out on the counter in a container (tupperware or glass cake holder). I guess that must be a myth? Can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

    1. That’s awesome to hear, it really is a game changer!!

      And that’s crazy!! I don’t advise putting unfrosted cake layers in the fridge, but if a cake is fully frosted, it can last in the fridge for several days!! that layer of frosting locks in all the moisture. However, frosted cakes can sit out for a day and won’t go bad. But sometimes as the cake sits at room temperature, it can form air bubbles or the sides can bulge. I definitely recommend the fridge over room temp, unless you plan to eat the cake a few hours after you decorate it ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks so much Chelsea for the quick reply!! I’m planning to make the frosting Sunday, make the cake layers Wednesday night, put in the freezer right away and keep there overnight, assemble the cake on a Thursday night, travel 3 hours on Friday to my sister’s, then eat the cake Saturday. So I’ll keep it in the fridge Thursday night after its frosted. Will it be OK to take it out, travel 3 hours and then put back in the fridge as soon as I get to my sister’s house Friday and keep there until Saturday? Should I try and put it in a cooler to keep it cool during the 3 hours transport? Any advice, greatly appreciated!

  11. It is humid where I live. Any tips on keeping the buttercream frosting from melting? I try to store in the fridge sometimes until about 30 mins before I serve it, then when I take it out it starts developing condensation quick and just looks all wet.

    1. humidity can be tough! I’d try to keep your kitchen really cool when you take it out of the fridge, to try to minimize the temperature shock!

  12. Hii I baked my cake yesterday using butter and condensed milk … it came out good but I kept in fridge …. why is the cake not light … it is heavy in weight … does it depend on temperature???

  13. Hi chels! Iโ€™m making a 6in and 8in cake, but want to do it in advance. Can I bake and decorate the cake 7 days in advance and it still taste fresh the day of? If so, how do I go about doing this the right way?
    Thanks in advance!!

    1. you definitely can! once a cake is frosted, the buttercream will lock in all the moisture and keep the layers fresh! You can either keep it in your fridge, or your freezer. if you go the freezer route, transfer the cake to your fridge a day before you plan to eat it, to help reduce the temperature shock! take it out of the fridge a couple hours before you plan to eat it. Hope that helps Cassandra <3

  14. Just found your site and can’t wait to start trying some of your recipes and your amazing technique of fresh flowers on a cake board, slathered with buttercream!!!

    1. Yay! Happy to have you along for the ride Paula! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to hear how your next floral cake turns out using that method, keep me posted!

  15. Do you recommend always storing undecorated layers in the freezer if its more than a day, as opposed to wrapping them and storing them in the fridge? For example, if I baked layers on Wednesday and then decorated on Friday or Saturday?

    1. Hi Melissa! I definitely recommend popping them into the freezer! I think it keeps them more fresh than the fridge. Just be sure they’re wrapped really well to keep them moist and protect them from drying out ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Thank you for your tips! I have actually frozen my cake for a year.. and it was delicious. I froze cake 30 min.. until the icing hardened. Then wrapped in Syran wrap… then foil.. then in a large rubbermaid container. I kept it in the back of the freezer until the anniversary. To defrost.. I removed the foil and wrap.. and allow to defrost a day in the fridge. Then I took it out to completely come to room temp before serving . Wonderful.. It tasted just baked and fresh.

    1. Hi Jordan! A frosted cake can stay good in the fridge for up to a week! As long as the frosting is completely covering the cake layers, it should lock in all the moisture, and the cake should stay nice and moist ๐Ÿ™‚ I let cakes sit in the fridge overnight, or for a few days all the time! I usually leave my cakes just open in the fridge without a covering! It should be fine as long as you don’t have anything fragrant in your fridge (like fish or onions).

      Or it can stay good in the freezer for up to a month! Just be sure to cover the cake in plastic wrap once itโ€™s chilled / the buttercream has firmed up.

Let me know what you think!