Freezing Cake Layers

This year I’m trying to blog my answers to the questions you guys ask the most! One popular question is how far in advance you can make cake layers. To answer this, we need to talk about freezing cake layers!

Some people are hesitant to freeze their cake layers, fearful that the freezer will dry them out. I promise freezing cake layers doesn’t change the texture or taste at all, if they’re properly wrapped!

photos of my funfetti wedding cake layers, made in advance by freezing 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, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pan to separate the layers from the pan.

After this, I place the warm pans directly into my freezer.

Sounds crazy, right?? Hot pans right into the freezer?? It dramatically 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.

Making A Cake A Few Days In Advance

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

Making Cake Layers Further in Advance

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 recipeΒ can be made two weeks in advance, if wrapped properly. Β I’ve only made layers three 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.

image of freezing cake layers, thawed and stacked after being made a week in advance

The Benefits of Frosting Chilled Cake Layers

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.

carving cake layers that were frozen and made in advance

Key Takeaways

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 freezing cake layers, I’d love to hear about them!!

85 thoughts on “Freezing Cake Layers

  1. HI!! I have had trouble with my cakes crumbling when I try to level them or decorate them. If I wanted to make it all in one day (therefore not freeze overnight) do you recommned still freezing them for a few hours or just putting them in the fridge until completely cooled? Also, how should you store a cake after it’s made and half eaton? Leave on the counter or put in the fridge?

    1. Hi Katie! I do suggest putting them in the freezer still, to speed up the cooling process! I think cake layers that are slightly chilled also are easier to level and trim. When I say chilled, I just mean slightly cold to the touch though, not frozen! Frozen cake layers are nightmare to try to level!!

      When I’ve cut into a cake, I simply cover the cut sections with leftover frosting, which helps lock in all the moisture. I then put the cake in the fridge, and it stays good for up to a week πŸ™‚ Hope that helps, happy baking!

  2. Hi love your cakes and watch all your videos !!

    I need to bake for an event on Sunday. But it is in another city. I plan to travel on Thursday by flight with the baked cake layers and go to the destination freeze them till Saturday and then frost and decorate.

    When do suggest I bake?
    Should I bake on Thursday cover the cake properly, travel to the destination and then freeze till Saturday.

    Should I bake on Wednesday? Freeze the cake and then travel on Thursday and refreeze the cake at Destination. Will the changing temperature spoil the cake?

    Not sure what to do. Please help!!

    Trupti

  3. Hi Chelsea!

    I had two questions..
    I am planning to decorate my cake the day of of my baby shower and was wondering should I take the cakes out from the freezer and keep out or put in the refrigerator the night before.. or do you think about 5-6 hours is enough time for the cake to thaw?
    Also do you have any type of guide as to how much icing a tier would need cup wise.. I was planning on two to three layers each of 6”-8”-10”

    Thank you for your helpful tips ??

    1. Hi Stefani,

      I’m so sorry for the delayed response! the cake layers only need to thaw for about 20 minutes at room temp before you start frosting and decorating them (you want them to still be a bit cold, to make them easier to stack), so I’d leave them frozen until the day you plan to decorate.

      For the frosting, it can vary a lot based on how you plan to decorate it, and how much frosting you like between your cake layers. I love a lot of frosting, so I add about 1 cup of frosting between 8 inch cake layers, 1.5 cups between 10 inch cake layers, and about 3/4 of a cup between 6 inch cake layers.

      I usually just make a ton, to ensure I don’t run out! And leftover frosting you have can be frozen for up to three months, or refrigerated for a month πŸ™‚

  4. Hi there – I am planning on making my son’s birthday cake for this Saturday. I’ve already made the Funfetti layers and oreo frosting. I was hoping to at least fill and crumb coat it and then decorate it later this week. Is it possible to take just fill and crumb coat and then return if back to the freezer? if so how would you thaw to put on the final decorative layer of frosting? Thanks for your help. Your recipes are out of this world and so awesome. I have tried so many different bakers, I’ve been to pastry school – and these are just spot on with what I was looking for. Your methods and explanations couldn’t be more accurate! Thank you!

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      It totally is! I would suggest moving the cake the fridge the day before you plan to add the second layer of frosting, to allow it to slowly thaw and avoid any issues with condensation. I hope that helps!!

      And you are too sweet πŸ™‚ I really try to make my recipes delicious yet doable/ simple (not that a pastry chef like you needs that component :P) Haha thank you for the kind words! I hope your son loves his birthday cake!!! <3

  5. When do you poke the center hole into the layers for the center dowel on a large tiered cake – before or after freezing?

    1. Hi Bonnie!

      I like to poke the central hole once my cake layers are frosted and stacked, so I do it after the freezing/thawing. Happy baking!! <3

Let me know what you think!