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.
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.
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.
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!!