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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 used to work full time in corporate finance, and frequently baked after work or on the weekends.

I loved 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 Layer 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 vanilla layer cake recipe can be made three weeks in advance, if wrapped properly.  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 with a serrated knife.

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!!

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MarceySullens

Friday 26th of February 2021

How long would it take to unthaw a three layer already frosted cake

MarceySullens

Friday 26th of February 2021

I have three layer cake already with icing on it in the freezer. How long does it take to thaw out

Raquel

Thursday 25th of February 2021

Hello, I’ve only just discovered your site and loving all the information.

I just have a quick question. I need a cake for a Tuesday (need to take it to work with me at 6am)

I was thinking of doing it all Monday night after work but I think it’ll be too much.

Could I make the cakes today (my only day off until Wednesday next week) and freeze them, then get them out Monday night when I get home from work at 5 and then do a butter cream and a ganache?

What would you suggest? I’m not much of a baker but trying to get better and wanting to give myself plenty of time so I’m not stressed

Matt

Sunday 14th of February 2021

Hi Chelsea, Question for you: I typically bake my layers one day and then frost decorate the next day... 2 days later at the most. So... I've e always been a little bit confusedI ss to what's best; fridge or freezer?? I typically wrap my layers in 2 sheete of plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator since I'm going to be frosting/decorating them the next day...sometimes it'll be two days, but - if it's only going to be one or two days, do they need to go in the freezer, or is the chill from the fridgerator good enough?

Sandy

Friday 12th of February 2021

I very much enjoyed reading this, and emulsion vs extract--wow! What a difference in taste! The info about making ahead really helped me. I'm a scrawny old woman and was worn out the first time I made this! It's delicious--my family loved it! Thank you so much! Sandy