I had been working professionally in the cake industry for well over two decades when I came across a shocking article on a local baker’s website. Her work as a cake artist was stunning, and I saw her as up-and-coming in our community. However, she boasted that she only used fresh cake, never frozen. This got me thinking.
My immediate reaction was, Really? How is that? Is fresh, never frozen, cake better? The comment challenged everything I knew. Have I been doing it wrong all these years? In every bakery I had worked in, both small and big box stores, they had utilized the freezer to aide in production. I seriously had to rethink my training!
In my opinion, the freezer can be a baker’s best friend. It can save you hours in the kitchen, and keeping your cakes cold won’t harm the taste if done right. In my years as a cake artist, I have found that when you use the freezer properly, it can even add to the cake’s flavor and stability. That being said, there are ways a freezer can harm everything you have worked so hard to create! So, what is the best way to utilize your freezer for your own cake creations?
The freezer is your friend!
There is a time when the freezer is your friend. Cake should never be iced and decorated the same day they are baked. A freshly baked cake’s internal structure is too soft to handle the rigors of the decorating process. But how early can you get started on your baked goods?
In my experience cakes can be baked way ahead of time. I personally bake my cakes up to a week in advance and I use my freezer to store all of them. One of the biggest reasons is that we all know you have to make one mess to bake the cakes and then have to TOTALLY clean your kitchen in order to make a new mess to decorate your cake! For just the sake of time, it just makes sense to do all your baking one day and decorating on another!
I also find that the freezing process seals in moisture. We all love moist cake! Especially if you crumb ice the cake just before your cake is completely thawed, before all the air evaporates. So, I encourage you to try it! Bake all your cakes and utilize your freezer. You will not regret it! Once your cakes come out of the oven and are properly cooled to room temperature, you can pop them in your freezer. Here are some tips to guide you to do it right!
1. Wrap your cakes in order to protect them from the forced cooled air
I found a one- or two-gallon freezer grade resealable plastic bag to be the best option. First of all, they are reusable since you can turn them inside out to wash and dry them for future use. You can also zip them closed to ensure that no air will get inside the bag or (including any bad smells lingering in your freezer).
An alternative method is to use plastic cling wrap to protect your cakes. However, be aware that the cling wrap slips off easily in the freezer and does not seal very tightly, so the possibility of air affecting your cakes is greater. Unfortunately, cling wrap is also nearly impossible to reuse, making it pretty wasteful.
2. Find your cake a home in the freezer
You’ll want to find a level spot in your freezer, preferably away from the fan. Don’t just stick them on yesterday’s turkey pot pie, or you’ll end up with a weird impression on the bottom of your cake layer!
Personally, I find I can stack cakes up to three layers high before any damage occurs. But be careful, if you are not sure how your cakes will behave, avoid stacking your cake layers until they are frozen solid. It only takes a few hours for them to be sturdy enough to stack them on top of one another.
3. Make sure your freezer is clean and has a neutral odor
Take a minute to wipe out the space and get rid of any old fish or other possible smells lurking about. I also suggest putting in some fresh baking soda as well. This product really does absorb any errant odors.
That’s it! Your cakes are safely out of the way until you are ready to decorate. You can either defrost your cakes slowly in the refrigerator or on the counter as you prepare your icings.
However, don’t be too quick—make sure that your layers are about halfway thawed before you apply any icing. I have found that cakes will crack the finished icing as they expand in the defrosting process.
When is the freezer your enemy?
I think the freezer gets a bad reputation from bakeries who don’t freeze their products properly. A freezer can add to the life of a cake, but it can also ruin a cake’s potential if used incorrectly. We have all bitten into a cake that has a not-so-fresh taste, and sometimes this can be caused by improper freezing.
There are a few things that can occur:
• The cakes layers were kept in the freezer either too long or unprotected from the forced air.
• Some bakeries freeze their finished product far too long before selling it. Cake icings are extremely porous and will absorb all the air around it. Freezing a finished cake is okay for a day or two in a clean well-regulated space, but beyond that, the cake will become saturated by the air in the freezer.
• If you must freeze a fully finished cake, make sure that you defrost the cake in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours before bringing it to room temperature. Otherwise too much condensation will occur, and your cake will be a drippy mess!
I hope this helps you feel empowered to freeze your cakes and cupcakes! The art of baking and decorating cake is a time intensive labor of love. Utilizing the convenience of a freezer for your freshly baked goodies will save you time and sanity.