It’s a universally known fact that the ins and outs of baking can be tricky; that’s why people claim baking is more science than art. What’s more, the trouble with most baked goods doesn’t end at the creation stage. The odds are if you’ve ever baked a cake, you’ve been left with the stark concern of “how do I store it properly?”
Here are the best steps to follow in order to store your cake layers properly:
- Make sure your cake is baked properly.
- Refrigerate briefly before wrapping to remove moisture.
- Wrap layers properly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
- Store the cake in an airtight container.
- Refrigerate your cake layers safely.
- Freeze layers and icing for extended periods separately.
- Store non-perishable cakes at room temperature.
- Frost your cake after storing.
- Restore your cake properly after serving.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the rights and wrongs of storing cake at every point of the baking process. It may sound daunting, but the best routes are simple, quick, and easy. Read on if you’re curious and want to know the best ways to keep your cake fresh and safe.
1. Make Sure Your Cake is Baked Properly
Before we even touch on methods and techniques of storage, we should start at the very avoidable yet widespread root of most problems people will face.
You must make sure to bake your cake correctly. A poorly composed cake will not store well. Issues will arise in baking when you:
- Over-bake your cake
- Over-mix your batter
- Add disproportionate ingredients
- Ignore temperature specific instructions
Each of these mistakes can severely throw off your ability to store the cake in a way that will preserve its structure or freshness. They can make your cake too dry, too moist, too dense, or simply too vulnerable to the impact of storage.
Thanks to these tips from Sally’s Baking Recipes, I can advise some methods to avoid the effects of mistakes. These methods include:
- Add sour cream for some light moisture.
- Add oil to increase moisture without affecting the flavor.
- Add baking powder/soda to level out the dryness of the cake.
- Use cake flour as opposed to all-purpose flour.
Just be sure to follow the recipe as closely as you can – you shouldn’t face any struggles unless the formula itself is flawed. Baking is a science, and if you’re careful, it should pose no issue for later storing the cake.
2. Refrigerate Briefly Before Wrapping To Remove Moisture
Now onto the methods for proper storage; While it can be pretty straightforward, there are a couple of parts that you must do correctly; otherwise, storing your cake will result in a drastic decrease in quality and may even ruin the dish.
Something dangerous that you must account for is the level of moisture in your cake, as this is the most significant aspect of the structure of the meal.
Refrigerating a cake will always result in it drying out. You can lessen this effect by wrapping the cake and containing it correctly. However, any amount of time in a fridge will always cause the cake to dry out, even if only marginally.
The best way to take advantage of this is by simply refrigerating the cake for 15 to 30 minutes on a wire rack before containing the layers at all. This technique effectively reduces moisture levels, which in turn will reduce any nasty build-up of condensation or sogginess.
After this, you may begin to wrap the layers. The following section will detail the recommended use of plastic cling wrap and aluminum foil in storing the components of a cake.
3. Wrap Layers Properly With Plastic Wrap and Aluminum Foil
This next step is commonly considered to be the most important and valuable. It’s crucial to wrap your cake layers in either plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or both.
In doing this, you will protect the layers from the storage climate and environment.
This approach is also an excellent step for maintaining structural integrity and moisture levels. The wrap will hold the cake components firmly together, and the aluminum foil will reduce the impacts of temperature and fluid loss.
The situations in which you would use these combinations of containment include:
- Plastic wrap for room temperature or countertop storage.
- Aluminum foil for freezing and extended keeping.
- Both plastic wrap and aluminum foil for refrigeration or freezing.
Be sure to wrap any cake or layers firmly and thoroughly, as any holes or loose points will significantly diminish the effectiveness of safe storage.
You can do the wrapping of your cake layers either in their entirety or while the cake is still in the pan. In the latter case, clean and chill the pan (as seen in step two) to avoid any build-up of moisture or culinary debris.
4. Store the Cake in an Airtight Container
When keeping your cake in any form of storage, it’s an all-around decent idea to do so in an airtight container.
Whether in the refrigerator, freezer unit, or even just the countertop, keeping the cake in a sealed container will go a long way in protecting it from any external risks.
These risks refer to the temperature, humidity, and bacterial threats. Each of these problems can cause issues a lot worse than a decrease in the quality of your dish, so they are essential to prioritize.
However, the quality of your dish will be greatly assisted if protected from the environment in which you choose to store it. Cake layers, and cake in general, can be very particular, so be sure to do so carefully and thoroughly.
Keeping your cake components in airtight containers is also a brilliant way to organize multiple stored dishes at once or to optimize the space usage in your fridge or freezer.
5. Refrigerate Your Cake Layers Safely
The first and most frequently used method of storing cake and cake layers overnight is via refrigeration. This is the simplest method; however, it’s easy to get wrong.
If you choose to refrigerate your dish, wrap it thoroughly. As previously mentioned, poor wrapping will lead to multiple issues such as dried or crumbling cake.
Cool your cake fully before wrapping and storing it in the refrigerator, either by utilizing steps two and three of this article or simply leaving it to cool on the countertop.
If you choose the latter, be sure to keep a watchful eye and consider applying a culinary fly screen to keep the cake safe.
As mentioned prior, using plastic wrap and aluminum foil is recommended to keep the layers safe, firm, and moist under the conditions of the refrigerator.
This storage method is recommended for short-term keeping, as the cake will usually last up to four to five days before going bad. This style makes it more sustainable than countertop keeping but not nearly as valuable as storage in a freezer.
6. Freeze Layers and Icing for Extended Periods Separately
A different method for storing your cake layers is via freezing. This approach is a very reliable and effective method, given you are doing it correctly.
Freezing a cake is a great way to preserve it for extended periods, even months at a time. Should you need to do this, be sure to use aluminum foil and an airtight container to achieve optimal preservation.
If you also need to store your frosting or icing for a long-term period, it’s best to keep it in a separate airtight container. Doing this saves you from the hassle that comes with merged frozen components and frosting.
I recommend using aluminum foil so as to maintain the temperature and moisture levels of the layers. You should also be applying step four’s airtight container method to keep the freezer taste from seeping into your layers.
A critical difference between refrigerating and freezing your cake layers is how well the moisture level is maintained. The gradual cooling of refrigeration tends to dry out food far more than freezing. However, while freezing the cake, you run the risk of water crystals forming.
Regardless, proper packaging before storage should negate any of these risks.
7. Store Non-Perishable Cakes at Room Temperature
The last storage method is a straightforward one and is more effective than you might expect. Countertop storage, or simply room temperature storage (you may keep your dish in a pantry), is a situational yet easy way to keep your cake layers overnight.
I emphasize overnight, as I would not recommend storing any food like this for any more than three to four days. It’s important to note that you should keep cakes with exclusively non-perishable contents like this.
Any desserts made with ingredients like these are not safe for you to store at room temperature:
- Heavy dairy or dairy-based cream mixes and toppings
- Fresh fruits or fruit fillings
- Heavily egg-based cakes (average mix cakes will be fine)
Your dessert should also not be kept in an open kitchen environment for longer than its serving time if your kitchen climate is especially warm or humid.
Prolonged exposure to hotter temperatures or air can significantly impact your cake layers, so be sure to use one of the other alternatives in this list if this issue applies to you.
However, if you have a safe environment to do so, still be sure to wrap and keep your layers in an airtight container before leaving them to sit at room temperature.
8. Frost Your Cake After Storing
A somewhat overlooked portion of the cake prepping process is the proper point at which you should frost, ice, or decorate the layers.
It would be best if you did not frost your cake before storage – this is an all-around bad idea.
First off, you should never decorate a warm cake. This method allows for the risk of crumbs blending with decor and icing colors seeping into or staining layers. Instead, let it cool, ideally for a full day, to gently prep it for ornamentation.
Secondly, the storage process plays a critical role in putting the layers in the best state to be decorated. A cooled cake is easier to frost; however, a frozen cake is easiest.
Freezing a cake almost completely negates the risk of crumbs infecting the decor – and decorating can be done directly after storing it in a freezer unit. The layers will be stiffer, stable, and primed for icing and toppings.
What’s more, avoiding the storage of frosted cake means that the quality of the decoration will not be impacted or damaged by the conditions of refrigeration or freezing. Frosting or icing tends to deteriorate when stored for more extended periods.
It’s important to remember to store your cake layers for one night at least before decorating to create the easiest and optimal decorating experience.
9. Restore Your Cake Properly After Serving
The last step to note is preserving your dessert after you’ve prepped, decorated, and served it. I choose to mention this because the details of the methods involved differ from an unserved or uncut cake.
Storing a cut cake will never be as effective as storing a fresh one. However, there are ways to maximize the efficiency of keeping a served dish.
The best tip I can offer is to chill your dessert for about 15 to 20 minutes or so prior to wrapping and packing it up. This technique will effectively harden the frosting or topping decor to not be as vulnerable or malleable to storage impacts.
Firmly wrapping and sealing your cake is also necessary to prevent deterioration of the ornamentation. Again, use aluminum in the fridge or freezer to sustain the moisture.
Be warned, however, that storing frosted cake will most likely cause the colors to seep into the layers and the frosting itself to lose a lot of its perkiness.
To conclude, while the storing of cake and cake layers can seem daunting and just as particular as the creation of the cake itself, by remaining careful and attentive, you should face no troubles in preserving your dessert.