How to Keep Every Kind of Cake Fresh

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Cake can be many things — art, craft, fantasy, fun — but more than anything else, cake is food. And like all food, cake is perishable. To keep it fresh for as long as possible, you'll need a few strategies to protect it from heat and humidity.

Naked cake

When you're working on an elaborate decorating project, you may want to do your baking in advance. But how to keep the unadorned cake fresh until you're ready to pretty it up?

First, let the cake cool — completely. If you wrap it while it's warm, you'll end up with steam, which is the enemy of freshness. Once the cake is room temperature, cover it tightly all over with plastic. Do not wrap it on top of a plate or platter; be sure the plastic seals in all sides. For cupcakes or loaf cakes, you can use a freezer-type bag with a seal, assuming everything fits and the seal closes securely.

Keep the cake in a dry place at cool room temperature for a few days. If the weather is very hot or humid, you can store the cake in the refrigerator for two or three days, but be extra careful to wrap it well so it doesn't absorb other odors (unless you want your cake to smell like leftover Chinese takeout).

Cake will also keep in the freezer for up to a month. Allow ample time for thawing before using.

Iced cake

Buttercream and fondant

Believe it or not, a thorough icing with buttercream and fondant helps seal moisture in a cake. Thus frosted, it can stay fresh in a keeper or under a large overturned bowl for as long as three or four days. These don't provide an airtight seal but they will keep the dust out.

If the weather is hot or humid, store the cake in the fridge. But beware when refrigerating cakes with tinted fondant: Condensation caused by rapid changes in temperature can make the colors bleed. If possible, transfer the refrigerated cake to an air-conditioned space and let it adjust for a while before taking it out into a warm day to reduce "temperature shock."

Buttercream- and fondant-topped cakes can be frozen, but to avoid condensation you'll need to bring them to room temperature slowly. First, transfer them to the refrigerator so they can thaw gradually, then to an air-conditioned space.

Cream cheese and whipped-cream icing

If there's cream cheese or whipped cream (even stabilized whipped cream) in your icing, do not leave the cake out at room temperature. Instead, cover it and place in the refrigerator for up to three days.

You can freeze cream-cheese icing, but I wouldn't recommend doing so with whipped-cream icing. Freezing alters the texture (and not for the better).

Boiled icing

Cakes topped with a boiled frosting or French or Italian buttercream are fine at room temperature or refrigerated, but don't freeze them: The icing turns gummy when thawed.

Ganache

For cakes topped with ganache follow the buttercream and fondant rules.

Bonus info

  • If your cake is elaborate or tall, consider icing and storing it in separate layers, then assembling them on the big day.
  • If there are tinted pieces to the cake that you worry may bleed, consider icing the cake but leaving it unadorned, adding any delicate decorations on the day of your event.
  • Factor in the fillings. Even if the cake itself can sit out at room temperature, you'll need to refrigerate it if the filling requires this (think pudding or custard).

Sliced cake

Already cut your cake? Now you've got a real race against the clock!

One trick: Reseal the cake by spreading icing all over the cut side. I'm pretty sure nobody will mind getting that piece. You could also place a sheet of plastic directly on the sliced part, making sure to cover the exposed edges completely. Then wrap as instructed above.

Wedding cake

Tradition calls for storing a portion of the wedding cake for the couple to consume on their first anniversary. You do not want to mess this up.

Place the cake in the refrigerator so the icing can "set," about 30 minutes. Once it's firm, cover it all over with plastic wrap so that it is completely sealed. Fortify this packing by coating with a layer of aluminum foil, then put the whole thing in either a freezer bag or an airtight container. Bid it farewell and pray there's no electric failure in your future.

Stale cake

When tragedy strikes, you may still be able to walk away a winner.

  • Cake French toast = #goals
  • Crush the cake and combine with extra icing to make the filling for cake pops. Live your best life.
  • Blend stale cake with ice cream to make a cake shake. No regrets.
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