If you own a bakery, you can do one of two things: Wake up at 3 a.m. and bake everything from scratch (um, pass) or learn a few tricks that make it look like that's what you did.
My days of running a bakery are long gone, but when I bake at home I still rely on the time-saving moves I learned back then. Steal my secrets and you'll save yourself many hours — and headaches — whether you're baking for the holidays or making last-minute treats to serve friends. No one will guess you slept in.
Does freezing a cake dry it out? Opinions vary. One thing's for sure: A cake that's just come out of the oven beats a cake that's been frozen, any day of the week.
But freezing cake batter is another story. Keep a batch in the freezer and you can have a fresh-out-of-the-oven cake pretty much whenever you want.
Two types of cake batter freeze beautifully: creaming-method batters (where you cream the sugar with the fat at room temperature) and quick-bread batters that use oil as the fat. I freeze the batters for my devil's food cake and black velvet cake all the time, keeping them in the freezer for up to three months.
But not all cake batters freeze well. If you make a batter leavened with whipped egg whites, like a chiffon or sponge cake, get that into the oven pronto.
How to freeze batter like a pro
1. Use dishers or portion scoops to freeze batter in convenient amounts, like single servings for cupcakes or tasting cakes. Use larger containers to store enough batter for a loaf pan cake or layer cake.
2. Store small portions in single-serving reusable freezer containers. Leave a half-inch or so of space at the top to allow for the batter to expand and contract during the freezing and thawing process.
3. Store larger amounts of cake batter in zip-top freezer bags, smooshing all of the air out first so the bag lays flat in the freezer.
4. Put the batter in the fridge to defrost the night before you want to use it. Give it a stir and portion it out into prepared cake pans. Bake according to your recipe.
5. If you use your defrosted cake batter as soon as you take it out of the fridge, it will have a tighter crumb than cake batter that reaches room temperature before baking.
Need a freshly baked cookie or a warm scone ASAP? Coming right up. All you have to do is store pre-shaped doughs in your freezer, then when the craving hits, pull out what you need and slide it in the oven. I have yet to meet a cookie, scone or pâte à choux dough that didn't freeze well for me.
Use a disher to scoop out uniform rounds onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pop the sheet into the freezer until the dough is frozen solid. Store the frozen balls in a large zip-top freezer bag. Pull out single cookies as needed (or wanted), or bake the whole bunch at once.
Keep in mind that some types of cookie dough bake up well as soon as you pull them out of the freezer, while others work better if you thaw them first. Do a test: Bake a still-frozen and a thawed scoop to see which one comes out best.
Another way of freezing cookie batter: Make a slice-and bake roll by shaping cookie dough into a log on a piece of plastic wrap.
Then roll up the plastic wrap around the dough. Grab both ends of the wrap at the same time and spin the log (whee!), twirling and tightening the plastic wrap around the dough. Put the log in the freezer. Slice off frozen cookies to bake as needed. Tip: It's easiest to cut cookies from the log when you're dealing with frozen (not thawed) dough.
Pâte à choux
You can freeze pâte à choux puffs the same way you'd freeze cookie dough. Pipe mounds of pâte à choux dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pop the sheet in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid. Gather the frozen dough mounds into a large zip-top freezer bag. When you're ready to bake, take as many of the frozen pâte à choux mounds as you need, and make sure you bake them straight from the freezer (don't thaw them out first).
The technique for freezing scone dough is similar to what you'd do for cookies and pâte à choux. First, shape the dough (into rounds or triangles, usually) and set the mounds on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Follow the same freezing and storage process as you would for scooped cookie dough.
When you're ready for a scone, bake the shaped dough straight from the freezer, or allow it to come to room temperature first. Top the scones with cream or a dusting of sugar before putting them in the oven. Then sit back and wait for that warm, buttery smell. Swoon! And hey, you barely lifted a finger.