A well-stocked freezer can come in handy on many occasions, as Britt Box from She Who Bakes explains... Knowing how to properly freeze cakes and cupcakes can be such a handy tool to add to your skillset. There are many situations in which a defrosted cake can come in handy. For example, if you want to bake in advance due to a busy week or workload, if you’ve got a mountain of baking to do for a special event, or if you’ve accidentally baked a cake for the wrong date (guilty!). It does require a little preparation and planning, but can save you a lot of time in the long run when you need it most. Freezing cakes and cupcakes allows you to bake ahead of schedule and be one step ahead! You will be able to freeze most cakes. Cakes with a high fat content freeze well without too much hassle (as do most biscuit and cookie doughs). Freezing fruit cakes is also a really good way to ‘flash-mature’ them. The defrosting process speeds it up, meaning if you’ve got a last-minute cake to do, or it’s completely slipped your mind, you don’t have to worry about the months you’ve missed out on letting it come to its best. A quick overnight trip to the freezer does a similar job. For best results, I recommend freezing cakes and cupcakes naked. Put them into the freezer un-iced and before you have filled or topped them. This prevents them going dry and stops any buttercream, frosting or sugarpaste ‘sweating’ all over your cakes when they are defrosting.
Once you’ve baked your cake, you need to leave it to cool completely. If it is still warm when you move onto the next stage, it can cause condensation which can cause cakes to go soggy. When it is cool, it’s really important to wrap the cake well, otherwise it may get very dry and get freezer burn due to the moisture. I find the best way to wrap sponge cakes for freezing is to use two tight layers of clingfilm and a tight layer of foil. It’s also good practice for food health and hygiene to pop a little sticker on the top with the date you’ve put it in the freezer (just in case it ends up being in there for a while!). I wouldn’t recommend freezing cakes for longer than three months as after this time they have passed their best. For fruit cakes, I tend to use a layer of greaseproof paper and then a tight layer of foil. Once wrapped well, if you have the space available in your freezer, I recommend freezing in a cake tin one size bigger than the cake. This extra space allows for the wrapping of clingfilm and foil, and also helps the cake keep its shape. It's also really handy if you’ve got a particularly busy freezer. I tend to bake deeper cakes and split and fill them all in one go, so therefore I would freeze cakes whole, but you can freeze individual cake layers if you prefer baking that way, remembering to wrap them really well as above. It’s also ideal to partially freeze cakes that you plan to carve, mainly because the crumb structure is more solid so it will keep its shape better and there’s less chance of it crumbling when shaping and crumb-coating. Wrap a ‘to be carved’ cake in clingfilm and pop in the freezer until it feels solid. You want it cold enough that it will hold its shape, but not so frozen that it will break your knife.
If you are baking cupcakes to freeze, it’s really important to bake them in greaseproof or foil cases as this will help prevent the dreaded peeling cases when you come to defrost them. The starting process for individual cupcakes is the same, making sure that they have cooled completely. But there are a couple of ways you can wrap them up depending on your needs. Firstly, you can wrap them individually using clingfilm, then you can take them out to defrost one at a time, or however many you need. Another way is to wrap them in groups, again, depending on your needs, by using the two layers of clingfilm and one layer of foil as before. You can also put them in a zip-lock sandwich bag. My favourite way (because I have a small but always busy freezer) is to keep them in the tin, wrap the whole tin twice in clingfilm, then a layer of foil, and put it on the shelf. I like doing it this way as the cupcakes are more protected and less likely to get damaged. Again, for good practice, a little sticker on the top with the date is a good way to prevent eating cupcakes past their best.
To defrost your cakes and cupcakes, take them out of the freezer and take off the layer of foil, but leave on the clingfilm. Leave them on the kitchen side, not in the fridge. Leaving cakes and cupcakes in the fridge sucks the moisture out of them. I would recommend leaving them overnight to defrost and taking them out the night before you plan on decorating them. You can defrost and decorate the same day, but be aware the cake may feel soft and defrosted on the outside, but it could still be frozen in the middle. I’ve broken two cake levellers thanks to this. Leave them overnight just to be sure. Cupcakes however, will defrost much quicker, usually in under an hour. I don’t advise defrosting cakes in the microwave. The condensation would be a nightmare. Make sure your cakes and cupcakes are fully defrosted before decorating, especially if you plan to cover your cake in sugarpaste and trap in any air as even a slightly damp cake can promote mould growth. I know there are some purists out there who think all cake should be freshly made and if you’re one of them that’s absolutely fine! But I will say that freezing cakes allows you to be on top of your baking schedule, can really help when you’re busy and, in my opinion, you can’t taste a difference. The only reason freezing cakes would affect the taste in any way is if the cake has gone dry due to it not being wrapped well, not being defrosted correctly, if it’s left in the freezer for too long, or not being stored in optimum conditions. Follow the above steps and you’ll have a perfect cake, just a little while after you actually baked it. I always tend to have a cake in the freezer. Just in case I’ve forgotten a birthday or event, if I want to treat someone to something tasty or even if I just fancy eating cake. It’s certainly helped me over the years to know this and I hope it helps you too!