In my husband’s family, my sister-in-law and I are the dessert makers. Be it pies or cheesecakes or cakes, we are the ones that get down and dirty with those delicious sweet treats.
Usually we get together for a birthday or a holiday on Saturdays around lunch. It is always a great time, but the fact that we get together fairly early in the day sometimes leaves me with a bit of a conundrum if I’m baking a cake.
Cakes can be a little tricky when it comes to baking and frosting them. You don’t want to do those two things too close together, or you can run into a problem with the frosting.
Melted frosting is never a fun thing to deal with. It can slide all over the cake, and even leave it bare in some places from falling right off!
So that leaves me with one of a few options. I can bake the cake before we leave and risk the frosting coming off, I can get up before the kids are up (little hands make it difficult!) to bake the cake and give it time to cool, or I can bake the cake the night before, which guarantees it’ll be cool before I need to frost it.
Well, I can tell you right now which one is the most appealing. If I can get good results AND not have to get up early? Win win.
How Should I Cool a Cake Overnight?
There are lots of opinions out there on the best way to cool your cake overnight. When I was researching it, it was a bit mind-boggling.
After I did a little bit of experimenting on my own, I was able to narrow down what I thought was the best option for me. Here are a few steps that I try to follow any time I bake a cake the night before.
1 – Bake Cake
This one is simple. Bake the cake as you normally would.
2 – Allow Cake to Cool for 15 Minutes in Pan
Leave the cake in the pan when you first take it out of the oven. Allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
3 – Remove Cake From Pan
After 10-15 minutes, use a knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. You should be able to flip the pan over, either on your hand or on a baking rack, and have the cake fall loose.
4 – Wrap Tightly with Plastic Wrap
Wrap the cake in at least one layer of plastic wrap, and wrap it tightly. You want to keep all the moisture that is still in the cake from escaping and leaving you with a stale, dry cake.
You may also want to put the cake in a zip top bag or put a layer of aluminum foil over it to aid in keeping the moisture in and protect the cake.
5 – Leave on Counter or in Refrigerator Overnight
If the cake does not contain fillings with perishables, such as dairy, eggs, or fruit, you can leave it out on the counter overnight. If it does, you will want to store it in the refrigerator.
In the Morning –
After storing the cake overnight, you should be able to just remove it from the plastic wrap and frost like normal. If you stored it in the refrigerator, you will want to let it warm up a little (room temperature for about 30-60 minutes), so that condensation does not gather on the top of the cake and create a slippery layer under the frosting.
If you remove the plastic wrap and the top of the cake looks too moist or gooey, dust a light layer of powdered sugar over it. You can also use a mixture of powdered sugar and water. This should soak up the excess moisture.
Alternatively, if you remove the plastic wrap and find the cake has dried out, you can brush it with flavored sugar syrup or cover it with a layer of jam or frosting. The moisture from these should soak in and restore the texture. It’ll also give you a flavor boost!
Allowing the cake to sit overnight also helps let the cake settle. You may want to tort or level it beforehand as well.
What if I Need to Store It Longer Than Overnight?
If you have baked the cake several days ahead of time, you will want to rethink your strategy as far as storing your cake. You can still cool it overnight in the above way, but you might want to skip that and put it in the freezer sooner rather than later.
Before you freeze, if you haven’t put the layer of aluminum foil over the cake, you will want to do so now. The cake should also be stored in a zip top bag or an air-tight plastic container to protect it from freezer burn and soaking up smells from the freezer and food in it.
The cake can stay good in the freezer for months, as long as you wrap it well. When you decide to use the cake and remove it from the freezer, make sure to thaw the cake completely before you frost it.
Frosting a cake when it is still frozen can cause the frosting to harden up, making it very difficult to spread.
Being able to cool a cake overnight is a handy tool. Freeing up my time in the morning is beneficial for everyone involved, including the person who gets the cake!
Wrapping the warm cake tightly is definitely imperative, as wrapping it tight can keep a lot of the moisture in without allowing it to condense on the wrap.
As I said before, if you do end up with excess moisture on the top of the cake, be sure to use some powdered sugar, whether you add water or not, to soak up some of the condensation.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.