Skip to Content

How Far in Advance Can You Make Cake or Frosting?

How Far in Advance Can You Make Cake or Frosting?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

When you’ve got a party or celebration coming up, there’s always a lot of preparation, cooking, and baking to do. It helps a lot if you can get some of the work done in advance. It’s easy to cook, freeze, or refrigerate savory dishes, but how far can you make a cake in advance?

You can make a sponge cake a day before eating and a butter cake three days in advance. However, you can make these cakes up to a month in advance if you freeze them. You can make fruit cake five months in advance so that it has time to mature or freeze fruit cake for a year.

It is a great idea to bake in advance if you’ve got a birthday or holiday celebration coming up. How far in advance you can bake will depend on the kind of cake you’re planning, how much decorating (including frosting and other decorative elements) it needs, and how you will store it.

How Far in Advance Can You Make a Sponge Cake?

The first kind of cake to consider is the sponge cake, which is very popular and easy to whip up.

What Is a Sponge Cake?

Sponge cakes, chiffon cakes, and angel food cakes are light, airy confections with very little fat but lots of eggs, making them very delicate. Traditionally, sponge cakes only have three ingredients, flour, sugar, and eggs.

Sponges are too light to carry heavy frosting, so you usually decorate with powdered sugar, a glaze, or whipped cream, like a Swiss roll or a Victoria sandwich.

Can You Make a Sponge Cake in Advance?

Sponge cakes are best baked fresh on the day you want to eat them, as they go stale very quickly. At most, you can make a sponge cake or cupcakes the day before.

However, it would be best if you didn’t frost your sponge cake the day before. Add any frosting, glaze, etc., just before eating, or it will soak into the cake – they’re called “sponge” cakes because of their texture and ability to absorb moisture.

How Do You Store a Sponge Cake?

How you store your sponge cake will depend on whether you have decorated it yet or not.

Storing Undecorated Sponge Cake

If you have made your sponge cake the day before, store it carefully to avoid drying out.

  • Store pre-baked sponges overnight in an airtight container at room temperature, not in the refrigerator, or else they will dry out. Think of sponge cake as bread, which you store in a bread bin rather than the fridge.
  • Level the sponges just before decorating.
  • Leftover plain sponge cake will last a day or so at room temperature.

Storing Decorated Sponge Cake

If you have decorated your cake, you may have to store it differently.

  • If your leftover cake includes “wet” ingredients, like fresh fruit, fruit compote, cream, cream cheese, or custard, you cannot make it in advance. You will have to decorate it and serve it. However, if you have any leftovers, store them in the fridge.
  • If you want to frost your sponge cake, ensure that you cover it with frosting so that no sponge is exposed. The frosting will prevent it from drying out and will stretch your storage to two days at most. Store frosted sponge cake at room temperature unless the buttercream is melting – then refrigerate.

Can You Freeze Sponge Cake?

It is possible to freeze sponge cake for a month, but it is not recommended as frozen and thawed cake can be dry and crumbly. However, if you do want to make the cake in advance, follow these steps.

  • Bake the sponge. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Storing warm cake will lead to sogginess as the steam will freeze as excess water.
  • Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to seal in moisture.
  • Wrap the plastic-covered cake in aluminum foil to protect them against freezer burn, then freeze for up to a month.
  • Thaw frozen butter cake overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for a couple of hours.
  • Level the sponges after they have thawed, not before.
  • Decorate and serve the cake immediately after thawing, as it can go stale quickly. Frozen sponge cake sometimes tastes dry, so it is best to serve it as a dessert cake with cream.

How Far in Advance Can You Make a Butter Cake?

If you’re making a butter cake, your baking and storage timeline can look a little different.

What Is a Butter Cake?

If your recipe begins with you creaming the butter and sugar, you’re making a butter cake, which has a slightly denser texture than a sponge cake but is equally moist and delicious.

Most white, yellow, marble and chocolate cakes are butter cakes. Cakes made with oil, like carrot cake or red velvet cake, also fall into this category.

Pound cakes, including coffee and crumb cakes, are the densest butter cakes and are often baked in a loaf or Bundt pan.

Butter cakes can handle heavier frosting and decorations, so they are usually the cakes for birthdays and celebrations.

Can You Make a Butter Cake in Advance?

The great news is that butter cakes are happily made in advance, as they last longer than sponge cakes. You can comfortably make a butter cake two to three days in advance or up to a month ahead if you freeze the cake.

How Do You Store a Butter Cake?

How you store your butter cake depends on the frosting.

Storing Unfrosted Butter Cake

If you want to make your cake three days in advance and decorate it on the day of eating, follow these steps.

  • Bake the butter cake. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Storing warm cake will lead to sogginess.
  • Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to seal in moisture.
  • Store the unfrosted butter cake for two to three days well-wrapped or in a container.
  • Keep your cake out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry area of the kitchen.
  • Unless it is sweltering and humid, avoid storing unfrosted cakes in the refrigerator because the cake will dry out more quickly and pick up odors from other food.

Storing Frosted Butter Cake

You can also make your cake and frost it, then keep it for three days, unless you have used cream or fruit.

Unless your kitchen is chilled and dry, it is best to store buttercream or ganache-decorated and filled cakes in a sealed container in the fridge as the frosting is perishable and will slide off the cake and melt if your kitchen is warm.

  • Store cakes with cream cheese icing in the fridge for one or two days at most.
  • If you have used custard, cream, or fresh fruit as part of the cake’s decoration, you can store the cake in the fridge for one day only.
  • To serve, allow the cake to reach room temperature.
  • Store leftover cake sealed in the fridge.
  • If your cake has fondant icing or sugar paste, do not refrigerate it as the colors will bleed. Cover and store fondant-frosted cake in a cool place.

Can You Freeze Butter Cake?

If you are super organized, you can make a butter cake two to three months in advance and freeze it. Many professional bakers recommend that if you want to make a cake any more in advance than three days, freeze it.

Freezing Unfrosted Butter Cake

To freeze unfrosted butter cake, follow these steps.

  • Bake the butter cake. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Storing warm cake will lead to sogginess as the steam will freeze as excess water.
  • Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to seal in moisture.
  • Wrap the plastic-covered cake in aluminum foil to protect them against freezer burn, then freeze for up to three months.
  • Thaw frozen cake overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for a couple of hours. Do not be tempted to heat the cake to thaw it.
  • Decorate and serve the cake.

Freezing Frosted Butter Cake

It is possible to freeze a frosted cake, but it is not ideal.

  • You can freeze frosted cake by wrapping it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, but the wrapping process often squashes the frosting. If you have a large, airtight container, you can use that.
  • Freeze leftover cake by the slice in airtight, resealable bags.
  • You cannot freeze cakes frosted with meringue or cream icings.
  • Allow the cake to thaw completely in the fridge overnight or at (cool) room temperature. Smooth the icing if necessary, using a splash of milk.

Can You Make a Fruit Cake in Advance?

The one kind of cake you have to make in advance is a rich fruit cake, often made for Christmas or weddings.

Storing Unfrosted Fruit Cake

Fruit cake needs to mature for six weeks to five months, so it is best to make it in advance.

  • Bake the fruit cake. Allow it to cool completely in its pan.
  • Turn the cakes out of their pans.
  • Wrap the cake in a double layer of greaseproof or parchment paper.
  • Cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Do not wrap the cake directly in foil as it will react with the fruit.
  • “Feed” the cake every week to keep it moist. To feed the cake, carefully unwrap it and brush it with a couple of tablespoons of alcohol, usually brandy, rum, or bourbon. (You can use sugar syrup.) Rewrap the cake again.
  • Alternatively, wrap the cake in a layer of alcohol-soaked cheesecloth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Resoak the cloth and rewrap the cake once a week.
  • You do not need to refrigerate fruit cake while it matures, as the dried fruit will prevent too much moisture, which would feed bacteria or mold.
  • Once the fruitcake is mature, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. You can periodically brush it with alcohol to keep it for longer.
  • A well-stored fruitcake can last for years, but it is best to eat it within a couple of months.

Storing Frosted Fruit Cake

Traditionally, fruit cake is frosted with layers of jam, marzipan, and fondant icing. Iced fruit cakes will last for months if stored in a cool, dry place. They don’t need to be refrigerated.

Can You Freeze Fruit Cake?

You can freeze fruit cake a year in advance.

  • Allow your fruit cake to go through the maturing process.
  • Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to seal in moisture.
  • Wrap the plastic-covered cake in aluminum foil to protect it against freezer burn, then freeze for up to a year.
  • Thaw frozen fruit cake overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for a couple of hours.
  • Decorate and serve the cake.

How Far in Advance Can You Make Frosting?

You can also make frosting and fillings for your cake in advance. However, make any frosting containing cream or cream cheese on the day of serving.

Storing Frosting in the Fridge

You can make frosting three days in advance and store it in the fridge.

  • Put the frosting in a sealed container.
  • Press plastic wrap against the surface of the frosting to prevent it from absorbing odors.
  • Allow the frosting to come to room temperature before using it.

Freezing Frosting

You can also freeze frosting if you make it in advance.

  • Put the frosting in a sealed container.
  • Press plastic wrap against the surface of the frosting to prevent it from absorbing odors.
  • Allow the frosting to thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for an hour.
  • You may need to add a little milk or icing sugar to the frosting and beat it to get the right consistency for spreading.

Final Thoughts

Although the most cake is best baked and eaten fresh, you can bake cakes in advance. Sponge cakes only tolerate a day or so in advance, but butter cakes will last for three days and fruit cakes for five months. You can freeze baked, cooled sponge and butter cakes for a month and a fruit cake for up to a year.