When you are making a cake, you may want to bake it as quickly as possible and get to the fun part- decorating! However, if you rush into frosting your cake, you may be quite disappointed with the end result.
The temperature of your cake is very important when it comes to getting the outside frosting perfect.
So how long should a cake cool before frosting? Time to find out!
Frosting a Hot Cake
Eating a cake right out of the oven can be quite delicious. That soft, warm, fluffy cake is certainly tempting. However, wouldn’t that cake be better with some frosting? Yes!
But warm cake and frosting don’t typically mix. Most cake frostings are made primarily with butter (although there are alternatives) and when butter is placed on something warm, it will melt.
Add frosting to a warm cake and you are going to get a pool of melted sugar and butter rather than a pretty, tasty treat.
Frosting a Warm Cake
Even if your cake is not too hot but just lukewarm, it can spell trouble for your cake. When you try to spread frosting across a warm cake, you may quickly find that the cake begins to crumble and cake crumbs get ripped into the buttercream.
Warm cake is quite soft (use these tips to keep that way) and will not hold its shape if you try to push a stiff frosting across it’s surface. Not only will frosting the cake become a challenge but it will also not look very nice. The frosting will be full of cake crumbs and likely not very smooth.
Bottom line, you don’t want to frost a warm, hot or even room temperature cake!
If you’re in a hurry, try these simple steps to speed up the cooling process.
Steps to Take Right Out of the Oven
There are a few steps to help you cool a cake properly and these will help you later on when it comes time to frost the cake.
When you first take your cake out of the oven, let it cool in the cake pan for at least 20 minutes or longer. If you try to flip a cake out of the pan while it is hot, it may break which would definitely not be good!
Once the cakes has had enough time to sit, you can remove it from the pan and let it cool on a cooling rack until it is no longer warm. Then, wrap the cake up and put it right in the fridge.
Cool Your Cake in the Fridge
Allow the cake to sit in the fridge until it is nice and cold, about two to three hours or longer is ideal, depending on the size of your cake. If you have time, let the cake stay in the fridge overnight.
When you cake is fully chilled, it will be easier to cut and easier to work with. The cake will be much sturdier once it is cold which means that frosting the cake will be a breeze!
Cool Your Cake in the Freezer
If you don’t have a few hours to wait while your cake chills and you’d like to frost it right away, a freezer is the perfect tool to use.
You should still allow your cake time to cool in the pan after it is removed from the oven so that it releases from the pan easily. Then, wrap it gently and place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to cool. Wrapping the cake is important as the freezer can dry out your cake quickly if it is uncovered.
If you want to speed up the cooling process even more so that you can start frosting your cake, cut the cake in half or into the layers you’d like before placing it in the freezer. When the cake is in smaller pieces, it will cool faster and be ready to ice in no time!
Best Temperatures for Frosting a Cake
A nice cold cake and room temperature frosting are the ideal temperatures for your cake components. Cool cake will be more sturdy, crumble less and hold together as you push frosting across it.
Room temperature frosting will be easy to spread and will go onto the cold cake with ease. With a cake right out of the fridge and soft frosting straight from the bowl, frosting a cake will be easy!
Apply a Crumb Coat
Once your cake is ready to frost, you may be excited to immediately start decorating- you already had to wait so long for the cake to cool to the right temperature! However, putting on a crumb coat and getting the crumb coat chilled is also very important.
A crumb coat is just a very thin layer of frosting that you put around your whole cake to “seal” the crumbs on the cake. This layer will be totally covered up by your final frosting application and decorations but it will ensure that no visible crumbs are mixed into your frosting.
Put a thin layer of frosting on top of the entire cake and then return the cake to the fridge. If you are using a buttercream frosting (which is one of the best frostings to use to crumb coat a cake), the crumb coat will be cool and firm after about 20-30 minutes in the fridge.
You can once again use the freezer to speed up the process and since the cake now has a little frosting to protect it, there is no need to wrap the cake when you put it in the freezer. Once that crumb coat is cool and firm, your cake is ready to frost!
While it may seem like a long time to wait, if you allow your cake to cool completely, frosting the cake will be much, much easier. Let the cake cool in the pan after it bakes, allow it to cool to room temperature, wrap it and then give it time to chill in the fridge.
After you crumb coat the cake, cool it again in the fridge and, after all of these steps, you will have the perfect temperature cake!
On a related note, be sure to check out these alternative ways to decorate a cake without frosting!
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.