So you’ve made a cake and it just came out of the oven, looking perfect (yay!). The only problem is you need to decorate it—now! No time to wait around letting it cool for hours, that cake has a deadline and it can’t wait.
I know exactly how you’re feeling now, see, I’ve been there! It was my best friend’s birthday party, and I had prepared everything from the night before. I’m sure you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
As luck would have it, the cake slipped from the countertop and fell right on the floor. I didn’t have time to get devastated. Racing against the clock, I whipped up a new cake, but it was too hot for decorating! I’ll brag here a little and tell you that with some clever tricks, I managed to save the birthday!
So what can you do when you need to cool a cake quickly? Time to find out!
How Long Does a Cake Need to Cool Off?
Typically, and if you have all day to prepare the cake, two hours are sufficient for a hot cake to cool off completely.
At this point, it would be sturdy enough for handling. So no crumbling, falling apart, cracking, or wobbling. Also, it wouldn’t have any more heat at its core that could melt the elaborate frosting or icing layer.
It’s also much better to store a cake after it has cooled off to room temperature. This would keep it from becoming soggy or losing its texture.
4 Quick and Easy Steps to Cool a Cake
If you’re facing a rush-rush situation, here’s what you need to do to get your cake good and ready for decoration in just a few minutes.
1. Take the Cake Out of the Pan
The first thing that will help your cake cool quickly is to get it out of that hot pan (unless of course, you’re trying one of my ways to bake a cake without a pan). Even though the cake is out of the oven, the baking pan is quite hot.
Cake pans actually retain a lot of heat and also don’t let any cool air get to the cake itself.
An easy solution to the hot pan problem is to take the cake out of the pan (try one of my tricks if it’s stuck), get it away from the hot metal, and allow some cool air to get to the cake itself.
However, it’s not as easy as flipping the cake out of the pan the second it comes out of the oven. If you do that, you may find that the cake immediately cracks, and falls apart, when you flip the pan upside down. No one wants a broken cake!
When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool in the pan for ten minutes. Then, place a plate or cake board directly on the surface of the cake. Flip the pan over, allowing the plate or cake board to catch the cake. That’s the best way to hold the cake together.
Gently remove the cake pan, lifting it straight up and off of the cake. Tada! Hot pan, gone!
2. Use a Cooling Rack
Using a cooling rack to help cool your cake will make the process faster. If you put a cake on a plate or cake board to cool, the bottom of the cake would be covered, trapped, and stuck with all that heat!
A cooling rack lifts the cake off of the table and lets cool air touch every part of the cake. This is an effortless and effective way to help your cake cool faster.
Cooling racks are quite affordable and readily available online at Amazon. I like this particular set because it’s heavy-duty. It’s made from stainless steel, so it can withstand high heat (for more than just cooling). Plus, these racks come in several sizes, and I like that flexibility.
3. Cut the Cake
One of the fastest ways to cool a cake is to cut the cake. If you intend to fill the cake with frosting or a tasty filling, you will be cutting it anyway—so why not cut it now?
When you slice the cake horizontally, prepping it to be filled later on, you will be allowing cool air to touch more of the cake. Now, you have multiple skinny layers of cake rather than one thick cake with the heat stuck inside the dense center.
Gently cut the cake with a serrated knife which will not tear the soft warm cake but rather saw through with ease.
Going slow is key! If you try to cut the cake too fast, you may rip the delicate fresh pastry. Once the layers are cut, spread them out on a cooling rack, and your cake slices will be chilled in no time!
If you do not intend to fill your cake, you can still cut off the top layer to release some trapped steam and help the cake cool faster. You can also then eat the warm, delicious cake top—sounds like a total win!
4. Use the Fridge or Freezer
One of the most common ideas for cooling a cake quickly is to throw the warm cake right into a fridge or freezer. This will definitely help cool your cake faster!
However, when using a fridge or freezer, keep in mind that while the top of the cake may be cool to the touch, the center may still be quite hot.
Place the cake in the fridge or freezer in conjunction with the other cooling methods to speed everything along. This means taking the cake out of the hot pan, and then, placing it promptly in the freezer for a few minutes.
Slice the cake gently and put it back in the freezer. Move the cake to the cooling rack and let the cooling process finish at room temp. See, all the techniques can work together!
If you put a cake into the fridge or freezer, don’t forget that it is in there! Unwrapped cakes in a freezer can dry out very quickly which will cause a whole new set of problems.
Cooling a cake in the fridge or freezer straight after it comes from the oven can also change the crumb texture of the cake.
So yes, the fridge and freezer can help but don’t leave your cake in there too long or you won’t be happy with your “frozen on the outside, hot in the middle” cake!
The Best Way to Cool a Cake (When You’re Not Short on Time)
For the times that you are not in a rush, it is good to know the best way to cool a cake. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool on a cooling rack for an hour or two.
Then, flip the cake out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic and place it in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, you will have a perfectly cooled cake with a texture that dreams are made of.
Okay, okay, we don’t always have a full day to let cakes cool. But when you do, use this tried and true method and you will not be disappointed!
Cool That Cake!
Now you are well versed in ways to help cool your cake quickly. So the next time you are in a rush and need that cake cooled in a matter of minutes, you know what to do!
Get it out of the pan, slice it, use a cooling rack, and use the fridge or freezer in a smart way—easy enough, right?
Once your cake is cooled, the obvious next step is to store it. So, be sure to check out my tips for storing your cake to keep it fresh.
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.