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How To Keep Cake Fresh

Are you wondering how to keep cake fresh?

Like most baked goodies, cakes are best enjoyed fresh. The softer and more moist they are, the more delicate and heavenly they seem to be. Especially sponge cakes.

Related: Lemon Drizzle Cake | Victoria Sponge Cake | Chocolate Cake

victoria sponge cake slice with cake in the background and sliced strawberries

If you’ve just baked or purchased a frosted sponge cake but want to save it for later, here’s what you can do to keep it fresh until it’s time to enjoy it.

Remember, the key elements to watch out for are heat and humidity. Both can cause mould and bacteria to grow, making your cake turn bad.

If you’re not planning on serving your cake within a few days, the best thing to do is to keep it inside the box it came in from the store.

If you baked it yourself, just set it on a plate or board and cover it with a food cover, or an overturned bowl that’s big enough to clear the top and sides of the cake.

These won’t provide air-tight protection but they would at least shield your cake.

But if you’d prefer to ensure you preserve all the moisture and reduce the risk of the cake drying out, store it in an airtight plastic cake storage container. 

Then, leave your covered cake on the kitchen counter at room temperature, away from direct sunlight or any major heat source that could melt the icing.

If your home is comfortably cool and dry enough, your cake should stay fresh for several days – up to 5, to be exact.

If you’ve already cut the cake, just slather icing on the cut sides. The butter and cream in the frosting will seal the moisture on those surfaces.

No more icing? Just cover the sliced sides with a sheet of plastic or cling film to prevent them from drying out, then cover as instructed above. A cut cake will keep for a little less time than a whole cake, about 3 to 4 days at room temperature.

Generally, cakes with more butter stay moist longer than those with less.

Refrigerating A Cake – But Only When Necessary

Like bread and pastries, cakes don’t retain their freshness for very long inside the refrigerator.

The opposite may actually happen – they’ll dry out.

This is because baked goods contain starch, whose molecules absorb moisture when cooked. After baking, when a cake cools down, the starch molecules begin to harden again.

That process of recrystallization pushes the moisture out to the surface where it evaporates. And refrigeration further enhances that process.

The result? A dry, hardened cake.

Consider refrigerating only if your cake has a moist, perishable filling or topping such as fresh fruit or custard, or if the frosting is made with dairy ingredients such as whipped cream, mascarpone, or cream cheese.

You may also want to refrigerate if the weather is particularly hot and humid.

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To refrigerate unfrosted cakes, wrap it well in cling film, making sure the plastic seals snugly on all its surfaces. You don’t want your cake absorbing any unwanted smells and flavours inside your fridge.

Small or off-sized cakes such as muffins, cupcakes, and loaf cakes can go into freezer bags. Just press all the air out before sealing or zipping securely.

banana muffins cooling on rack

For those with frosting, refrigerate first, unwrapped, for 15 minutes to harden the icing slightly. Then loosely wrap it in cling film or put it in a cake storage box before storing inside the fridge.

Cakes with buttercream and ganache toppings will stay fresh in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Those with fresh fruit or dairy-based fillings and frosting will keep for 2 days at most.

Bring out a refrigerated cake 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

Freezing A Cake For Long Term Freshness

If you’ve purchased a cake many days in advance, it’s best to freeze it. Frosted cakes can be frozen for long periods without compromising its taste and quality – except for specialty cakes like chiffon and angel food cakes.

Cakes that are high in fat content freeze best.

If you baked the cake yourself, freeze it now before adorning it with icing and decorations later. Just transfer it to the refrigerator overnight to thaw slowly, or on the kitchen counter for 30 to 60 minutes.

It’ll be easier to smother icing on a cold and firm cake rather than a soft, freshly baked one. But before freezing, wrap the cake in cling film once it has cooled completely.

You may choose to do this by the slice, by layer, or as a whole.

Just be sure to seal all surfaces – top, sides, and bottom. And see to it that there is ample room inside your freezer so your cake doesn’t get squished.

If the cake is store-bought, you can choose to keep it in its bakery box and wrap the entire box in cling film before freezing.

Unfrosted cakes can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months while frosted ones can be frozen for up to 4.

Thaw unfrosted cakes covered and frosted ones loosely covered for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature before serving.

You’ll find that a previously frozen cake is fresher and more flavourful than one that had been refrigerated or left at room temperature for several days.

Specialty Cakes

Thawing iced cakes can be rather tricky, though.

While special frostings such as buttercream and fondant help seal moisture in a cake, they tend to condense when taken out of the fridge or freezer too quickly. This could cause the icing’s colours to bleed, potentially messing up the entire decoration.

To avoid this, try thawing a buttercream or fondant cake gradually.

From the freezer, transfer it first to the refrigerator where it can slowly adjust to a less cold temperature – at least a few hours.

Then, if possible, move it to a cool room for another couple of hours before finally bringing it out to serve – especially during the summer months.

For cakes topped with whipped cream, or French or Italian buttercream, I wouldn’t recommend freezing. Their texture may be compromised, turning them rather soggy or sometimes sticky.

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