Offering your friends and family handmade, lovingly decorated desserts is always gratifying, but sometimes it presents some logistical challenges. If you are having a get-together, it is sometimes difficult to find time to bake a cake or cupcakes, wait while they cool, and then frost them. Fortunately, they are just as good -- sometimes even better -- if you make them a day ahead.
The Virtues of Frosting
That is largely because of the frosting you put on your cakes and cupcakes. It is important in part because of the visual appeal it lends to your cakes, especially if you have at least a modest skill in cake decorating. Frosting also lends richness and moisture to the cake, making it more pleasurable to eat. However, it also acts as a freshness seal. When you frost your cake on all sides with buttercream icing, it is as effective a moisture barrier as any plastic wrap. With cupcakes, a paper wrapper on the sides and frosting on top combine to serve the same purpose.
Mix up and bake your favorite cakes or cupcakes, either from scratch or from a good-quality mix. Take them from the oven and cool them according to the recipe's directions, usually by placing them on a wire rack in a cool and draft-free spot. It is important to wait until the cake or cupcakes cool completely, because if they are warm the frosting might melt or fail to adhere properly. Once it is cool, you can level your cake, if you wish, by slicing off the domed top. If you do that, spread a small amount of frosting thinly over the cut surface and let it set, to hold the crumbs in place.
Frosting the Cake
Once your cakes or cupcakes have cooled and you have applied a thin crumb coat of frosting, you are ready to finish the job. If you are making cupcakes, spread the frosting as evenly as possible over the surface of each one. You can do that with a spatula or a pastry bag, whichever is easiest. If you are assembling a cake, stack the layers -- if applicable -- with a suitable filling. Use a spatula or pastry bag to cover the surface with frosting, and smooth it into an even coating using a spatula warmed in hot water and then dried.
Unless your cake contains a perishable custard or fruit filling, or your favorite buttercream contains eggs, the cake can safely be stored at room temperature. If it has perishable fillings, you should refrigerate the cake for food safety. You might also need to refrigerate the cake if your climate is hot enough to melt buttercream frosting. Cupcake papers are slightly porous, so cupcakes are best stored in an airtight container for maximum freshness. If you have baked a sponge-type cake and its crumb is dry, sprinkle the layers lightly with light sugar syrup before you ice the cake. That is a professional's trick, providing moisture that will spread through the cake by the next day.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- The Kitchn: Expert Advice -- How to Wrap, Store, and Keep Cake Fresh
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images