Professional bakers categorize their cakes based on the types of ingredients used. These ingredients also inform you as to how long the cake can be stored before an event without going stale. Frosted or unfrosted, with fillings or without, cakes can be made ahead of time and assembled before an event or special occasion as long as they are cooled completely first and stored according to the requirements of their ingredients.
Butter and Oil Cakes
Oil and butter cakes are the easiest to keep due to their high fat content. When making ahead of time, tightly wrap the unfrosted cake layers from top to bottom in plastic wrap or use a plastic zip-top type bag. You can store them wrapped at room temperature for up to one week or in a freezer for up to two months.
Moist Cakes and Sponge/Foam Cakes
Cakes with moist ingredients such as apples or applesauce, carrots, banana, squash and pumpkin should not be stored at room temperature unfrosted because they tend to mold quickly. You should refrigerate these cakes during humid weather or in humid climates. Other cakes not containing butter and oil -- such as sponge and foam cakes -- should also be refrigerated if they won’t be served for more than three days.
Traditional frosting such as cream cheese and buttercream help protect your cake -- even those with moist ingredients -- allowing you to frost and store cakes at room temperature for up to 3 days before an event. You can freeze iced cakes if you allow them to set first and wrap them carefully. The exception is icings that are more delicate and perishable, such as meringue-based icing and French buttercream made with egg yolks. The frosting changes texture after sitting out, so it's best to make and serve cakes with these icings on the day of the event.
Thawing Out Cakes
To thaw out a frozen, unfrosted cake, loosen the wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for two to three hours before frosting. To freshen up a dry cake, brush the layers with a sugar syrup filling before applying additional fillings or frosting. To thaw out a frozen, frosted cake, loosen the wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
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