If there’s one problem most commercial bakeries know all too well, it’s the issue of time. You’re always going to be facing customers who need their order done yesterday. And when that order is a cake, rushing it could end up in disaster.
So, when is a cake ready to frosting after you finish baking it?
We’re glad you asked. In this article, we’ll give you a few simple rules to follow to make sure you always end up with a perfectly frosted cake.
Do You Let Cake Cool Before Adding Frosting?
The simple answer is yes. Frosting has copious amounts of sugar and butter and we don’t need to tell you what happens with butter when you heat it. To avoid soaking your cake in a melted slurry of butter and sugar, you’ll need to let it cool first.
Even if you start with a cake that’s warm and not quite hot, it will probably make a disaster out of your frosting. It could even be worse if your frosting ends up partly melted and partly firm.
But that’s not all.
Unless you’re exclusively piping the frosting, you’ll need to spread it to make the cake attractive. If you try to spread thick frosting on a warm cake that hasn’t firmed up, you’ll quickly realize how big of a mistake that is. However, there’s a small workaround you can use.
If you’re pressed for time – and we mean really pressed for time – you can drop the frosting altogether. Instead, use a glaze. After all, a glaze is in a lot of ways melted frosting. Now, it’s important to recognize you’ll be making a 180 on the entire cake and turning it into a different product. But, if you’ve got the leeway to do that and you absolutely, positively cannot wait, it’s an option.
So frosting and warm cake don’t mix. Got it.
Does a Cake Have to Be Completely Cool Before Frosting?
Not exactly, you see the temperature is only one part of the equation. The other key part, as discussed above, is the consistency of the sponge.
How Long to Let Cake Cool Before Icing?
As a rule of thumb, let the cake cool for as long as it takes for the sponge to become firm. Notice that doesn’t really say anything about the temperature, and that’s because the temperature is less important than the consistency.
A popular way to test if the cake has cooled enough is to do a toothpick test.
To perform the test, use a toothpick, barbecue stick, or wooden skewer to pierce the sponge. You’ll want to pierce it at or near the center and fully until the toothpick reaches the middle. Leave it in for about five seconds and then pull it out and feel it with your fingertips. If the toothpick is still warm, it’s not ready yet. Also, if you see bits of cake stuck to the toothpick, it’s a good sign that the sponge is not firm enough.
Under ideal conditions, you’d let a sponge cool for about two hours. That will allow all the proteins and fats to firm up nicely. If you can’t wait that long, you can start frosting as soon as the toothpick comes out clean and you can’t feel any warmth when you touch it.
How to Cool Your Cake Faster
Before getting into this topic, it’s worth repeating the old maxim: Haste makes waste.
If you can give your cake the time it needs to cool down gradually, do so. There are some parts of the process that you just can’t rush. Having said that, there are a few things you can do to speed it up a little bit.
First, make sure you use a cooling rack. Putting your cake sponge on a flat surface to cool will trap enormous amounts of heat under it. That’s all heat that you want to get rid of. To avoid that, put it on a cooling rack that allows air to flow above and below it.
Cooling is all about airflow, the more cool air flows around something, the more heat energy it extracts from it. So, it only makes sense to increase airflow as much as possible. And if you’re wondering whether that means that fans help, they definitely do.
A fan in combination with a cooling rack will make short work of a hot cake.
Cooling The Cake in the Refrigerator
The other option is to put it in the refrigerator. But, you may already know that refrigerating unfrosted cake runs the risk of drying it out.
Never fear, we’ve got you covered – with stretch wrap.
After the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. Place it on a cooling rack for just long enough that you can handle it safely. Then, cover it with saran wrap without taking it out of the pan and place the cake and pan in the refrigerator.
If you’re working with a creamy cake, such as cheesecake, run a knife around the perimeter of the cake so it doesn’t stick to the pan while it cools. Depending on your cake’s density, it should be cold enough within an hour or so.
A light and spongy cake, such as angel food, will cool down quickly. A dense chocolate cake, or cheesecake, will take a bit longer.
Cooling a Cake in the Freezer
Now, you may be thinking to yourself: If a refrigerator can speed up the process, why not take it a step further and put it in the freezer. Well, it’s not advisable for a very specific reason.
A freezer is liable to freeze parts of your cake. The edge of the cake will cool down much faster than the center and can freeze. This will turn the water in it into ice crystals, and when these ice crystals melt back into water, they can make your cake soggy.
So, resist the temptation, don’t freeze your cake. If you can’t do that, at least be conservative. Don’t leave it in the freezer for more than 30 minutes, and don’t forget to wrap it tightly.
No Time To Wait? Alternate!
If all else fails, you’ll probably have to shift gears and go with plan B.
What’s that? You don’t have a plan B? Well, here are a few alternatives to frosting to keep in your back pocket that don’t require a cooled cake:
- Decorate it with chocolate. You can use chocolate glaze, chocolate chips, or just use melted chocolate for decoration.
- Use fruit on the cake. Fresh fruit can be a nice touch for a sponge cake. Orange slices, strawberries, and melon balls are all potential options.
- Confectioner’s sugar, the old favorite. For a simple and traditional look, it’s enough to lay a stencil on the cake and dust it with confectioner’s sugar.
Don’t Rush the Frosting
There you have our best advice about frosting a warm cake. In summary: don’t do it.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to plan ahead and give yourself enough time to cool the cake completely at room temperature. Next time you find yourself stumped working on a cake, remember we have a full line of cake decorating supplies. At Medina Baking & Powder Supply, we carry everything from piping gel to flavors and emulsions to make your life easier.
Did you find the answer you were looking for? Have any secret ways you want to share to cool down a cake faster? Share it with us in the comments below!