How to Freeze a Cake Before Frosting It

Are you ready to hear about what I have learned about how to freeze a cake before decorating? I hope so because I have learned a lot! Most of it is about condensation. Who knew you needed a science lesson for cake decorating. Not me! Don’t run away because I mentioned ‘science!’ I promise there isn’t going to be a test.

How to Freeze a Cake Layer | The Bearfoot Baker


Recently I shared a tutorial on how to dirty ice a cake and a lot of people asked me what ‘dirty icing’ was. I thought it was something that was well known, but I guess I was wrong. Dirty icing a cake is the same as crumb coating a cake. It is when you add a thin layer of frosting to a cake to contain the crumbs so when you add the decorative layer of frosting, none of the crumbs will show in the decorated layer of frosting.

I first heard of ‘dirty icing’ from Buddy Valastro aka The Cake Boss. I thought the words ‘dirty icing’ sounded more interesting than ‘crumb coating’ so I started saying it. Say it with me, “dirty icing.” Fun isn’t it?

Today we are going to talk about how to freeze a cake. I know this may be a no-brainer for most of you, but when I started making cakes I was totally clueless. Maybe today we can answer a few questions to make things easy for a few beginners.

How to Freeze a Cake before Decorating it:

There are a few questions I had before I started freezing cakes. As a newbie, I was confused so I started doing things ‘my way’ and experimented baked and freezing a lot of cakes to see what worked best.

Here were my questions: 

  1. When do I freeze a cake?
  2. How do I freeze a cake?
  3. Can I decorate the frozen cake?
  4. Do I thaw the cake first?
  5. Should I crumb coat or dirty ice it before I freeze it?
  6. Do I crumb coat it after I freeze it?
  7. When do I level the cake?

You can see how confusing this can get. Well, I am going to share what I’ve learned with you. Keep in mind I’m not a professional cake decorator. I’m self-taught and have learned a lot by trial and error. That’s the way I like to learn and it works for me. If you want to take professional classes I suggest you do it. People who have been decorating cakes for years are fountains of knowledge and we can learn a so much from them.

But in the meantime, here is what I have learned about freezing a cake.

How to Freeze a Cake and Decorate | The Bearfoot Baker

Prepare the cake pans so the cake will easily slide out without breaking. I use this Cake Release Recipe to coat the inside of my pans. It works like a dream and the cakes just pop right out.

The first question I had was why in the world would you want to freeze a cake.

  1. The simple answer is because it can save time. You can freeze it so when you’re ready to decorate all you have to do is remove it from the freezer and get to work.
  2. The second reason to freeze a cake is that it makes it easier to handle when you’re working with it. A frozen cake won’t crumble as you work with it and it will stay in place and hold its shape as you add the icing.
  3. People swear that freezing a cake for a short time will help make the cake moist and delicious. Professional decorators freeze their cakes because they say it helps the cakes hold their shape and not turn into a giant pile of crumbs when you add the weight of frosting and decorations. It will help the cake slice into beautiful pieces when it’s ready to serve.

Freeze a Cake before You Decorate | The Bearfoot Baker


Next question, please.

When do I freeze a cake? 

  1. Bake the cake and cool each layer on a wire cake rack.
  2. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap. I usually wrap it with two pieces to make sure it is covered well.
  3. Wrap each layer with aluminum foil.

When to Freeze a Cake for Better Decorating | The Bearfoot Baker

  1. Place it in a Ziploc bag (if it will fit) and place it in the freezer for a few hours or overnight.
  2. I like to write the date and what kind of cake it is on the outside of the Ziploc bag. I also like to number the layers because sometimes I might be working on 2 or three cakes at a time. If it is clearly labeled, you don’t have to open all of them to figure out what cakes go together.

Tips on How to Freeze a Cake | The Bearfoot Baker

You will notice all of the pictures above are of a cake that has been dirty iced, frozen and placed on the counter to thaw. They all have condensation on them. That is what happens if you dirty ice it and then freeze it. I wanted to photograph the cake as it thawed to see if I could capture the moisture as it thawed. It worked! There was a lot of condensation on this cake. The more this cake thaws the more little water beads appear. Yikes! This is why I like to freeze the layers first and then assemble the cake.

  1. Take the frozen cakes out of the freezer and let them thaw a little while still wrapped.
  2. Unwrap the layers and level them. Leveling means you cut off the dome with a serrated knife to make the cake even for decorating.
  3. Don’t level when the cake is completely frozen or it might cause it to crack or pieces may break off.
  4. Then, fill the layers of the cake with frosting and fillings and stack the cake making sure each layer is level.
  5. Next, dirty icing or crumb coating and place it back in the freezer for about 20 minutes before adding the decorative layer of frosting. This will help the dirty iced layer set up so you can add the decorative layer of frosting without pulling crumbs into the top layer of frosting.

How to Freeze a Cake Before Frosting It


How to Freeze a Cake | The Bearfoot Baker

This cake has been frozen, then thawed a bit, leveled, filled, stacked and dirty iced. It is ready to decorate and I can’t wait to dive in!

I hope this will help answer some of your questions about when and how to freeze a cake. I know my family was happy to eat all of my science experiments while I turned my kitchen into a baking science lab.

Like I said before, I am not a professional decorator. This is what works for me. You need to practice and see what works for you and when you do, I would love you to share your results with me.

Bear hugs,