It is a pure pleasure to eat a freshly baked cake right from the oven. But what if the cake needs frosting? Smearing frosting on a cake that has been baked at 350°F is not a good idea as it will all melt away.
So how long should a cake cool before frosting? The optimal cooling time for cakes is 2-3 hours. To accelerate the cooling process, you should remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cooling rack. The cake will cool faster if you put it in the fridge or freezer.
This article is a complete guide about the relationship between warm cakes and frosting. You will also learn some tips and techniques for making the decorating process easier and faster.
Read to learn how long you should wait for cakes and cupcakes to cool before you frost them.
Why You Should Never Frost a Warm Cake
Frosting a warm cake is never a good idea. If certain baking and decorating mistakes can be fixed, frosting a cake right from the oven is not one of them.
There are a few reasons why you should never frost a warm cake.
First, the warmth from the cake will melt the frosting. The sugar and the butter will melt all over the cake and you will end up not with a sponge topped with fluffy frosting but with a cake soaked in melted butter and sugar.
Second, you will have decorating issues. Even if your cake is not as hot as to melt all the frosting away, you will have a hard time making it stay put.
The frosting, half-melted and half-firm, will not only make your cake look less appetizing but won’t make it taste good either.
And third, the cake is always more fragile when it is still warm. Smearing frosting on it will create an excessive amount of crumbs and may even result in breakage.
How Long Should a Cake Cool Before Frosting?
There is no fixed amount of time you should wait for the cake to cool as it depends not only on the size and thickness of the cake but also on the type of cake you are baking.
For example, angel food cakes and pound cakes cool faster than traditional sponge cakes.
In any case, to make sure you are not smearing frosting on a warm cake, it is recommended that you wait for 2–3 hours for the cake to cool.
Should I Refrigerate Cake Before Frosting?
It is not necessary to refrigerate the cake before freezing it unless it is too hot where you live and the cake sponge gets warm as it sits at room temperature.
So long as your cake has completely cooled, you can start frosting and decorating it.
But if you have time, we do recommend popping the cake into the fridge for 10-15 minutes before your start to frost it. It is always easier to work with room-temperature frosting and a nicely chilled cake.
You may think that letting the frosting chill in the fridge is a good idea too. But we don’t recommend you do this as chilled frosting is not easy to spread.
If your frosting has been sitting in the fridge, take it out and let come to room temperature before you start decorating the cake.
What You Should Know Before Frosting a Cake
There are different techniques to ease the baking and decorating processes of the cake. They help you use your time in the kitchen effectively but reach the best possible result with your frosted cake.
The Toothpick Test
If you are impatient to find out whether your cake has already cooled or not, don’t start frosting it. Instead, use the toothpick method.
Stick the toothpick (or a wooden barbecue stick) into the sponge. Let the toothpick stay in it for a few seconds. Take out the stick and feel it.
If the stick is still warm, you have to wait for a few more minutes for the cake to cool. But if it is all cool to touch, you can proceed to frost the cake.
If you take out the toothpick and see crumbs on it, then your cake is not properly cooked, and decorating it may be a waste of frosting.
The Crumb Coat
When your cake has completely cooled, don’t hurry to smear the entire batch of frosting on it. If you are aiming for the best results, you should also do a crumb coat.
A crumb coat is a thin layer of frosting that has the purpose of sealing in the crumbs so that they don’t spoil the appearance of the cake. This initial layer of frosting acts as a ‘glue’ layer between the frosting and the cake.
You can skip this step. But if you want a good-looking cake with a smooth finish, taking an extra 30 minutes to crumb coat the cake is certainly worth it.
So, how do you crumb coat a cake?
When the cake is all cooled, take it out of the fridge and spread a thin layer of frosting on it with the help of a spatula. This layer of frosting should be thin enough for you to see the cake through it.
Once you smooth out this first layer of frosting, put the cake back into the fridge and let the coating dry. The crumb coat should be completely dry before you apply the final layer of frosting.
We recommend letting the cake sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the cake out of the fridge and frost it as you normally would. If you have little time, place the cake in the freezer. It will take the thin layer of cake only a few minutes to dry in the cold storage.
How to Cool a Cake
Now that you know that letting a cake cool before you frost it is absolutely essential, here are two ways you can do it. Choose between these two methods depending on how much time you have.
Cooling a Cake on a Cooling Rack
If you have decided to bake a cake, you surely know that it is not a matter of a couple of hours. You might need to spend half the day in the kitchen to finish a beautifully layered frosted cake.
So, if you have plenty of time and can let the cake cool without rushing it, use a cooling rack. Here are step-by-step instructions for cooling a freshly baked cake.
Step 1: Get a cooling rack that fits the size of the cake
If you are fond of baking, a cooling rack is certainly a necessity for you. This simple yet clever tool allows the air to circulate around the cake, letting it cool evenly and quickly.
If you put the hot cake right on the table, the bottom of the cake would get soggy as a result of condensation.
If you still don’t have a cool rack and need to purchase one, buy a large one that will work for all cakes but will still fit in your dishwasher.
Step 2: Take the cake out of the oven
Once you check the cake for doneness and take it out, put the pan on the cooling rack.
Step 3: Let the cake rest for 15 minutes
Don’t even attempt to take out the cake while it is still hot. Aside from the risk of burning yourself, you may also ruin the cake. So, no matter what type of cake you are baking, let it sit in the pan for around 15 minutes before you take it out.
Step 4: Remove the cake from the pan
After 15 minutes, use a knife to loosen the cake. As the cake is not burning hot anymore, removing it from the pan undamaged should not be a problem.
If you have used baking paper to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan, removing it from there will be much easier.
Step 5: Spray the rack with cooking oil
Placing the warm cake on the cooling rack may cause it to stick to the wires. Spraying the cooling rack with oil will prevent this from happening.
Step 6: Transfer the cake onto the cooling rack
To transfer the cake undamaged onto the cooling rack, hold it over the cake and turn the pan upside down. Slowly lift the pan to release the cake. You may need to tap the bottom of the pan to make the cake come out.
Step 7: Frost the cake or transfer it into the fridge
You can start frosting the cake after letting it cool on the cooling rack for 1-2 hours. Depending on the size of the cake, it may even cool sooner.
If you will be decorating the cake the next day, wrap it in food wrap and store the cake in the fridge.
Cooling a Cake in the Fridge
If you are short of time and can’t wait for the cake to cool for hours on the cooling rack, then cooling the cake in the fridge is what you should do.
Here are step-by-step instructions for cooling a cake in the fridge.
Step 1: Remove the cake from the oven
Once the cake is cooked through, take it out of the oven carefully and let it sit on the kitchen counter for around 10 minutes.
Step 2: Transfer the cake into the fridge
After letting the cake cool on the counter for some time, you should transfer it into the fridge to accelerate the cooling process.
If it is angel food cake you have baked, cool it upside down. Cooling this type of cakes with the pan upside down while the tube part is set on a stable bottle helps prevent the cake from collapsing.
As for pound cakes, we recommend you remove them from the pan before you transfer the cake into the fridge.
Step 3: Cover the cake with food wrap
Once the cake is cool to touch, which takes around 10 minutes, take it out of the fridge and cover it with food wrap. Make sure you don’t leave any area uncovered as the contact with the cold air of the fridge will dry out the cake.
After wrapping the cake with food wrap, put it back into the fridge to let it cool further.
It is important to note that you should wrap a hot cake with food wrap and place it in the fridge. Doing this will create condensation and make the cake soggy.
Step 4: Put the cake back into the fridge
Put the covered cake back into the fridge for another hour or so. How long you will need to leave the cake in the fridge depends on the size and type of the cake. Angel food cake, for example, usually takes around 60 minutes to cool.
Step 5: Remove the cake from the pan and decorate
Take the cooled cake out of the fridge and loosen the sides. Remove the sponge from the pan and start frosting the cake.
3 Tips for Cooling a Cake Faster
Even if have great baking skills, the more tips you know the better. Here are three tips to help you out in a situation when you need to cool your cake quickly.
Removing the Cake from the Pan
Taking the cake out of the hot pan is a step you may overlook. However, this is the first step toward making your cake cool faster.
It takes a while for the pan to cool as baking pans are usually made of materials that retain lots of heat. Thus, leaving the cake in the hot pan only slows down the cooling process.
Let the cake sit in the pan for around 10 minutes after you take it out of the oven and only then remove it from the pan.
Cutting the Cake into Layers
The thinner the cake the quicker it will thaw. If you will be cutting the cake into layers anyway, cut the cake into layers 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the oven.
The layers will cool faster and you will be able to start frosting the cake sooner.
Putting the Cake in the Freezer
Aside from cooling the cake in the fridge, you can also do it in the freezer for faster results.
Take the cake out of the pan, put it on the cooling rack, and transfer it into the freezer. For even faster results, you can use the combination of two tips – cut the cake into layers and transfer them into the freezer until they are cool.
How Long to Cool Cupcakes Before Frosting?
As with cakes, cupcakes should also be cool when you frost them. Otherwise, you will encounter the same issue – melted frosting and a poor-looking dessert.
As cupcakes are much smaller than cakes, they take less time to cool. Generally speaking, cupcakes need around 30 to 45 minutes to completely cool down and be ready to hold the fluffy frosting.
It is recommended to cool the cupcakes on a wire rack as increased air circulation speeds up the process. If you are in a hurry, cooling the cupcakes in the fridge is also an option.
The freezer works for cooling cupcakes too. However, leaving the cupcakes in the freezer for too long may cause them to dry out.
As the cupcakes may feel cool to touch but still be warm inside, you can use the toothpick method with the cupcakes too to find out whether they are ready for the frosting or not.
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