How Long Should a Cake Cool Before Frosting

When it comes to baking, one of the biggest rookie mistakes is frosting a cake before it’s cool. If you’re reading this article now, you are probably stood next to your beautifully baked cake, desperate to decorate it. BUT WAIT.

When it comes to baking, patience is definitely a virtue and waiting for your cake to cool will save you more trouble in the long run.

If you frost a cake before it’s cool, then the frosting will just fall off and your cake will pretty much fall apart. No matter what kind of cake you’re baking and no matter what kind of frosting you’re using, you need to make sure your cake is cool beforehand.

But, this can be frustrating. Cakes can take a long time to cool and frosting and decorating is the best part of baking. Sure, eating the batter out of the bowl and actually eating the cake is great, but decorating a cake and making your own sweet masterpiece is the best feeling.

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For a normal layer cake, it’s best to leave it for around 2 to 3 hours. For cupcakes, you don’t have to wait so long and these are usually cool within 10 minutes (but might take longer depending on how big they are).

Leaving your cake until it is stone cold is probably the best option for all frosting, but this isn’t always an option. So, if you’re looking for a way to get around leaving your cake for hours on end to cool, read on for a few tips and tricks.

Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream is one of the most popular and most delicious types of frosting, but it is also the worst to put on a warm cake. 

As you can probably guess, buttercream contains butter which will melt when it comes into contact with a warm cake. If you need to ice your cake quickly, make the buttercream first, and then leave it in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Then, once the cake is baked, leave it to cool for a little while on a worktop and put that in the refrigerator too.

With buttercream, there’s no getting around it when it comes to waiting, so make sure you have time to leave them in the refrigerator for a little while.

After about 30 minutes to an hour, check how warm your cake is. It should have cooled quite a bit, so add a crumb coat quickly and then return it to the refrigerator. 

This method will cut down how long you have to wait for your cake to cool, but you still need some time and patience.

Just please, please don’t add buttercream frosting straight to a warm cake. It will melt and make a huge mess. It will also ruin any design or decoration you had planned.

Fondant Frosting

Fondant frosting is very different to buttercream frosting as it is essentially confectioner’s sugar, water, and corn syrup. This is the best kind for a simple layer over a cake. For modeling decorations, it’s best to use fondant frosting with added gelitine or glycerin.

As fondant frosting, unlike buttercream, doesn’t have ingredients that are so susceptible to heat, it can be a little easier to use on a warm cake. 

BUT, you do still need to be careful. No kind of frosting will do well on a cake straight out of the oven, so some patience is needed. Fondant frosting won’t completely melt, but it will soften and become slippery if put on a cake that’s too warm.

The best thing to do is leave the cake to cool while you do something else, like make fondant frosting decorations (or even do the dishes…). 

Freezing Cake

Putting a cake in the freezer is an option, but it’s not really a great one. If you’re baking more for the Instagram likes than the actual enjoyment of eating, then go ahead and put your cake in the freezer. 

(But just remember that, unless you have a refrigerator with a temperature management system, putting something hot inside can alter the temperature of the refrigerator overall and affect the other food inside).

Freezing a cake is a precarious choice. Yes, it will cool down your cake but it can make it rubbery and dry once you defrost it. You can put it in for a little while so it cools down a bit rather than freezes, but this can still affect the taste and texture of the cake so only do this if you’re really running out of time.

But that’s only one side of the argument. Some people say that putting a cake in the freezer will ruin it, whereas others say it can make it even better. It entirely depends on how you like your cake. 

If even the thought of the word “moist” makes you shiver in disgust, then freezing cake is definitely to be avoided. Once a cake has been completely frozen, it develops ice crystals which, when the cake is defrosted, melt inside and on top of the cake. 

This means that the cake can either take on a nice moistness or it can just become wet. “Wet cake” is something we can all agree needs to be avoided. How a cake comes out of the freezer entirely depends on how long it is in there and the type of cake it is. 

Freeze cake at your own risk, it can either be a life-saver or ruin your cake. The choice is not at all yours.

Top Tips

Here a few ways to cool a cake down enough for it to be frosted:

Fan it

If you’ve ever watched The Great British Baking Show (if you haven’t, do it now), then you will have seen countless contestants using chopping boards and sheet trays to fan their cakes.

This sort of works, in the same way that fanning yourself makes you a little cooler, but it will take a long time. When frosting a cake, it really needs to be cool right to the middle, fanning is a good way to speed this up, but it will take a long time to reach the center.

Take it out of the tin

Be careful with this one. When your cake comes out of the oven, it will be very soft and can fall apart easily. The best thing to do is leave the cake in the tin on a cooling rack for about 20 to 30 minutes, before taking it out.

If you don’t have time for this or want to cool your cake down sooner, it will cool much more quickly out of the tin.

If you manage to get it out of the tin in one piece, you can put it straight on the cooling rack. This will be much faster than in the tin but, as the cake is so soft, it can sink into the rack and end up with deep lines across it.

Wrap it in a towel

This one might sound a bit weird, but it just might work for you. Wrap the cake up in a (clean!) towel and place it in a cool place, or even in front of a fan. 

Wrapping something up usually makes it warmer, but the towel will actually help it cool down if the towel itself is cool. Don’t be tempted to place it directly in front of a fan as this will dry it out.

The bottom line when it comes to frosting a cake is that you need patience. There are a few things here that will help you out if you’re really in a rush, but the best thing to do is make sure you have a few hours to spare to let it cool down properly.

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