How to Cool Your Freshly Baked Cake

You’ve baked a cake and now all you need to do is wait for it to cool down so you can either decorate the cake or eat it, depending on the type.

You’ve lots of questions about exactly how long to wait for this cake to cool so you can complete your masterpiece. Having tried, and failed only to succeed, here are some of my favorite cake-cooling tips to get you started, and help you avoid my errors.

If you have the time, plan on allowing your cake to cool at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

baked a cake on the tray

How to Cool a Cake Quickly

How often have we all made a cake, cookies, brownies, or desserts in general at the last moment for an unexpected dinner or celebration? If you have baked a last-minute cake that has emerged from your oven in perfect condition, you’re almost finished. But perhaps you need to frost it or decorate it and you have little or no time remaining to get the job done.

Don’t worry, you can speed up the process to get that cake ready and out the door in no time.

It is possible to bake a cake without a pan. However, if you have already baked using a traditional cake pan, you need to get the cake out.

 made a cake, and decoration to the icing
  1. A cake pan is usually manufactured in metal and metal retains heat. Avoid flipping your cake if it’s just come out of your oven. Flipping a very hot cake can cause it to break, and you’ll end up with cake pieces. Set your cake aside and allow it to cool for a full 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes have passed, place your serving plate on the surface of the cake top and now flip your cake pan over, holding pan and plate together. Set your plate with the pan on a flat surface and slowly lift the pan from the cake. You no longer have a hot cake tin to deal with.
  3. Now attempt to place the cake on a cooling rack. This will allow air to circulate to cool the bottom as well as the sides and the top. This is a quick way to get cooling started.
  4. If you intend to cut the cake to add in filling or frosting, cut it now, as cutting will speed up the cooling process. Cut carefully and slowly with a serrated knife to avoid tearing. Keep the layers on your cooling rack. If you don’t intend to cut the cake, you can still slice off a very thin layer at the top to enable heat and steam to release.
  5. Refrigerator or Freezer? These are two useful options to shorten your cooling time. After you have removed the cake from the hot pan you can also place it in the refrigerator or in your freezer to help things along. An unwrapped cake can dry out, so keep your cake in your freezer for 2 to 5 minutes and not longer. When placing it in the fridge, you can wrap it in plastic to prevent dryness.

How Long Should a Cake Cool Before Frosting?

While you may be in a hurry to begin frosting and decorating your cake, for best results the cake must absolutely be cooled. Cakes tend to be fragile while they are still hot.

If you are using a nice thick frosting, this will tend to break your cake, pulling away pieces and crumbs when you’re trying to spread the icing. It will ruin a smooth cake finish. The frosting will also probably not stay put if your cake is too hot. It will melt and seep into your cake or run down the sides.

A cake should ideally be allowed to cool from 2-3 hours so that it is completely cool before frosting.

baking cake on the wire mesh

Should I Refrigerate a Cake Before Frosting?

It’s a good idea! Even when cooled, a cake can still be quite fragile, and you’ll avoid the risk of pulling crumbs from your cake top and sides if it has been chilled.

You can frost your cake at room temperature, however, wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours, you’ll have an easier time when applying either a crumb coat or the final frosting.

You can cool it for an hour or so in the refrigerator, apply the crumb coat which is a very thin layer of frosting on the top and sides, and then return it to the fridge for further cooling. When you finally remove it, your frosting should be a breeze, and thanks to the previously added crumb coat, there should be no risk of crumbs breaking away whatsoever.

It can also be important to chill if you live in a warmer climate and perhaps don’t have air conditioning. Or, if you are dripping a ganache over a frosting, it will also be important to refrigerate before starting the dripping of a warm ganache.

Some bakers prefer not to chill cakes before frosting, however, if you are using a perishable frosting, you may want to chill them for about fifteen minutes before adding a fondant or other. I prefer to chill my cakes for 20 to 30 minutes before transporting my cakes somewhere.

How Long to Cool a Cake Before Removing it from a Pan

Let your cake cool completely before even attempting to remove it from its pan. Ideally, it should sit at room temperature for roughly 30 minutes or more before you remove it from the cake pan.

A larger cake might require longer to cool. To help a cake cool down quickly, I like to place it while it’s still in the pan onto a cooling rack. This way, air will be able to flow all around the pan, around the sides, and around the bottom cooling the cake for eventual removal.

A Final Thought

So, there you have it. If you have adequate time, cooling your cake completely for 2 to 3 hours is what I recommend.

If you are short on time, a cooling rack, slicing, and a freezer or refrigerator can speed you along. And while refrigeration before frosting is not mandatory, it does work for many cake decorators, facilitating their work and preventing crumbs.

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