Should I refrigerate my cake overnight?

Quick Answer

It is generally recommended to refrigerate cakes overnight if you made the cake in advance and do not plan on eating it right away. Refrigeration helps preserve the cake by slowing down the staling process and preventing moisture loss. However, proper steps should be taken when refrigerating to avoid ruining the texture and flavor. Make sure the cake is completely cooled first and cover it tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container before refrigerating. Allow the cake to come to room temperature before decorating and serving for the best texture and taste.

What Happens When You Refrigerate Cake?

Refrigerating a cake slows down chemical reactions and moisture migration that lead to staling, helping the cake stay fresher for longer. The cool temperatures preserve the cake’s soft, moist texture and prevent it from drying out. Refrigeration also inhibits mold growth, which can develop quickly on cakes at room temperature in a humid environment. However, refrigerating can dry out the outside of cakes as moisture condenses then evaporates from the surface each time the door opens. Extended refrigeration can alter the cake’s texture, making it dense and soggy. The chilled fats in buttercream or ganache frostings will also firm up and lose their spreadability.

Effects on Cake Layers

Refrigerating cake layers overnight helps retain moisture so they stay tender and do not become crumbly and dry if left out overnight. However, condensation can make cakes soggy if not properly wrapped. The sugars and starches crystallize during refrigeration, resulting in a denser, harder texture. Fats also solidify and harden, losing their soft, tender quality.

Effects on Frosting

Buttercream and ganache frostings will become very firm in the fridge, making them difficult to spread evenly and decorate with. The fats harden and the frosting can curdle, separate, or develop condensation on the surface. Whipped cream frostings will deflate and weep moisture. However, refrigeration prevents frosting from melting, running, or spoiling in hot weather.

Effects on Fondant and Gum Paste

Fondant and gum paste decorations stiffen considerably in the refrigerator, making them more fragile and prone to cracking or breaking when handling. Any moisture on the decorations can lead to stickiness, sweating, and discoloration. The colors also become duller and lose vibrancy.

Effects on Fillings

Fillings with cream cheese, custards, fruit, or perishable dairy should always be refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage. These need refrigeration for food safety, even though chilling can change the texture slightly. Buttercream fillings will firm up but prevent the interior of the cake from drying out. Jam or preserves stay spreadable when chilled.

Should Cakes Be Refrigerated Overnight?

For cakes you baked ahead of an event or do not plan on eating right away, overnight refrigeration helps the cake stay fresh, moist, and mold-free for your occasion. However, take proper precautions to prevent refrigeration from negatively affecting the cake’s quality. Here are some tips:

– Allow baked cakes to cool completely before refrigerating. Cover tightly in plastic wrap or an airtight container to prevent moisture loss.

– Avoid refrigerating frosted cakes unless necessary. Refrigerate unfrosted cake layers overnight, then frost after they come to room temperature.

– Let refrigerated cakes come to room temperature before decorating or serving for the best flavor and texture. This prevents condensation from forming.

– Consume refrigerator cakes within 3-5 days and freezer cakes within 2-3 months for optimal freshness.

– Add a slice of bread or apple to the container to help retain moisture.

– If refrigerating a filled cake, use fillings that are stable when chilled like preserves rather than perishable cream fillings.

– Avoid freezing milk-based frostings like buttercream as they will deteriorate in texture and appearance.

What Kind of Cake Can Be Refrigerated?

Most cakes and cake layers can be refrigerated overnight as long as proper precautions are taken. Here are some varieties that refrigerate well:

– Frosted or unfrosted sponge, butter, or pound cakes. Their dense texture prevents drying.

– Oil-based cakes like carrot and zucchini cake. The oil keeps them moist.

– Chiffon or angel food cakes. Their light texture stays tender when chilled.

– Cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake. Their high density retains moisture.

– Fruitcake and gingerbread. Their spices and high sugar content act as preservatives.

Cakes with perishable ingredients like custard fillings or whipped cream frostings should not be refrigerated longer than 2-3 days. Delicate cakes like genoise or biscuit cake can become dry and crumbly in the fridge.

How to Refrigerate Cake

Follow these steps for properly refrigerating cake overnight or up to 5 days:

1. Allow baked cakes to cool completely, about 1-2 hours. Warm cakes will sweat, become soggy, and ruin the texture.

2. Wrap cakes tightly in plastic wrap or foil. Make sure there are no gaps where air can sneak in and dry out the surface.

3. Place wrapped cake in an airtight container or bag to create a second layer of protection. This prevents odors from transferring.

4. Store cake layers on flat plates or cake boards rather than standing up tall. They should be level to prevent damage to the tender layers.

5. Keep cake in the center of the fridge, away from air vents, to prevent edges from drying out. The back is the coldest spot.

6. Let refrigerated cakes come to room temperature before decorating or serving. About 1-2 hours prevents condensation.

7. Consume refrigerated cake within 3-5 days for best quality. Cake can last up to 7 days if wrapped very well.

8. Write the date on cakes or containers for easy reference. Track when it was baked or refrigerated.

Freezing Cakes

Baked unfrosted cake layers also freeze well for longer term storage. Here are some tips:

– Double wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and foil before freezing. Exclude as much air as possible.

– Place layers in freezer bags or airtight containers. Prevent freezer burn.

– Freeze layers flat and level to prevent cracking or damage.

– Thaw overnight in the fridge before decorating. Thawing at room temp can cause condensation.

– Most cakes stay good in the freezer for 2-3 months if stored at 0°F or below.

– Mark the freeze date clearly on packages to track freshness.

How to Store Cake at Room Temperature

For cakes you plan on eating within 2-3 days, room temperature storage works well. Here are some tips:

– Cool cake completely before wrapping for room temp storage. Wrap in plastic, then foil.

– Counter storage works for 2 days max. The cake will stale and dry out quickly.

– An airtight container at room temp preserves freshness for 3-4 days. Keeps moisture locked in.

– Position away from heat, windows, or direct sun to prevent premature staling.

– Enjoy cheesecake, chiffon cake, angel food cake within 2 days for optimal texture. Their lightness makes them quick to stale.

– Dense cakes like pound cake, fruitcake, and custard cake can go 3-4 days if well wrapped.

– Track date baked – eat within recommended window for ideal freshness and moisture retention.

Signs Your Refrigerated Cake Has Gone Bad

Monitor your refrigerated cake and watch for the following signs of spoilage:

– Mold growth. This appears as fuzzy spots or filaments, often blue, green, black, or white. Discard moldy cakes.

– Strong sour odor. A sour, fermented smell indicates yeast or bacteria formed.

– Dry, cracked surface. A dried out, cracked cake has lost too much moisture in the fridge.

– Weeping moisture or liquid. Excess moisture indicates spoilage.

– Discoloration of frosting or Decorations. Dull, runny, or bleeding colors signal deterioration.

– Mushy or soggy texture. A gummy, soft interior points to unwanted moisture.

– Off flavors. Soapy, bitter, or metallic tastes mean the cake has turned.

Always adhere to refrigeration times for the specific cake recipe. When in doubt, remember the phrase, “When in doubt, throw it out!” Don’t risk eating spoiled cake.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you refrigerate frosted cake?

It’s best to refrigerate cake layers unfrosted, as frosting can absorb fridge odors and its texture changes. Refrigerate only frosted cakes using frostings with stability like ganache or cream cheese. Avoid dairy-based frostings. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.

Should you refrigerate cake before frosting?

Yes, refrigerating unfrosted cake layers overnight helps retain moisture and prevents drying or crumbling when you assemble and frost the cake. Always let refrigerated cakes come completely to room temp before frosting for ideal texture.

How long can a refrigerated cake last?

Properly stored cakes typically last 3-5 days refrigerated and 2-3 months frozen. Cheese, custard or fruit-filled cakes have a shorter fridge shelf life around 2-3 days. Always wrap well and consume baked goods ASAP for best freshness.

How do you soften refrigerated cakes before decorating?

Cakes and frosting should be brought to room temperature before decorating or serving after refrigeration. Leave the wrapped cake out 1-2 hours until it feels warm to the touch. Cold cakes can sweat, crack, or ruin the decoration.

Can you freeze a frosted cake?

It’s best to freeze cake layers unfrosted, as frosting becomes grainy or weep upon thawing. Only freeze cakes frosted with a frosting that is stable frozen, like ganache or cream cheese frosting. Do not freeze milk or egg-based frostings.

Key Takeaways

– Refrigerating cake overnight helps it stay fresh and moist if not eating it right away. Use proper precautions.
– Cool cake completely before chilling. Wrap in plastic then foil or store in an airtight container.
– Cake layers refrigerate well. Avoid refrigerating perishable frostings for too long.
– Bring chilled cakes to room temperature before decorating or serving.
– Store cake for 2-3 days room temp, 3-5 days refrigerated, 2-3 months frozen.
– Look for mold, odors, drying, or other signs a refrigerated cake has spoiled before eating.


Refrigerating cakes overnight or a few days optimally preserves freshness and moisture when a cake needs to keep or you baked it in advance. Take care to cool completely first, wrap properly in plastic and foil, and refrigerate unfrosted layers or frostings that can handle the chilled temperatures. Allow cakes to come to room temp before decorating or serving after refrigerating so frosting spreads smoothly and the texture becomes cake-like again. Monitor refrigerated cakes closely for any mold growth or other signs of spoilage and adhere to recommended storage times. With the proper precautions taken to prevent drying or damage, refrigeration lets you make cakes ahead of time so you can relax until your event or special occasion to serve a scrumptious homemade cake at its freshest!

Cake Type Can Refrigerate? Recommended Storage Time
Sponge Cake Yes 3-5 days
Angel Food Cake Yes 2-3 days
Cheesecake Yes 2-3 days
Carrot Cake Yes 3-5 days
Genoise No 2 days room temp
Whipped Cream Frosting No Do not refrigerate
Ganache Frosting Yes 5 days

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