Last Updated on July 3, 2022
Many people question how long to cool a cake before frosting it. Today, we will explore why it’s important to cool cakes and how to properly do so.
This way, you can rest assured knowing that you have the best possible cake every time you bake it! It will further enable you to work out how long your cakes will take to make, and how to best manage your time.
Why Are Cakes Cooled Before Frosting?
There is a surprising amount of reasons that cakes are cooled before they are frosted. To understand why it is important not to skip this step, we thought that it would be best first to explain the implications of not cooling your cakes properly.
So, let’s have a look at some of the most crucial reasons it is important to cool your cake. This will also help us answer the questions of how long to cool a cake before frosting it.
1. Cake shape
When a cake is baked and removed from the oven, naturally it is going to be very hot. When ingredients are hot or even slightly warmed, they have a completely different consistency and texture as compared to their cooled counterparts.
When a cake layer is warm, it has not yet had time to set in its final form. It is important to cool a cake so that you can decorate the cooled version and consistency of the cake.
Many people glaze cakes when they are warm. Once they start cooling and shrinking, the frosting or glaze starts cracking! So, all of their hard decorating work was for nothing!
To avoid this terrible catastrophe, rather cool your cake completely before attempting to frost it.
2. Cakes are easier to cut once cooled
Another big reason has to do with the leveling process. Again, warm cake layers have a different consistency as compared to cooled ones. So, they will cut in a different way when you are trying to level it.
When you cut into a warm cake layer, the layer will tear and not slice. This will directly cause the cake to not be level.
So, to prevent this, again, allow the cake to cool completely. This way the crumbs won’t stick together and onto the blade. The knife will be able to cut right through them without any problems.
3. The frosting will melt
And finally, if the above-mentioned reasons don’t do it for you, this one will! Frosting is made with room temperature butter or margarine and powdered sugar.
As you know, when butter or margarine is heated, it melts. The same will happen when you place it directly onto a warm layer of cake.
This can potentially cause the frosting to melt into the cake, or slowly glide off of the side. Either way, you want your frosting to stick perfectly so that you can create a beautifully decorated cake.
How Long To Cool A Cake Before Frosting It?
The exact amount of time for how long to cool a cake before frosting it varies. There are loads of factors that will affect the final cooling time.
On average, you can expect your cake to cool for at least 2 hours before it will be safe to frost.
If you are cooling your cake at room temperature on a very hot day, it can easily take up to 4 hours. And this is only to get the temperature to roughly 68-77ºF (20-25ºC).
If you are cooling the cake on a pretty moderate day, it can take around 2 hours. And if you are cooling your cake layers on a cold day, it will likely take less time to completely cool.
How To Properly Cool A Cake
To cool a cake is easy, but to do it in the best possible way takes a little more effort.
Now that we have looked at exactly how long to cool a cake before frosting it, we can look at the best techniques to do so.
To start, once your cake has been baked, remove it from the oven. Set it on a wire cooling rack at room temperature. Try to keep the cake away from any drafts or direct sunlight.
Allow the cake to stand for 10 minutes, keeping it inside of its cake pan. Then, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Flip it onto a wire rack and leave it at room temperature until it has completely cooled (about 2 hours).
Can you speed up the process?
There are a couple of techniques you can use to make your cake cool quicker. But, we don’t particularly recommend them. Each of these will allow the cake layer to cool faster, but you are potentially compromising some other factors.
Cool in a fridge or freezer
You can place your cake layer inside the fridge or freezer. This makes sense and you may even be wondering why this isn’t the go-to cooling method.
Well, it is simple. Fridges (and freezers) dry out the cake. So, especially if you are leaving the cake for a couple of hours, it is likely that the texture (at least the outside) will start becoming a little bit stale.
Furthermore, you should never place hot items into fridges or freezers. The heat may affect the quality of other raw ingredients. For example, it may start heating raw ground meat and “cooking” the outside.
So, all-in-all, we don’t recommend it.
Slicing the layers
Another solution that seems so obvious, but isn’t implemented often. The thinner the cake layers are, the quicker they will cool. However, as we have already mentioned, warm cakes don’t slice nicely or evenly.
If you need a perfect cake, we wouldn’t recommend it either. The best way to cool a cake is unfortunately to be patient and wait.
Wrapping It Up
We are sure you have learned a lot from this tutorial on how long to cool a cake before frosting it. And, if you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below!
Should I put the cake in the fridge before icing?
This is a trick professional bakers use. You still have to cool your cake as we have described. But, before frosting it, you can wrap the layers and place the in the fridge. This will firm them up and make it much easier to crumb-coat and frost the cake later. Keep them in the fridge overnight for the best results.
What happens if you don't let a cake cool before frosting?
The cake will change shape once it cools. If you have already frosted the cake, the frosting and any decorations will misform. The cake will also not slice nicely when it is still warm. The knife blade will tear the cake instead of slicing it. So, for the best results, rather cool the cake before icing it.
Can you put a cake in the fridge to cool?
You can place a cake layer inside of the fridge to cool before frosting it. But, it isn't a technique we would recommend. While it will help the cake to cool faster, it will also cause the outer layer to become slightly stale. And, it isn't good to put warm food alongside raw ingredients. So, rather wait an extra hour and keep the cake at room temperature.
Is it better to frost a cold cake?
It is always better to frost a cold cake instead of a warm cake. We have already described what happens when you frost a hot layer of cake. But, if you rest your cake inside the fridge before frosting it, you will have even better results! The crumbs will firm up and stick together, leaving you with a beautiful crumb layer and buttercream frosting coating.
Lindy Van Schalkwyk is a culinary specialist with a background in Advanced Cooking, Advanced Pâtisserie, Media Communications and Nutrition. She has gained invaluable experience in the culinary industry having worked in some of the top restaurants in Africa in 2016 and 2017. Her expertise in nutrition has enabled her to develop recipes for special dietary needs. In 2018, Lindy began working in the Food Media industry, focusing on recipe development, recipe writing, food writing and food styling.