You’ve probably heard about that tradition of freezing the top tier of your wedding cake so you can enjoy it on your first anniversary.
Long ago, couples saved that last piece to celebrate the first child’s christening, which, back in those days, was probably pretty close to the first anniversary if you do the math (what without any reliable birth control and a couple of horny kids who had, theoretically, been holding out until that first night to kick their wedded bliss off with a — ahem — bang). Of course, back then, the cakes were liqueur-soaked fruitcakes sans any fondant or delicate buttercream.
These days, saving that cake is a bit trickier. Sure, the real secret is wrapping it up and freezing it correctly. But it’s all for naught if it doesn’t make it home. Don’t forget to inform the catering staff or whoever is in charge of cleanup that you want to save that cake top. That way they won’t serve it or dispose of it. And appoint a trusted friend to be the person in charge of transporting it home and cake blocking (that is, threatening anyone who even looks at it sideways within an inch of their lives).
1. Get the cake in the fridge ASAP
The top tier should be carefully removed and refrigerated as soon as humanly possible.
2. Remove fancy decorations
Remove any sugar flowers or other decorations that will get in the way of freezing.
3. Preserve the frosting integrity
Place the cake on the inside of the lid of a large, airtight container, and snap the bottom closed around it. Place it in the freezer for at least two hours (up to overnight).
4. Wrap it up
Once it’s par-frozen, carefully wrap the cake in plastic wrap, making sure the whole thing is covered. A couple of layers should be plenty.
5. Stop freezer burn
Using freezer paper, wrap the cake again (use butcher tape to secure it).
6. Box it up
Place the wrapped cake in a sturdy cake box at least 2 inches larger than the cake, and close the box.
7. Seal it again
Wrap that box (being careful to not flip it around and upside down… remember, there’s a cake in there!) in another layer of plastic wrap, then wrap it as much like a present as possible in another layer of freezer paper, using butcher tape to secure it.
8. Box it again
Carefully place that box into a second, larger box at least 2 inches larger on all sides (including the top) than the first cake box.
9. Protect it
Fill the rest of the box with unflavored, air-popped popcorn (don’t shove it in — you’re using it like packing peanuts in case something smashes into the box). Don’t forget to put at least one layer of popcorn on top, and seal the box.
10. Mark it
Use a marker to write on the top and all sides (omitting the bottom) “Wedding cake — handle with care. Do not open until…” your anniversary. Just in case someone else is rooting around in your freezer during a cookout or something… Don’t want them to store a big ol’ rack of ribs on top of it.
11. Store it right
Store it in your freezer in a place you won’t often need to store other things, and always (always) remove it to rearrange things, being careful to not leave it out for more than a couple of minutes.
12. Control odor
Your cake may absorb odors from other things in the freezer if you aren’t careful, so watch what else you store in there. This is one of the reasons it pays to pack your cake in so many layers.
13. Defrost gently
Take the cake out of the freezer at least 36 hours before you plan to eat it, and put it in the fridge to defrost, plastic wrap, freezer paper, boxes, popcorn and all.
14. Bring to room temp
Carefully remove all the popcorn and wrapping. Your frosting is at its most vulnerable now because it’s no longer frozen solid. Remember, Tortoise: Slow and steady wins the race.
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One year later… “Help, the frosting is damaged!”
Take a deep breath. If your frosting was still just too delicate to make it and far too damaged to serve as is, if it bugs you, you can scrape it off and refrost it. No, it may not look as good as what your professional cake baker did, but in some cases, it’s better than it looking like the cake was used for target practice.