A cake in the freezer (even if it is leftover cake) means you are never without dessert.

The crowning touch of many holiday dinners is a beautiful layer cake in the center of the dessert table. Baking and assembling that cake, however, can take a big chunk of your meal prep time, which is where prior planning comes in. Whether you want to prepare the cake in advance or want to store leftover cake, here is how to let your freezer do the work for you.

How to Freeze Unfrosted Cake

If you need to prepare a cake ahead of schedule or just like to have one on stand-by for an unexpected need (drop-in guest, new neighbor, book club), freezing unfrosted cakes (such as pound cakes) or cake layers is the way to go.

Before you begin, make sure your cakes are completely cool before wrapping and putting them in the freezer. Wrapping a warm cake will trap moisture from steam, leading to a very soggy cake. When the cake layers are completely cool, wrap each one tightly in a layer of plastic wrap, and then again in a second layer. For extra protection against freezer burn you can then either wrap the cake in a sheet of aluminum foil or slip the cake layers into freezer safe storage bags.  Be sure to label your packages with the type of cake and date you froze them. If working with layers, lay the wrapped layers on a flat surface, like a baking sheet, and freeze. Doing this guarantees one surface of the cake will have a flat surface, making it easier to layer and frost later on. Once the layers are frozen you can remove the baking sheet and stack the layers in the freezer for easier storage.

When you're ready to use the cake, simply leave it on the counter and let it defrost for about an hour. Partially frozen cakes are easy to assemble and frost since they are stiffer and produce fewer crumbs, so you don't need to wait for your layers to thaw completely before frosting them. You can keep unfrosted cakes in the freezer for two months.

How to Freeze Frosted Cake

You can freeze frosted cakes as long as they have a freezer-stable frosting. Delicate meringue-based frostings will not freeze well, but buttercream and cream cheese frostings will freeze nicely.

To freeze a frosted cake, place the cake, uncovered, in the freezer for an hour. Once the frosting is frozen and firm, wrap the cake in two layers of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Thaw a frozen frosted cake by letting it warm up on the counter or in the refrigerator.

How to Freeze Slices of Cake

For those looking for a small treat now and then, you might want to consider freezing slices. You can wrap each piece up alone or put them on small plates, layer with plastic wrap and again with aluminum foil. As always, be sure and identify the cake and date the package.  Individual pieces should keep for about two months.