Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake
Credit: Alison Miksch

You put a lot of time and love into baking your family's favorite cakes. Whether a moist and tender chocolate cake for a birthday celebration or a velvety-textured pound cake topped with fresh fruit for a neighborhood potluck, you work hard to correctly measure, sift, blend, and stir so that the finished product will inspire praise (and requests for the recipe) from your family and friends. Don't let all that hard work go to waste by allowing the cake to dry out. If you need to bake in advance, follow these tips below on how to properly store a cake.

Unfrosted Cake Layers

Wrap an unfrosted cake layer tightly in plastic wrap; be sure and secure the top, sides and bottom of the layers. Then place the wrapped layers in a plastic zip-top bag and store on the kitchen counter at room temperature for up to five days. If you need to keep a unfrosted layers longer than that, freeze them. After you wrap the layers in plastic wrap, wrap them again in aluminum foil and freeze. A word of caution: wrapping a warm cake layer will lead to messy condensation, so wait until it is completely cool before applying plastic wrap.

Frosted Cakes

A Southern cook can never have too many casserole dishes or pretty cake keepers. A keeper not only transports a cake to a party with style and ease, but with one of these devices, you can store a frosted cake at room temperature for up five days; the cover will protect the cake from dust, pet hair, etc. A large overturned bowl also works well in a pinch. And don't worry about using plastic wrap, as that would only mess up the frosting, which, in fact, acts as a barrier and protects the cake from air and moisture.

Cut Cake

As soon as you cut a cake, whether frosted or unfrosted, moisture begins to escape and the cake begins to stale. On those rare occasions when you have leftover cake, you have two options for keeping it fresh. Cover the sliced edges with more frosting to protect the cake from moisture loss (and who doesn't love more frosting?). Or, firmly press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the open, sliced sides. Then continue with covering and storing the cake as outlined above. A cut cake keeps for a little less time than an uncut cake, about three to four days at room temperature.

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When to Refrigerate Cakes

Most cakes – frosted, unfrosted, cut, or uncut - are fine for several days when properly stored at room temperature. So when should you refrigerate a cake? For starters, if you live in the deep South and your kitchen stays hot and humid during the summer months, cover and refrigerate your cake. If you made a cake that won't be served for a few days, cover and refrigerate your cake. Lastly, if your cake includes a fresh fruit filling or topping, or has a frosting made with whipped cream or mascarpone, cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to serve. Before refrigerating, wrap unfrosted cakes in plastic wrap to protect it from drying out or absorbing refrigerator smells. For frosted cakes, chill the cake uncovered for 15 minutes to harden the icing, then loosely wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a cake keeper. Bring a refrigerated cake out 30 minutes to an hour before serving and let sit at room temperature.