"How far in advance can I bake cakes?" This question is asked so often! So, in today's post, I'm sharing my baking and cake decorating schedule along with tips I've learned over the years to keep cakes in tip-top shape while baking ahead of time!
When I'm asked how far in advance cakes can be baked, I like to give a quick rundown of my baking schedule.
When I first started my business 10+ years ago, my life looked a lot different from how it does now. At that time I had a 13-year-old son, 4 more children under the age of 10, and a baby on the way. And I was homeschooling (as I am still today).
So, I was busy. My cake business was also booming. It wasn't uncommon for me to have 8-10 decorated cakes per weekend. I do not have that type of business anymore, so my schedule has changed. But I'm going to give you a peek into both that schedule (during the very busy days) and my current schedule.
How early can you bake your cakes?
I'm going to share two scenarios with you. The first ("then") is what my schedule looked like ten years ago. Over the years, a lot has changed and I'd say for at least the last 4+ years, I've been doing the latter schedule below ("now").
Hopefully one or the other will work for you, or you will be inspired to work out a schedule somewhere in between that works for you.
Monday/Tuesday: When I was super busy and had lots of small children, I would bake on Monday or Tuesday evening. Sometimes both nights if I had a lot of cake orders. My kids were too young to be helpful so I had to work around them.
I'd start by writing out all of the cakes I needed to bake by quantity, size, and flavor (I still do this today)! My whiteboard is one of my best friends.
I had to spread out my work over the entire week to keep up with everything on my to-do list, so this worked well for me. I'd bake and cool the cakes, then depending on the day, move to the next step.
If your life looks like this, I'd recommend baking earlier in the week. I found that I could put my kids to bed and work 2-3 hours each night and get everything done on time without sacrificing too much sleep.
After the cakes were cooled, I'd take each layer, wrap it in plastic wrap (several layers), then put them back in the pans I baked them in to prevent them from being squished in my freezer. Then I'd freeze them.
Wednesday: On Tuesday and/or Wednesday evenings, I'd make any gum paste pieces that needed to dry for the cakes that weekend. I'd also make fondant pieces that could be made ahead of time.
On Wednesday, I'd move cakes from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow them to thaw. Buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant were also made on this day. I'd make several batches of buttercream and store it in large bowls with lids.
Usually, I'd try to make my cake boards mid-week also. Doing small steps ahead of time like this really saved me a lot of sleepless nights.
Thursday: On Thursday, I'd begin assembling the cakes. I'd usually spend the evening filling and frosting each tier. If the finished cake was going to be buttercream, I'd finish covering the tier in buttercream. If the cake was going to be finished in fondant, I'd fill and crumb-coat the cakes, then they'd go back into the refrigerator.
Thursday/Friday: If any of the orders were going out on Friday, I'd sometimes go ahead and begin decorating on Thursday evening. If they were going out on Saturday, I'd save all the decorating for Friday.
I would always write out all of my orders on my whiteboard in order of pickup time. Then we start decorating based on which cake(s) will be picked up first and move through the list. I still do this today if I have more than a couple of orders.
Friday's have always been light homeschool days for us, so sometimes I'd get an early start on Fridays if I had a lot of decorating to do.
Do previously frozen cakes taste good?
Some people may question the freshness or flavor of a cake that's been frozen, but I've never had a complaint. I've even read in some cake books that freezing the cakes helps them to hold in the moisture and actually makes them better. I'd have to agree based on my experience!!
Of course, the quality of your cakes will depend on the recipes you use but because I use doctored cake mixes, I've never had a single complaint after delivering a previously frozen cake.
Life has changed a lot for me in the last 10 years. My business also looks different. I focus a lot of my time on blogging and a lot less time on cakes.
One reason for that is, I take fewer orders (usually no more than 3-4 unless they're super easy or it's a holiday weekend). Also, my kids are older and work for me, so I'm not working alone.
My six kids now range from 23 years old... all the way down to 10 years old. That means that homeschooling is easier. And my husband and three of my kids regularly assist with my business.
With that in mind... here's how my current baking and cake decorating schedule looks.
Thursday: Now I have no need to bake so early in the week. I'd say 95% of the time (or more!), I bake on Thursdays. Actually, my daughter bakes on Thursdays. Three of my middle kids work for me regularly and Sarah does almost all of my baking now. We find this works well.
She bakes, then we let the cakes cool and then move to the next step. While she bakes, I usually spend time making gum paste pieces or doing other work. She also makes a lot of my sculpted pieces so that is nice!!
In addition to Sarah baking, my sons Christian and Noah make buttercream for me. They'll usually do this on Thursday evening or Friday morning. This is also the evening my husband makes fondant for me.
Since I started having chronic hand pain years ago, he took on that task and it's a huge burden off of me when he makes me several batches. He doesn't work on Fridays so Thursday night is the perfect time for him to do this.
With all of this in mind, we rarely freeze cakes anymore unless they're for late Sunday or the rare Monday pickup. I do my very best to not work on Sunday or Monday so if someone wants a cake for Monday, I get started on it ahead of time and will finish on Monday morning.
But back to Thursday... we usually go ahead and fill/frost the cakes on Thursday as well, then chill them to start decorating on Friday. If we only have one or two orders, we might save this step for Friday.
Friday: This is decorating day! All Friday orders are usually done by noon, then we move on to Saturday orders. As stated above, I do them based on pickup time... from earliest to latest.
If I have a wedding for Saturday, I'll either choose to stay up really late and finish it Friday OR get up really early on Saturday. Personally, I'm a night-owl so I usually prefer to finish Friday night, even if it's actually 2am Saturday morning.
I currently have a dedicated "cake refrigerator" so this also allows me to chill finished wedding cakes overnight which makes them much more secure for delivery.
So... that's that: my previous and current baking and cake decorating schedules. Do you have any questions? I'd love to hear how your schedules are different from mine!