Our most popular questions from clients are around the proper storing of decorated cakes both before, and after serving. Here is a handy guide to the different types of cake toppings and how to keep it fresh as long as possible.
Storing Buttercream Cakes
Buttercream is a mixture of icing sugar, butter and a touch of vanilla essence. Sometimes different colourings and flavourings can be added, but this is essentially the base block of any classic buttercream recipe.
Buttercream cakes should be kept in the fridge and have a ‘best before’ shelf life of 10 days uncut (depending on the cake underneath).
I suggest eating the cake at room temperature. I find when people eat cakes cold directly from the fridge they tend to get the impression the cake is ‘dry’ when it is just hard from being cold. For that reason I suggest customers take the cake out of the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before serving for best results. At the venue, make sure to keep your cake away from direct sunlight, warm lights or equipment (spotlights, electronics) and heat sources (radiators, heaters).
For post-serving storage, you can refrigerate for up to 5 days, or alternatively the cake can stay out in a cool spot in the house (in air-conditioning, for example) for no longer than 3 days. You may ask why can buttercream be left out of the fridge? This is due to the large amount of sugar stabilizing any milk solids.
Storing Fondant Cakes
Fondant is a rolled sugar icing that gives a professional finish to cakes and allows for very creative designs and toppers. It can be flavored and colored to almost anything imaginable, however the most popular is white vanilla-flavored fondant.
It is best recommended to leave fondant covered cakes out on the bench in a cool, dark place. Fondant tends to gather condensation when it moves too quickly from a cold temperature to warm, and thus when you refrigerate a fondant covered cake you risk possibly ruining the cake. Stiff fondant toppers are dried with a specific process to allow them to stand independently and when they are subjected to cold after drying it breaks down the icing and causes it to soften again, often destroying the topper and leading to disappointment.
Un-cut fondant covered cakes can last up to 5 days on the bunker. Cut fondant cakes can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or left on the counter covered in cling film in a cool place for maximum 3 days. (Keep in mind, if you've kept the cake for more than 12 hours before serving the safe keeping time afterward should be reduced accordingly.)
Storing "Mixed Media" Cakes
More often than not, most cakes (and particularly cupcakes) are a mixture of different icings that can include ganache, buttercream, fondant accents and toppers and whipped cream, in any given order!
A few tips for storing mixed media bakes:
1. If your cake and/or cupcakes only have minimal fondant decorations on a buttercream or ganache base, put these in the fridge if you’d like them to last the 10 days. Otherwise they should last 5 days stored covered in a cool place.
2. Whipped cream, cream cheese and egg-based buttercream (Italian Meringue) must always be stored in the refrigerator. As a side note - fresh cream and Italian Meringue covered cakes are almost always too unstable (soft consistency) to do fondant or elaborate concepts so you'll rarely have to worry about keeping these in the fridge as needed. Your cake artist will always let you know if your cake requires refrigeration (due to its ingredients) for the health and safety of your guests.
3. For 3D cakes (carved and gravity defying included) this is the one cake that goes against the standard "rules" for fondant storage. 3D cakes are often made with many different types of cake medium (from cake pops to cookies and rice krispie treats as well!). Because of this, the fondant layer covering the entire piece is often integral to the structure of the piece and so it is recommended to refrigerate your 3D cakes whenever possible. If you can turn the fridge down to middle temperature setting that is ideal. Keeping 3D cakes cold not only ensures the integrity of the design but can also prevent fragile/gravity defying elements from softening too much and ruining the cake.
4. Often modelling chocolate is used as an alternative to fondant for very intricate figurines or toppers. In the case where you have modelling chocolate toppers please do not refrigerate. Modelling chocolate will instantly soften when placed in a cold temperature and will literally melt when returned to a warm setting. Your cake artists will always let you know if your toppers are chocolate and how to handle and keep them after if desired. Fondant toppers, once completely dried, can last for months kept in a cool dry place.