Cake Basics: How to Schedule Your Cake Making

January 22, 2020

As many of you know by now, making cakes from scratch isn’t something that can be done in a hurry. One of the first tips I give new bakers is to plan out the baking process so they’re not trying to do everything in just a couple hours. Rushing the process is a recipe for disaster. So, for today’s edition of Cake Basics, I thought I’d help you schedule out the cake making process based on how much time you have.

 Cake Basics: How to Schedule Your Cake Making #cakebasics #cakebycourtney #timemanagement #howtobakecakes

Cake Basics: How to Schedule Your Cake Making

Before we get to the different schedules, the first piece of timing advice I want to offer is this: read through your recipe at least a week before you start baking. This way you’ll have plenty of time to buy ingredients, order any special ingredients, and plan how much time to give yourself for the whole process.

how to split up your cake-making process.

Some of my cakes only have a couple of elements to them. Take my Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Buttercream, for example. This cake has two elements: cake layers and buttercream. It’s a great cake to make when you only have one or two days to bake. My Ultimate S’mores Cake, on the other hand, has SIX different elements. That’s a great one to spread out over the course of a week. And trust me, that one is worth every minute of your time!

the best detailed tips on how to schedule your cake making.

If You Have a Week

Let’s start with a week of prep time! A full week is a good amount of time to give yourself if you’re making a cake with a lot of elements, as I mentioned above.

  • Day 1: Review the recipe and do your grocery shopping.
  • Day 2: Bake the cake layers.
    • Once the cake layers are cooled to room temperature, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and freeze. The layers will be good for a week like this. If you want to freeze the layers for longer, wrap a second time in tin foil and place in a zip lock bag.
    • One hour before you’re ready to start stacking and decorating your cake, remove your cake layers from the freezer.
  • Day 3: Make one of the fillings.
    • Fillings are usually best stored in an airtight container on the counter or in the fridge.
  • Day 4: Make additional fillings, if any.
  • Day 5: Make the buttercream.
    • To store the buttercream, place the buttercream in an airtight container and refrigerate.
    • To use the premade frosting, remove from the refrigerator a few hours before you want to decorate. Let the frosting get back to room temperature and re-beat the buttercream to soften it.
  • Day 6: Assemble the cake.
    • I typically like to assemble the cake a few hours before I want to serve it and will then store it in a cake box or on a cake stand with a lid. Room temperature is okay for most cakes, for 2 to 3 hours. Some cakes, like my Ricotta Olive Oil Cake, are best stored in the fridge and served slightly chilled.
    • If you don’t plan to serve the cake on the day you assemble the cake, you can refrigerate it overnight in an airtight container.
  • Day 7: Serve the cake.
    • On the day you’re ready to serve your masterpiece, you’ll want to bring the cake back to room temperature if it’s been frozen or in the refrigerator. Refer to the final section in this post about freezing and thawing your cakes.
best tips for scheduling your cake-making.

If You Have Three to Four Days

If you’re a little tighter on time, but still have a few days to prep, here’s how I suggest laying out the baking process:

  • Day 1: Review the recipe one more time, do your grocery shopping and bake your cake layers.
  • Day 2: Make your fillings.
  • Day 3: Make the frosting. If you only have three days, you’ll want to assemble this day too.
  • Day 4: If you have an extra day, assemble the cake on day 4 a few hours before you plan to serve it.

If You Have Two Days

Now let’s say you just have two days to get everything together, here’s how I would plan out the process:

  • Day 1: Shop for ingredients in the morning. By lunchtime, plan on making the cake layers. If you have fillings to make, try to get those done in the afternoon or evening when the kids go to bed.
  • Day 2: On day 2, when you plan to serve the cake, you’ll want to make the frosting and assemble the cake. You can make the frosting in the morning and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours (covered well), and then re-beat it for a few minutes right before you start to assemble the cake.

If You Have One Day

If you only have one day to make a cake, pick something simple. To me, something simple is a cake that only has two elements to it: cake layers and buttercream.

  • Morning: Shop for ingredients and then make your cake layers. Even though you’ll be putting the cake together in a few hours, you still want to let your cake cool to room temperature, wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for an hour. You’ll have a much easier time decorating your cake if your cake layers are chilled.
  • Afternoon: While your cake layers are chilling, make your buttercream. A few hours before you serve your cake, start the assembly process. I would give yourself about an hour for stacking and decorating your cake.
  • Evening: EAT!
how to schedule your cake making.

Making Cakes Ahead of Time

Another option is to make the entire cake ahead of time and freeze it. I like to do this if I have a cake deadline in the near future but don’t have the availability to make the cake near the time I actually need to deliver it or serve it.

I wrote an entire blog post about How to Freeze, Thaw and Transport You Cakes. You can read the entire post for all the details, but here’s the reader’s digest version:

  • After you’ve frosted your cake completely, freeze the cake for about 30 to 60 minutes to set the outer coat of frosting.
  • Once the frosting is set, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap.
  • The night before you want to serve your cake, move it to the refrigerator (still wrapped).
  • The next morning, move the cake to room temperature. You can leave the plastic wrap on for the first hour or two. You’ll then remove the plastic wrap and keep the cake in an airtight container like a cake box or cake carrier.
  • If you have any condensation appear on the cake, just gently pat it dry with a paper towel.

Alright! You’re all set to plan out your next cake! What’s it going to be?

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Join the Conversation

  1. Hi Courtney !
    If I make my frosting and stick it in the fridge to assemble the next day, should I wait for it to get back to room temp when I’m ready to frost the cake ? Beat the frosting again? Is it okay cold ?

    1. You can beat it again but you’ll definitely want to wait a couple hours to get it back to room temp.

  2. Jessica Short says:

    Love your style of cakes!!

    Where do you get all of your wonderful cake stands/plates. I love collecting them.

  3. I have a cake that needs to be for Sunday, but I have to finish it on Thursday. Do you think it will be ok wrapped in a cake box and in the fridge for a few days? Or do you suggest a freeze it for a couple days? Thanks!

    1. I always think freezing keeps cake freshest!

  4. I am making the ultimate S’mores cake this week. If I want to make the marshmallow filling and ganache ahead of time is there anything I need to do before I assemble? (For example with buttercream you let it sit out and then re-mix). Thanks!

    1. Marshmallow filling should sit out for a bit and mix with a wooden spoon to get soft again. Ganache should be made right before you use it.

  5. hi! i want to make this cake for eid on july 31st, it’s a chai cake with cream cheese frosting, it sounds fairly simple being that there are only two components! should i make the cake on the 26th (this sunday, EST), or could it wait until the 29th?
    also, will my cream cheese frosting harden if it is put in the fridge? i’ve only ever made one cake, the first one i made was a black forest cake last month, but it had whipped cream which chilled, but didn’t harden. lastly, how far in advance should i take out my cake fully decorated before serving on the 31st?
    i’m so sorry if there is any confusion, it is 11:30 pm here, if you need any clarification of my question(s) please don’t hesitate to ask me to re-explain! i stumbled across your blog and became so fascinated!
    thank you for all of your help and time!! i can’t wait to get a response from you! 🙂

    1. You can make the cake either day. Just wrap in saran and put layers in freezer until you’re ready to assemble. You should make the frosting right before assembly.

  6. Hi Courtney! Do you think cupcakes would do okay wrapped in saran wrap in the freezer just as the cake layers.

  7. Do you trim and halve the cake before freezing?

  8. Janie Humphrey says:

    How could I get the recipe for your current confetti cake.

  9. If making the cake the night before, where is the best place to store overnight for a morning assembly?

    1. Wrap the layers in Saran Wrap and freeze.

  10. How long does it take buttercream to reach room temperature after being in the fridge for a couple of days?

    1. A few hours. If you need to speed it up a little, remove about 1/4 cup of the buttercream and microwave it for about 10 seconds. Add it back into the buttercream and rebeat it in your mixer.

  11. Hi!

    I am planning on making your Strawberry dark chocolate truffle cake. If I were to make and assemble the whole cake ahead of time, is that okay? Will the chocolate drip be okay in the freezer for a couple days? Or, do you recommend just freezing the frosted cake and adding the chocolate drip the night before or day of when I serve it?

    1. I would add the drip right before serving.

  12. I am wanting to assembly and complete the cake one day but serve it the next day. You mentioned above to cover the cake in an air tight container and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve. What air tight container do you use for a 3 layer cake?

    1. I use the wilton two piece boxes or there are different types of cake containers on amazon that seal shut.

  13. QUESTION: Can your buttercream frosting WITH MARSHMALLOW (from your Hot Chocolate cake) be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge? I want to try it for my grand-daughter’s 4th birthday this Sunday, but Sundays are already so hectic!

  14. Hi there! I am considering making one of your cakes with a crunchy filling as I never have before and I’m excited about the texture. If I assemble the day before and store in the fridge or make further in advance and freeze, should I be worried about the crunchy filling losing its crunch?

    1. No, freezing the cake helps keep the crunchy elements crunchy. Can’t wait to see which cake you choose to make!

      1. Wonderful news, thank you! I’m leaning toward the Pear Crisp 🙂

  15. Hi, do you have a guide illustrating step by step when making and decorating a cake? I struggle with when do I need to refrigerate before, during and after baking and decorating.. also do I need to refrigerate after I put any filling for stability?
    I appreciate your support and your expertise. Lourdes

    1. Yes if you take my online cake course you can find it all there!

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