Any keen chef will occasionally wonder whether they can safely and effectively make cake batter in advance, or whether it needs to be made and then baked as soon as possible. It’s useful to know this from the perspective of prepping in your kitchen efficiently, so let’s find out.
If you have more than one cake and limited room in your oven, there may be times when you simply can’t cook cake batter straight away, but will it keep if you set it aside and bake it later?
Can you make cake batter ahead of time? You can make cake batter a little in advance but be aware that the longer you keep the batter for, the denser your cake will turn out when you cook it. The batter will lose air and rising ability the longer it is stored for, so it’s better to use up cake batter straight away, rather than leaving it.
Can You Make Cake Batter in Advance?
You can make cake batter in advance, but the longer you leave the cake batter sitting around, the less fluffy and airy your cake will be. There are two reasons for this: the batter will lose air, and the reaction of the baking powder will be wasted.
When you make cake batter, you are often folding air into it, and this air will gradually come out of the batter when it is stored, whether on the counter or in the fridge. This is particularly true of homemade batter, whereas commercial ready-made cake mixes may last slightly better because they have more additives.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, your baking powder could also cause a problem. Baking powder is crucial to the texture of a cake, because it provides a reaction that creates little bubbles of air, and as the cake cooks, the bubbles rise through it, ensuring that the cooked cake is light and spongey.
Baking powder is double acting, and reacts both when it is combined with the liquids in your cake batter and when it is heated. If you mix the batter and then leave it, this first reaction will occur, create air bubbles, and then fizzle out before the cake has gone into the oven – meaning there will be less air in the cake as it is baking.
There is no way to stop the baking powder from reacting once it has been mixed with the wet ingredients, so if you then leave it in the fridge, this air will be wasted. This will cause the finished cake to be much denser, because there are fewer bubbles in it while it is cooking.
The batter will probably still react a little when it is put into the oven and baked, because baking powder reacts to heat. However, the major reaction will be lost, so you will only get a partial rise, and your cake is likely to be much flatter than if you take advantage of both reactions.
It will still be edible, but you will probably notice that the texture isn’t nearly as pleasant.
Be sure to check out our article on what consistency cake batter should be.
Can You Make Cake Batter Last Better?
If you do need to make the cake mix in advance, the best answer is to make it and then leave the baking powder out until you are ready to bake the cake. This will save the reaction and help to ensure that the cake is fluffy when cooked.
Make sure that the baking powder is very thoroughly combined when you do add it. This is important for getting an even rise and will also help to whip a bit of air back into the batter at the same time.
Refrigerating the batter will also help, because it will minimize the reaction of the baking powder. It will also help to limit any bacterial growth and ensure that the cake mix stays fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible. Since cakes contain eggs, milk, and butter, this is important.
Cover the bowl to minimize the oxidization process and then put it in the fridge and keep it there until you are ready to bake it.
How Long Can You Leave Cake Batter Before It Affects the Cake?
It’s hard to give an exact estimate because it depends on the recipe you have used and the kind of cake you are making. Some batters are fairly forgiving of being left in the fridge, whereas others will end up flat and heavy after just a short period of being stored. Commercial cake mix will also last better than homemade mix in many cases.
Some estimates say that you can make cake batter as much as two days in advance if you keep the raising agent out until the end but be aware that the finished cake may still be denser as a result of this. It’s much better to make the cake and then freeze it if you can.
Can You Freeze a Cake?
Often, the best approach if you need to make batter in advance is to make the whole cake and then freeze it. This is more effective than trying to store the batter and means you won’t have to do any further work, besides thawing the cake when the time comes.
To freeze a cake properly, make sure you wrap each layer in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, covering it completely to prevent the cake from getting freezer burn. You can then place the layers in a plastic sealer bag and put them in the freezer.
When you are ready to defrost the cake, simply put the layers in the fridge and let them gradually defrost overnight. You can then assemble, ice, and decorate the cake the following day, and it should be ready to eat.
Cake batter can be made ahead of time, but you may find that the cake has a denser texture and is not as light and airy. If you leave the leavening agent out until you are ready to bake the cake, it should last much better, although it may still be less fluffy than if you bake it straight away.