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How to Cool and Frost a Cake: Beginning Bakers Guide

Making beautifully decorated cakes is easier than you think. It’s all about how long you let the cake cool before icing it!

If you have ever tried frosting a hot cake, then you know what a disaster that can be. Crumbs get everywhere and your best-laid plans are out the window!

In today’s post, I’ll be outlining the steps to successfully cooling and frosting cakes so that you can improve your cake decorating skills and feel confident baking and frosting cakes.

how long to let cake cool before icing

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How long to let a cake cool before icing

The time it takes for cakes to cool down varies depending on the type of cake you’re making. Different cakes have different cooling times.

Certain cakes, such as Texas sheet cake, are frosted when they are still warm. When you do this, the icing becomes all gooey. It’s meant to be that way as part of how the cake is supposed to taste and look.

Other cakes, like a traditional chocolate cake, need to be cooled for enough time that the warmth from the freshly baked layers won’t melt the frosting.

how long to let cake cool before icing

 Here are the cooling times for various types of cakes

Cupcakes: Cupcakes typically need about 10 to 15 minutes to cool down before you can frost or enjoy them.

Angel food cake: An angel food cake may require a longer cooling time of around 1 to 2 hours to ensure it cools completely and maintains its delicate texture.

Bundt cake: A Bundt cake usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes to cool in the pan, and then an additional 1 to 2 hours on a cooling rack.

Sponge cake: Sponge cakes should cool for approximately 20 to 30 minutes in their pans, and then they can be removed to cool completely on a rack, which may take another 30 to 45 minutes.

Chiffon cake: Chiffon cakes should be allowed to cool for about 1 to 2 hours in the pan, and then they should be inverted onto a rack to cool completely, which might take an additional 1 to 2 hours.

Layer cakes: Cakes baked in layers typically need about 10-15 minutes to cool in the pan, then an additional 1 hour on a cooling rack.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and cooling times vary.

What’s the best-cooling process for cakes?

The most effective way to rapidly cool cakes is to remove the cake from the cake pan once it’s done baking. By doing this, you allow the heat to escape more quickly, which helps the cake cool down faster.

 Turn the cake out onto a wire rack or a cooling rack to speed up the cooling process. Cooling times may vary based on factors like the size and thickness of the cake, your kitchen’s temperature, and humidity levels.

You’ll know when your cakes have cooled for enough time when you can no longer feel any warmth from the cake with your hand.

how long to let cake cool before icing

How to prevent a cake from sticking to the cake pan

Making sure your cakes come out of the pans smoothly is crucial for a perfect bake. Use a high-quality pan release, a mixture of shortening and flour, or line the pans with parchment paper to prevent the cakes from sticking and leaving crumbs behind.

💡Pro Tip: You can also make your own DIY pan release using this recipe.

Quick cake cooling hack

If you’re short on time, the fastest way to cool cake layers is in the refrigerator or freezer. You’ll save yourself a couple of hours and have the added benefit of frosting a cold cake, (which is my favorite way to decorate cakes.)

  1. Let the cake cool in its pan until the pan is cool enough to touch

  2. Turn the cake out onto a piece of parchment paper

  3. Wrap the cake and parchment paper in plastic wrap

  4. Place on a level surface in the refrigerator or freezer.

This is the method that I used in my cake shop for many years. The plastic wrap helps prevent ice crystals from forming and the cake layers can be baked ahead of time and stored in the freezer until you need them.

cooling cakes

How to level a cake

If your cakes have a small dome on the tops, you can use a serrated knife to level the cakes while they are still in the pan.

Just use the edges of the cake pan as your guide and cut the top of the cake off with a sawing motion.

After leveling, turn the cakes out onto a piece of parchment paper with the flat surface down. (It helps to have a long serrated knife.)

How to add moisture and flavor with a simple syrup cake soak

A cake soak is a simple syrup that gets added to a cake after it is baked. It’s an easy technique that adds moisture and flavor to cakes.

A basic simple syrup recipe is equal amounts of granulated sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves.

After the cakes are removed from the pan, use a pastry brush or a squeeze bottle to generously apply the syrup to the cake surface.

simple syrup on cake

How to crumb coat a cake

Crumb coating (also known as dirty icing) is the process of applying a very thin layer of frosting to the cake. It holds in all the loose crumbs like glue so they don’t show through the finished cake.

Here’s how to crumb coat a layer cake:

  1. Let the cake layers cool completely

  2. Prepare your buttercream frosting and filling

  3. Place the cake on a cake pad or plate

  4. Frost the first layer and top with the second layer

  5. Apply frosting the the sides and top of the cake using an offset spatula

  6. Use a bench scraper to remove as much of the frosting as you can while still keeping the layers intact.

  7. Place the crumb-coated cake in a cool place, ideally in the refrigerator or freezer.

how long to let cake cool before icing

Tips for creating a perfectly frosted cake

Before you start the frosting process, it’s a good idea to gather all the supplies you’ll need.

I like to use a large offset spatula, a bench scraper, a cake turntable, a pastry bag, and various tips for decorating my cakes.

Click the links below to check out my favorite cake-decorating supplies from Amazon.

Once your cake is fully cool, you’re ready to begin decorating.

  1. Prepare your buttercream frosting. Try my shelf-stable buttercream frosting recipe. I like it because it spreads smoothly and it’s easy to work with.
  2. Remove the crumb-coated cake from the refrigerator and place it on a cake turntable.
  3. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the cake and use an offset spatula to make it look smooth and even.
  4. Next, apply frosting to the sides of the cake. Use a bench scraper to smooth the sides.
  5. Even out the edges along the top pulling the excess frosting it towards the center of the cake.
  6. If your cake needs more smoothing or additional icing, place it back in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to allow the icing to firm up. Repeat the process, adding  a final layer of frosting to cover the entire cake.

At this point, you can use the extra frosting to add additional decorations. Just put your favorite tip in a pastry bag and fill it with buttercream frosting.

Satisfied with the frosting and decorations? Now place the cake in the safest place, like the fridge, to let it set. This allows the frosting to firm up, and your cake will be at its best when served.

Ready to practice how to cool and frost a cake?

Ready to try your hand at a simple, beginner friendly cake? This recipe for Lemon Bundt Cake bursts with flavor and stays incredibly moist. I’ll show you how to frost a bundt cake with cream cheese frosting in a classic bundt cake piping style!

Let me know in the comments how your cake turned out!