To Freeze Or Not To Freeze: How To Store Homemade Baked Goods
The recent discovery of an edible 100-year old fruitcake in the Antarctic has inspired us to ask several burning questions: how can a fruitcake survive for a century without any supervision, while the cake I just made goes bad after three days? Can you freeze bakery for 100 years then serve it to your guests? And, of course, how can I get this result?
If you are interested in solving the mystery of the fruitcake, here's a hint: throw some science at it. For now, we will tackle the issue of how to properly store homemade baked goods so that they look and taste as good as the day they were made.
Before we begin, it's helpful to keep in mind that home-baked goods do not contain preservatives and therefore have different storage guidelines than store-bought. If you are used to store-bought, it may come as a surprise to find that you can't keep homemade on your counter for a week or more. Do people do this? Yes, they do. Why? We do not know.
All baked goods can be at room temperature for a certain period of time. All baked goods can be refrigerated for a certain period of time. Not all baked goods can be successfully frozen.
For longer-term storage of your homemade bakery, use these simple guidelines:
Do not freeze: egg white- or flour-based frostings, custard and cream pies, meringues,
Ok to freeze: baked cookies and bars, cookie dough, cakes, muffins, quick breads, pies, cheesecake
Baked Cookies and Bars
Note: Cookies can be frozen individually, but brownies and bar cookies should be frozen first, then cut into individual servings after thawing.
Cookies: Cool completely, then wrap individual cookies tightly in plastic wrap. Place in freezer bags or airtight containers. Freeze up to one month. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature.
Brownies or bar cookies: cool brownies or bar cookies completely, but do not cut into individual servings. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again with foil. Freeze up to three months. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature before cutting into individual servings
Note: Cookie dough can be frozen up to six weeks using these methods.
Slice-and-bake refrigerator cookies: shape dough into logs, then double wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze until ready to use, then just thaw, slice and bake as directed in the recipe.
Drop or shaped cookies: shape cookie dough into balls or cut into shapes, then place on parchment paper or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze until dough is completely frozen. Transfer dough from tray to freezer bags and freeze until ready to use. When ready to bake, thaw frozen dough on baking sheets, then bake as directed.
Some additional tips for freezing unfrosted cake layers from Southern Living Magazine
Cakes, Muffins and Quick Breads
Unfrosted cakes: cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze up to three months. When ready to serve, remove cake from the bag and place on a serving plate. Let stand at room temperature one to two hours, then frost as desired.
Frosted cakes: place on parchment paper or a wax paper-lined tray in the freezer for one hour or until the frosting is frozen. Place in a freezer bag and put into an airtight container. Freeze up to three months. When ready to serve, remove cake from bag and place on serving plate. Let stand at room temperature one to two hours.
Muffins or quick breads: cool completely, wrap cooled muffins or breads individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze up to two months. Thaw at room temperature. To serve warm, microwave on medium power just until heated though.
Baked fruit or nut pies: cool pie completely, then wrap the pie (in pan) tightly in plastic wrap. Place in a freezer bag. Freeze up to four months. When ready to serve, thaw in refrigerator, then bake as directed.
Unbaked fruit pies: assemble as directed in the recipe, except do not cut slits in top pie crust. Place unwrapped pie in the freezer until completely frozen. Remove from the freezer, then wrap pie (in pan) in plastic wrap. Place in a freezer bag and freeze up to four months. When ready to bake, do not thaw. Unwrap the frozen pie and cut slits in top of the pastry, then bake as directed.
Baked or unbaked pie shells: prepare the shell as directed in recipe. Cool completely if the shell is baked. Place the shell in the freezer, unwrapped, for one hour or until crust is frozen, then wrap shell (in pan) in plastic wrap. Place in a freezer bag. Freeze up to two months. It is not necessary to thaw pie shells before baking or filling.
Prepare cheesecake as directed, omitting any topping added after baking. Cool completely. Wrap cheesecake tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again with aluminum foil. Freeze up to two months. When ready to serve, thaw the wrapped cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight.
Cheesecake may be cut into individual slices prior to freezing. Place unwrapped slices on parchment paper or a wax paper-lined tray in freezer until the surface is frozen. Wrap slices tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap again with foil. When ready to serve, microwave individual slices on defrost setting for up to one minute. Let stand five minutes before serving.
While these methods will not preserve that cake, pie or muffin for posterity, proper refrigeration and freezing does ensure that you will always have delicious baked goods on hand to share with guests, family and friends. And without a doubt, they will taste a lot better than 100-year old fruitcake. Happy baking!