This is PART 3
Link to Part 1: Freezing Cake
Link to Part 2: Filling and Depanning
Video Transcript with Links & Bonus Tips
Condensation is the process by which water vapor turns from a gas into a liquid. This happens when the vapor comes in contact with a cold surface like the a chilled soda can or the surface of a cold cake.
Decorated cakes don’t look great with condensation. It makes them wet, which causes the colors to run and we don’t want that. So here’s how you can avoid it even when the cake gets frozen.
Slacking Off: The Best Way to Defrost Cake
In the food industry, we refer to the process of properly defrosting food as “slacking off.” It has nothing to do with being lazy but it does involve a whole lot of nothing since it occurs not quickly at room temperature but instead gradually in the refrigerator.
Slacking off is the only safe way to defrost food since it maintains a low enough temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria. So if a health inspector came into your kitchen and found you defrosting a chicken in the sink or on the counter for instance, that would be a violation of the health code.
The same thing goes for defrosting cakes. A cake that contains ingredients like butter or cheese or raw eggs should be slacked off and held in the refrigerator. Any time you’re not working on that cake, it should go back into the fridge. That’s a matter of food safety.
So when you slack off a cake in the refrigerator, it’s going to develop condensation, but not nearly as much condensation as it would if you defrosted it at room temperature. What you don’t want to do is shock the cake by transferring it from a frozen state to a room temperature state. You want to ease the temperature of the cake from a frozen to a chilled state and the only way to do that is in the refrigerator.
Preventing Condensation with Plastic Wrap
Since condensation comes from the air, the best way to protect your cake from getting all wet on the outside is to limit its exposure by sealing it in plastic wrap. That way, the condensation forms on the plastic wrap instead of on the surface of the cake.
When you use my professional layer cake construction method that involves filling the cake in the pan, then once the cake has been de-panned, it’s very important to seal it in plastic wrap until you’re ready to crumb coat it. This is not just to prevent condensation from forming but also to protect the freshness of the cake.
When it comes to a frosted cake, I don’t recommend wrapping a finished coat of frosting in plastic wrap. Frosting is just too soft to tolerate that kind of contact.
Using Plastic Wrap on Fondant and Modeling Chocolate Wrapped Cakes
Here’s where the plastic wrap really comes in handy at the later stages in terms of condensation: Any time you wrap a cake in fondant or modeling chocolate, you can seal the surface in plastic wrap and keep it that way until the cake gets decorated or goes on display. If it’s a simple cake with no piping then you can leave the plastic wrap on the cake during delivery and right up to the point when the cake goes on display. This will keep the surface of the cake completely dry and free of debris.
Pros and Cons of Working with Semi-Frozen Cakes
Personally, I like to crumb coat and wrap a cake in fondant or modeling chocolate when it’s still semi-frozen. That makes the whole process so much easier because then the cake is nice and hard so it will hold its corners and edges better and can tolerate the process of being wrapped.
Yes, more condensation is involved this way but as long as the cake is kept sealed, the moisture won’t reach the surface.
You want to be extra careful with the finished surface of a fondant or modeling chocolate wrapped cake at this stage. Don’t press or rub too hard on the plastic wrap or you can imprint the texture of creases on the surface of the cake. When you first peel the plastic away, you might notice some contrasting colors or textures in places where air was trapped versus where it wasn’t but this will all even out as the cake comes to room temperature.
More Tips for Minimizing Condensation
Avoid Freezing Decorated Cakes
Decorations are more likely to get damaged in the freeze-thaw process, mainly due to condensation. I only recommend freezing between the filling and frosting stages (using this cake filling method) to preserve the cake and make it easier to handle.
Avoid Decorating Frozen Cakes
Don’t start the decorating stage until the cake has reached refrigerator temperature. That way, condensation is less likely to form on the decorations.
Use the Refrigerator As Much As Possible
Any time you’re not working on the cake, put it back in the fridge. Don’t leave it sitting out at room temperature unless you are actively doing something to it. A cold cake will develop more condensation at room temperature.
Beware of Dark Colors
Trick for Removing Moisture from the Surface of a Cake
If you do end up with a lot of condensation on the surface of a cake, touch it with a paper towel and that will soak up the beads of moisture.
Weather is a Factor
Humidity has a lot to do with how much condensation can accumulate on a cake so weather is a big factor. You will notice some days are worse than others.
Remember, a little moistness on the surface of a cake is not the end of the world! It’s food after all. As the cake comes to room temperature, the moisture usually dissipates.
This was Part 3. Follow the links below for more.
Part 1: Layer Cakes – Freezing Cake
Complete Overview: Filling Layer Cakes in the Baking Pan
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