By Vanessa Greaves

Frozen assets

If you love serving holiday desserts but don't want baking to get in the way of entertaining, do your holiday baking ahead of time and stash the goods in the freezer. Then bring them out for parties, drop-in guests, and treats on demand any time you want them. Scroll down to find out what kinds of recipes work best and how to freeze them so they come out as fresh and flavorful as they were when you made them.

Get this recipe: Refrigerator Cookies | Photo by DenRosen

Best Bets for Bake-and-Freeze Holiday Treats

Cookies

Just about any kind of cookie is a good candidate for baking and freezing, however, cookies made with very thin batter or dough, such as madelines, pizzelles, and rosettes generally do not freeze and thaw well.

Get this recipe: Russian Tea Cakes | Photo by Philly Ry

Freezing cookies: Once the cookies are baked, let them cool to room temperature, then freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Transfer to an zip-top freezer bag, squeezing out all the air, or wrap them individually and place in an airtight container. You can even freeze cookies that are decorated with sturdy royal icing. Just be sure to store them with waxed paper between layers and thaw at room temperature so the icing doesn't get watery from condensation.

Cookies such as Russian Tea Cakes that are finished with powdered sugar after baking can be frozen first and rolled in powdered sugar after thawing.

Filled cookies such as Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints are best if you bake and freeze unfilled, and add the filling as they thaw.

To thaw: Let frozen cookies thaw in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature, or warm in the oven for a few minutes. If you're in a hurry, you can microwave frozen cookies for quick 10-second bursts until thawed.

Cakes and Cupcakes

Baking and freezing cakes and cupcakes ahead of time saves hours in the kitchen. All you have to do is dress them up after the thaw.

Get this recipe: Chef John's Red Velvet Cupcakes | Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Freezing unfrosted cupcakes: Let them cool completely after baking, then wrap in a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of heavy-duty foil. Place on a baking sheet and freeze. Transfer to a gallon-size resealable freezer-safe plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to 4 months. To thaw: Leave cupcakes wrapped in plastic and thaw at room temperature.

Freezing unfrosted cake: Let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and heavy-duty foil, and freeze on a baking sheet or in the cake pan for up to 4 months. You could even frost the cake with a thin "crumb coat" and add the final coat of frosting after thawing. To thaw: Leave cake wrapped in plastic and thaw at room temperature.

Freezing frosted cake: Place the cake in the freezer on a baking sheet until frozen solid to the touch. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and freeze for up to 2 months. Note: For best results, use buttercream frosting instead of cooked frosting. To thaw: Leave frosted cake wrapped in plastic and thaw at room temperature. Add another layer of frosting, if needed, while the cake is still cold.

Cheesecakes

Cheesecakes are great candidates for bake-ahead, freeze-ahead holiday desserts. And think how good you'll feel when you know you've got one less thing to worry about for your special holiday feast.

Get this recipe: Eggnog Cheesecake | Photo by drbugs

Freezing cheesecake: Let cool and freeze, then wrap tightly and return to the freezer for up to 4 months. You can even wrap and freeze individual slices for cheesecake on demand. To thaw: Leave cheesecake wrapped in plastic and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Add toppings such as dessert sauces and whipped cream after thawing.

Pies

Baked fruit pies, custard pies (think pumpkin), and pecan pies freeze well. We don't recommend freezing pies topped with meringue, but you can always add a meringue layer later.

Get this recipe: Apple Pie by Grandma Ople | Photo by Holiday Baker

Freezing pie: As with freezing other baked goods, let the pie cool completely before freezing. Wrap it tightly in a layer of plastic and a layer of foil, then return the pie to the freezer for up to 4 months. To thaw: Let the pie thaw at room temperature for about an hour. If you want a warm fruit pie, thaw at room temperature for an hour, then heat in an oven at 350 to 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until warm.


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