When to Make Your Christmas Cakes
Santa's elves may be able to work all day and night to get Christmas ready, but that doesn't mean you need to do the same. The beauty of festive layer cakes, chocolate-coated yule logs, and yes, even the traditional fruit cake, is that they can all be made ahead and decorated or wrapped up whenever you're ready.
These tips will give you a Christmas cake timeline that lets you take your time while making sure it's still top quality by the time you're ready to serve or gift. No holiday stress here!
Related: 12 Make-Ahead Christmas Desserts
How far ahead can I bake layer cakes?
Cake layers freeze and thaw really well, meaning you can bake them up to two weeks ahead. After baking each layer, let them cool at room temperature first, then turn out and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.
No time to let them cool on the counter? Run a knife along the edge and put the cake pan right in the freezer for about 30 minutes. We love the red and white colors of a classic red velvet cake.
To thaw the cakes, unwrap and let thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes. They won't be completely thawed at this point, which is a good thing — it'll hold its shape and won't shed as many crumbs when it is time to frost.
How far ahead can I make frosting?
Frosting can be made three to four days ahead and refrigerated. Chilling the frosting will make it quite solid. After letting it sit at room temperature for a few minutes, beat at a low speed or whisk until light and spreadable.
How long can the cake sit out after decorating?
A frosted cake can sit at room temperature for two to three days (the frosting will protect the cake and keep it moist). Instead of covering in plastic wrap, which could smoosh your decorations, top with a cake cover or an upturned bowl or pot. You can also refrigerate it, uncovered, for the same amount of time.
How far ahead can I bake the cake?
The cake for a yule log can be made about a week ahead. After baking, you'll want to go ahead and roll up with the parchment paper while it's warm so it "remembers" its pinwheel swirl for filling and shaping later. Let cool completely at room temperature while it's rolled, then unroll, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. Thaw completely before adding the filling, rolling it up, and decorating.
How far ahead can I decorate my yule log?
Just like frosting, the ganache used in a classic yule log will keep it from drying out, so you can decorate and leave at room temperature for one to two days. If your kitchen is on the warm side, refrigerate uncovered, then let sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.
When is the best time to make fruit cake?
The timing on a fruit cake is almost the opposite of other cakes as it gets even better the longer it sits — many recipes recommend baking as much as six weeks before Christmas! The dried fruit and alcohol will help preserve the cake, and all the eggs and butter will keep it rich and moist. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze as long as you need to.