Updated: Jul 13
Are you thinking about keeping the top tier of your wedding cake? Ever wondered why people do this, and how the heck does a cake last a year?!
Around about the 19th century this slightly odd tradition was born. Originally, the top tier was actually kept to celebrate the birth of the first child, as it was generally expected couples would couples have children right away. Thankfully, the tradition has evolved to celebrate a couples one-year anniversary. Phew!
How does cake last a year?
Traditionally, wedding cakes were made with fruit cake. Juicy preserved fruits, loads of sugar and lashings of booze all helped to preserve and keep the fruit cake 'fresh', making it ideal for traditional cake decorating that could take days or even weeks. When stored the right way, fruit cake can keep for years.
Today, and most wedding cakes are made with butter cakes or similar. Apart from being delicious, butter cake can come in literally any flavour, giving couples lots of options to choose from. As tastes and food trends change, for some people, fruit cake can feel a bit dated or more like a seasonal Christmas treat.
Unfortunately, butter cakes just don't have the same enduring freshness that fruit cake does. Sure, butter cakes freeze really well, but they can start to deteriorate after about 3-4 months.
So can I keep the top tier of my wedding cake or not?
If your wedding cake is a made with butter cake, you can definitely freeze it. We've tested freezing cakes for longer with ok results. But, even when stored correctly, there is a chance the cake could be a little dry or stale tasting. Not necessarily bad, but just not the same as your wedding day!
The most important thing to do? Tell your cake maker that you want to keep your top tier. They can advise the the pros & cons and make recommendations for the best cake type & filling to use.
3 keys to successfully freezing your top tier:
Make sure your cake & filling is suitable for freezing
Wrap, freeze & store your cake in an airtight container
Be patient. Let your cake defrost slowly
What type of cake can I freeze?
Cakes freeze exceptionally well, but ultra moist or rich cakes like carrot cake or mud cake will fair better in the freezer for longer periods than regular butter cake.
Apart from the cake itself, you need to make sure your fillings are suitable for freezing! The best fillings for freezing include buttercream, ganache, cheesecake filling along with jam, fruit curd and caramel.
So what are the freezer no-gos? Once defrosted, fresh berries or fruit will turn mushy and make your cake soggy. And fillings like custard, gelatin based fillings and whipped cream can split, leak or change texture once defrosted.
Always let your cake maker know you want to freeze your cake so they can advise the best cake & fillings.
How to wrap & freeze your wedding cake
Taking the time to wrap and store your cake properly will give you the best chance of keeping your cake fresh and tasty,
1. Refrigerate the cake
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes or until the buttercream or filling is firm. This will make wrapping the cake a lot easier. If you want to cut individual slices, do so after the cake is chilled.
2. Wrap cake in cling film.
Wrap the whole tier or individual slices with cling film. Wrap tightly with 1 to 2 layers.
3. Store in an airtight container
Place the wrapped cake/slices in an airtight container or zip lock bag (be sure to push out the air). This will help protect the cake from odours, moisture, freezer burn and help to maintain the cakes freshness.
4. Label the cake
Labelling and dating the cake will help you identify what it is and how long its been frozen.
If the cake is in a ziplock back, place on a flat surface in the freezer overnight until solid. Once the cake is hard, you can move it and store it alongside other items. Keep in mind, cake will never freeze completely solid and can be easily damaged by heavy or bulky items.
How to defrost your wedding cake
You will want to defrost the cake slowly to help avoid excess moisture & condensation. Place your wrapped, frozen cake in the fridge overnight or until thawed. Depending on the size of the cake, this can take 12-24 hours. You can test it by inserting a small, sharp knife into the middle of the cake.
Once thawed, place on the bench and let the cake come to room temperature. This will allow the cake & fillings to soften. Slices will take 30-60 mins, whereas a whole tier might take 3-4 hours. Keep in mind, this will also depend on the temperature of the room.
Get an Anniversary cake instead
A good alternative to freezing the top tier of your wedding cake, is to simply order a small engagement cake! My wedding clients often order a mini anniversary cake, which is perfect for couples to share. Or, why not order something a little bigger and celebrate with your family or friends.
So yes, you can definitely save the top tier of your wedding cake, however, as modern butter cakes will not last as long as traditional fruit cake, you run the risk of the cake being a little dry or stale.
But if you follow the tips in this article, you'll have the best possible chance for keeping the cake in good condition. And even if it doesn't quite taste the same, it's still a fun thing to do with your partner and a way to relive those treasured memories of your wedding day!