Many many occasions in life call for cake, but no one ever specifies if that cake is to be served at room temperature or chilled. Probably because it feels completely obvious to most people that room temp is the way to go. In fact, you might very well be thinking, “who doesn’t prefer their cake at room temperature?” Hi, I’m Angela, and I’m here to tell you that cake should be served chilled. There’s no doubt in my mind that cake is best when it’s cold.
Every family birthday party concludes with a fight over where the cake should be stored. My dad always argued for keeping the cake on the kitchen counter with something like a bowl set down on top of it. My brother and I always argued for the cake to be stored in the fridge with a covering, either foil, plastic wrap, or the aforementioned bowl (since there was too much cake to fit inside a plastic container). My reasoning was always that bakeries store their cakes in refrigerators to preserve them until they’re sold, which indicates that the best possible place for the cake is in a chilled environment. Right?
The case for freezing cake
It turns out that my brother and I aren’t completely wrong. Lillian Stone has already written about how to perfectly freeze a cake—either individual slices or whole—so that it tastes exactly the way it did the day you baked it. And the website ForFreezing, an obviously unbiased source, explains that if done properly, freezing a cake actually helps to lock in the moisture and might even make the cake taste better than it did before.
But as far as just loving the taste of a cold cake, an r/unpopularopinion Reddit thread from 2019 proves that my brother and I are not alone in our love of chilled buttercream. “The flavors just meld together so much better when it’s cold,” one user wrote. I couldn’t agree more. The cold air mutes the flavor of the cake and the frosting just slightly, meaning you taste all the best elements layered beneath the sugary sweetness.
For the most part, whether frosted or unfrosted, cut or uncut, most cakes don’t need to be refrigerated, according to TheKitchn. The only exceptions are cakes that contain dairy products like a cheesecake or a tres leches cake; those should be refrigerated no matter what. Other cakes can either sit on the counter at room temperature or be stored in the fridge if you simply understand the beauty of a cold dessert like I do.
The perfect cake for chilling
My father argues that the cold air of the fridge causes the outside of the cake to become hard and inedible. Though he presents an accurate point, that slight bit of resistance that forms on the frosted exterior is part of the charm of a chilled cake slice.
My absolute favorite little slice of heaven is a chilled yellow cake (made from a box mix) covered in chocolate frosting. Growing up, every year without fail, my grandma would make the yellow box cake in two round pans, cover them in chocolate frosting, and stack them on top of each other. The joy this exact cake brings me cannot be expressed in words. Part of the appeal was that, because my birthday is in the heat of summer, the cake would spend some time in the fridge before we did the whole happy birthday song and dance, and that time would allow the frosting to harden a bit so the candles stood up a little better, too.
Everyone’s entitled to their preferred cake temperature, but trust me when I say there’s nothing like a slice of chilled, yellow chocolate-frosted cake and a glass of milk. One Redditor pointed out that it makes the experience more like eating ice cream. Are you intrigued yet?