Nothing beats freshly baked cakes and cupcakes, but eating them all in one sitting certainly isn’t advised. So how do you go about storing leftovers, or handling those times when you have to buy a cake in advance? Here is how to keep your cake fresh as long as possible.

The refrigerator is not your friend

If you’re in the habit of thinking the fridge magically lengthens the life of any food, think again. Refrigerating cake actually makes it go stale faster. It has to do with how cooling forces moisture to the surface where it evaporates. Since this process happens faster in the fridge, the cake will harden and get stale prematurely. The best thing you can do, is let your cake sit at room temperature—the same goes for breads and other baked goods too.

store 1 to 3 days: Cake goes on the counter

If you’re planning on eating your cake leftovers in less than three days, the counter is really the best place for them. Keep them at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, stove heat, open winter window drafts, or any other factor that could alter their temperature significantly. If it’s a boxed bakery cake you’re storing, and you’ll be eating it that day, just leave it in the box on the counter. It’s as simple as that.

If it’s a boxed bakery cake you’re saving for 2 to 3 days, keep the cake in its box and wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. This will help it stay moist.

If your cake has an acrylic lid, the same rules for boxed cakes apply. But drape a towel or something over it to protect it from sunlight.

If you find yourself with this problem frequently, consider buying a cake storage container. These two-piece plastic containers have a base for the cake to sit, then a handled lid that snaps on the base to create an airtight seal. You can usually find them at Target, Walmart, party stores, and some well-stocked supermarkets.

store More than 3 days: Cake goes in the freezer

If you need to store a cake longer than 3 days, you’ll have to freeze it to keep it fresh. Unlike the refrigerator, a well-wrapped cake in the freezer can stay fresh for a long time.

If your bakery cake is in a box or acrylic container, wrap the entire box in several layers of plastic wrap before storing.

You can also use your airtight cake container to freeze a cake, frosting and all. Just snap the lid tight, and store the entire thing in the freezer as is.

Note: Angel-food and chiffon cakes don’t freeze well, so these need to be made and eaten within 3 days.

How to defrost a cake

Ready to serve? Remove the cake from the freezer and let thaw on the counter. Cake will taste great and still look almost as good as the day you made or bought it. Recommended storage is no longer than 2 months. Longer than that, it will still be edible, but you might start noticing changes.

Craving cake or cupcakes? Try this delicious Piña Colada Cupcake recipe.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.