With its healthful ingredients topped by a rich cream cheese icing, carrot cake deserves careful consideration when storing. As a dairy product, cream cheese is not safe when left at room temperature for more than two hours. Although most icing contains enough sugar to make countertop storage safe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that cream cheese icing is the exception and should be refrigerated. Even an unfrosted carrot cake should be covered in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator to prevent mold.
Storing Unfrosted Carrot Cake
Most unfrosted cakes can be kept fresh at room temperature by wrapping snugly in plastic wrap. Carrot cake, with its moist fruit and vegetable ingredients, is yet another exception to the rule. During humid weather and in warm climates, carrot cake can develop mold if not stored in a refrigerator. After cooling, wrap the bottom, sides and top of your cake layers in plastic wrap, or use a zip-top style bag to prevent your cake from absorbing any weird odors from the refrigerator. When you are ready to frost and serve, unwrap your cake and bring it to room temperature.
Freezing Your Carrot Cake
Freezing your cake layers preserves them for up to two months, allowing you to bake your carrot cake well ahead of any special occasion. To prepare frosted or unfrosted cake layers for the freezer, wrap them in both plastic and tinfoil to prevent freezer burn. Use a permanent marker to record the kind of cake and the date by writing directly on the foil. When it’s time to thaw out your cake, put it in the refrigerator the day before you need it, loosen the wrap and allow the layers to warm up slowly. Thawing your carrot cake on the counter will change the texture from moist to mushy.
Making the Icing Ahead
Although cream cheese icing must be refrigerated for safety, it can be made well ahead of the event and stored in the refrigerator. Sweetened cream cheese frosting can last for 2 weeks when refrigerated at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a tightly sealed container. When you are ready to frost, whip it up in the mixer to soften. When freezing cream cheese icing, make it with butter instead of shortening, place in plastic bags and freeze flat, or frost and freeze on the cake.
Refrigerating Cut Cake
Frosting acts like a protective coating to seal in moisture and keep out air-borne bacteria. Stored in the refrigerator, frosted carrot cake keeps fresh for up to one week, however, once cut, it will spoil faster. Use an over-turned bowl or a cake keeper to protect your cake, and use extra frosting to cover the exposed areas of cut slices. Alternatively, press plastic wrap or foil over the exposed sides of cut cake to prevent drying. If you are worried about marring your cake decorations and you don’t have a cover, insert candles or toothpicks in the frosting before wrapping, to keep the wrap from touching your cake’s surface.
For more than 10 years, Carol Butler has run a small, off-grid furniture business with her husband and is a regular contributor to the Edible community of magazines. As staff writer for RichLife Advisors, she covers financial planning and other industry-related topics. She holds a B.F.A. in theater arts.