As the centerpiece of your reception, your wedding cake needs to be beautiful and delicious. Keeping it that way can be harder than you might expect, however. Wedding cakes are often made several days before they're cut and involve a wide variety of delicate and unstable ingredients. Some do well in the refrigerator until the big day, but others should never experience cold temperatures. You can figure out how to keep your wedding cake fresh before and after the wedding by examining its ingredients.
Most kinds of cake do well outside the refrigerator, but some frostings and fillings fare better with chillier conditions. For instance, delicate and fluffy white cakes contain relatively little fat and dry out easily in the fridge, but denser and fattier yellow or chocolate cakes are capable of withstanding the cold. Old fashioned fruitcakes are traditional for some weddings. They are extremely durable and stay fresh in or out of the refrigerator, as long as you keep them moist.
The biggest reason to refrigerate a wedding cake is to preserve the frosting. Many fat-based frostings spoil, crust or melt easily when you expose them to temperatures above about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Always refrigerate cakes topped with whipped cream, cream cheese frosting and American, Swiss or French buttercream, since these icings are very heat-sensitive. Italian buttercream, ganache and fondant do not require refrigeration for the first day or so as long as you can keep them cool. Marzipan and royal icing are very stable and make excellent choices for hot weather wedding cakes. If your cake includes meringue or seven-minute icing, refrigeration could actually damage the structure and produce weeping, fallen toppings.
Many modern wedding cakes include delicate fillings that need cold temperatures to stay fresh. Many chefs recommend refrigerating any cake filled with fresh fruit or whipped cream. The refrigerator makes a good place to store wedding cakes filled with lemon curd, custard, pudding or cream-based ganache. In general, if you wouldn't store the filling at room temperature, refrigerate your cake.
Many couples reserve part of their wedding cake for the first anniversary. If you want to keep your cake for later consumption, it's best to store it in the freezer, not the refrigerator. Remove all the large decorations and ornaments, along with any unwrapped cardboard cake supports. Place the whole piece of cake in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to let the icing become firm. Remove it from the freezer and wrap carefully with plastic wrap so that there are no gaps. Cover the plastic with two or more layers of heavy aluminum foil, then place it in a box or other storage container. The fewer options you allow for air to reach the cake, the fresher it will remain. Defrost the frozen cake one day before the anniversary, removing the wrapping only about two hours before you eat it.
G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.
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