One of the most asked questions I get is how long does cake batter last, or can I make cake batter ahead of time. In this experiment, I compare cake mix batter and scratch cake batter to see if it’s possible to mix it up and bake it later.
ONE QUICK NOTE! There is a video close to the end of this post that goes through everything as well and you can see the texture of each cake slice, so don’t forget to check that out as well.
I’ve wanted to do this experiment for a long time, but I wanted to do it right and with a lot of different factors. It’s taken a lot of time, but I’m collected a lot of valuable information.
I must say that I went into this with some preconceived notions about how I thought things would turn out, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, in this post, we’ll talk about:
- Experimenting with cake batter
- How long cake batter lasts
- Refrigerating cake batter
- Freezing cake batter
- Storing cake batter
- Baking cold cake batter
- And whether you can leave cake batter out overnight
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First a Bit About This Experiment:
For this experiment, I’ve baked cake layers for both cake mix cakes and scratch cakes. That way, you can get an idea of how this will affect both, no matter which one you prefer.
It doesn’t matter to me what you like to bake or eat…cake mix or scratch cakes…it’s your choice, but I wanted to experiment with both, so I didn’t leave anyone out.
For the cake mix batter, I used Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake mix 15.25 oz box. I mixed and baked the batter according to the instructions on the box.
For the scratch cake batter, I used my recipe for my vanilla cake. You can find that recipe on my site here: Favorite Vanilla Bean Cake Recipe
Alright, let’s get a few things out of the way. They’re important things to know before we get to the experiment.
Important Factors When Not Using Cake Batter Right Away:
We’re going to talk a little about the differences in cake mix cakes and scratch cakes as it will pertain to how long the cake batter may last. (If you want to delve even further into this topic and see the pros and cons of each, you can see this post: Cake Mix vs Scratch Cakes.)
Cake mixes have additives in them. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but that it will probably make a difference in how long your cake batter will hold up.
The additives and whatever else is added to cake mixes is essentially what makes them more stable and predictable.
Some cakes use baking soda, some use baking powder and some use both. For more detail on what the difference is, you can see this post: What’s the Difference between baking soda and baking powder.
I’ll summarize it here for you real quick though so you’ll know why it might make a difference when not using your cake batter right away.
Baking powder is double acting, which means it bubbles twice. Once in liquid and once in heat. It starts working the moment liquid is added to the batter.
If you don’t bake the cake batter right away, it may not rise as much because you’ll really only get the second reaction from the baking powder. You may still get rise with it, but it may not rise quite as high. It will just depend.
Now cake batter that uses only baking soda, might not work as well as cake batter with baking powder added if you don’t bake it right away. That’s because baking soda is not double acting and it will start working as soon as it combines with liquid.
This means if it’s already done it’s job and then when you bake it later, well you may not get enough rise, since it’s not going to have as much lift when heated as baking powder would.
If you have a cake batter with both baking powder and soda, you might be okay as the baking powder will get that second rise when you put it in the oven. It’s really just an experiment.
REMEMBER THOUGH that baking soda and baking powder aren’t interchangeable, so don’t go substituting one for the other, because they are used in different instances.
By the way, don’t forget about the video close to the end of this post that goes through everything, plus it will show you the texture of each cake slice.
I wanted to try out this experiment, but there are so many different factors and recipe possibilities…I’m just one person and can’t account for them all.
So I decided to do the experiment based on an average cake mix and then one experiment based on my own scratch vanilla cake recipe, which you can find here.
My scratch cake recipe does not use baking soda and that could make a difference. (Read about that above in the important things to note section of this post.)
I picked vanilla cakes because it’s easier to see how the texture turned out and how they browned when baked.
Here is the breakdown of the experiment I conducted:
For Both Cake Mix Batter and Scratch Cake Batter, I experimented the following ways:
- Baked right away.
- Chilled batter in the fridge for an hour, then baked.
- Chilled batter in the fridge for 24 hours, then baked.
- Froze batter in a ziplock freezer bag for a week. Then defrosted in the fridge for about 8 hours while at work, then baked.
Results of the Experiment:
Batter Mixed & Baked Right Away:
CAKE MIX: This cake layer was baked immediately after the batter was mixed up.
The cake rose perfectly and was fluffy, moist and tasted good.
SCRATCH CAKE: This cake layer was baked immediately after the batter was mixed up.
The cake rose perfectly, texture was soft (scratch cakes are a little more dense) which just means the crumb is a little more fine. It was moist and tasted good.
Batter Mixed, Then Chilled in the Fridge for an Hour and Baked:
CAKE MIX: This batter was mixed, left in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for an hour, then baked. The batter was still chilled when I added it to the pan.
This cake didn’t rise as quickly and I had to bake it for about 5 minutes longer. Most likely because the batter was cold. But the cake turned out just as good as if I’d immediately baked it. It was moist, fluffy and tasted good.
SCRATCH CAKE: This batter was mixed, left in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for an hour, then baked. The batter was still chilled when I added it to the pan.
This was the same as the cake mix. It didn’t rise as quickly, but it did end up rising as much as usual in the end. The cake turned out just as good as if I’d immediately baked it. The texture was soft, it was moist and tasted good.
Batter Mixed, then Chilled in the Fridge for 24 Hours and Baked:
CAKE MIX: This cake batter was mixed, then left in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, then chilled for 24 hours. The batter was still chilled when I added it to the pan.
I saw no difference between this one and when I baked it 1 hour later. It was moist, fluffy and tasted good.
SCRATCH CAKE: This cake batter was mixed, then left in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, then chilled for 24 hours. The batter was still chilled when I added it to the pan.
I saw very little difference between this one and when I baked it 1 hour later. It may have been a slightly more dense though than the one immediately baked, but it wasn’t a huge difference. The texture was still soft, moist and it tasted good.
Batter Mixed, Then Frozen in a Freezer Bag for a Week, Defrosted in the Fridge for About 8 Hours and Baked:
CAKE MIX: This batter was frozen in a ziplock bag for one week. It was defrosted overnight in the fridge. I then let it sit out for about 20 minutes in the ziplock bag, then I sort of smashed it around in the bag to mix it up a bit. I cut a hole into the corner of the bag and squirted the batter into the pan. The batter was still cold (but not frozen) when I added it to the pan.
It rose mostly in the middle and not as much around the edges. It was not quite as fluffy and moist as the others, but it still tasted good.
SCRATCH CAKE: This batter was frozen in a ziplock bag for one week. It was defrosted overnight in the fridge. I then let it sit out for about 20 minutes in the ziplock bag, then I sort of smashed it around in the bag to mix it up a bit. I cut a hole into the corner of the bag and squirted the batter into the pan. The batter was still cold (but not frozen) when I added it to the pan.
The edges didn’t rise as much. This one needed to be baked for about 5 minutes more than the recipe called for originally. It turned out a bit more dense and doughy than the others, but still edible and tasted good.
I think this one ended up turning out okay, mainly because it used baking powder. It did have some baking soda in it, but mostly used baking powder for the leavening ingredients. (Read the beginning of the post to see why that would make a difference.)
So, let’s break down the results and some really important tips and FAQs here:
First you need to make sure you’re mixing your cake batter according to the recipe instructions. It really makes a difference. You also definitely don’t want to over-mix the batter because that will make it super dense, rubbery and dry. If you want more guidance on exactly how long to mix cake batter, go here: How to Mix Cake Batter
The better question to ask is how long can you keep cake batter and it still bake ok. The batter will probably last awhile in the freezer, but the longer you keep it chilled or in the freezer before baking it, the less chance you’ll get a cake that rises properly with a good texture.
Essentially, based on this experiment, I wouldn’t keep cake batter longer than a week in the freezer and that’s only if it’s a cake mix. Even then, your cake isn’t going to be as good as it would be had you mixed it up that day or the day before.
If you’re making a scratch cake, I wouldn’t freeze the batter at all. For best results, I’d make it the day you mix it up. And like I talked about above, it may not turn out as well if your cake recipe only calls for baking soda and no baking powder.
Yes you can, in some instances. Its generally okay to chill cake batter for an hour or two and even over night (for cake mix batter and some recipes that don’t use only baking soda). For the scratch cakes, they may not rise quite as high and may be slightly more dense if you don’t bake them the same day you mix up the batter or at least the next day.
Technically you can, but when you bake it, it won’t be the same as baking it the day you mix it up. The longer you freeze the batter, the less the cake will turn out like it’s meant to.
It’s always best to bake the cake batter right after you mix it up, but if you can’t, then you can store it in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for a day or two.
If you need to keep the batter fresh for longer, you can freeze it by adding it to a freezer ziplock bag. Just know that by freezing cake batter, it may or may not bake properly later. You’ll need to defrost the batter before you can bake it as well.
Know that the longer you go between the time of mixing up the cake batter and baking it, the less chance you’ll get a good cake texture and rise.
You can pour chilled cake batter right out of the mixing bowl into your cake pans. You may need bake a few minutes longer, but you’ll just want to watch how your cake is responding in the oven.
See this post for more tips on how to tell when your cake is done: How to Tell When Your Cake is Done Baking
Now, if you’ve frozen the cake batter, you’ll need to defrost it before you bake it. If you’ve frozen it in a zip lock freezer bag, just set it in the fridge and let it defrost overnight or during the day, then squeeze the zip lock bag a bit to mix it up slightly. Cut one of the corners and squeeze the chilled batter into the baking pan and bake.
No, you never want to leave cake batter out of the fridge for any length of time. You want to keep it chilled until you can bake it, so that it doesn’t spoil.
If you really want to do things ahead of time, instead of storing the cake batter, the best way to do it is to bake the batter the day you mix it up (or the next day if it’s a cake mix batter or it’s not a scratch cake batter that has only baking soda in it) then freeze the cake layers.
You can freeze baked cake layers and that works beautifully. I’ve got lots of tips on how to do that here: Tips for Freezing Cakes & Cupcakes
You can actually freeze them and get absolutely no freezer burn and no one will be able to tell they’ve been baked ahead and then frozen IF you do it the right way.
Video for How Long Does Cake Batter Last?:
You’ll want to check out the video below where I go through everything and even pull apart slices of each cake layer, so you can see the actual texture.
Whew! That was a long post and a super involved experiment, but I’m really glad I did it. I hope it was helpful and that you learned some things along with me.
I was pretty surprised that the scratch cake batter actually baked up pretty well after storing it. (Again, I think that is due to the recipe having baking powder in it and not baking soda and the fact that the batter wasn’t over-mixed, but still I was surprised.)
I hope you enjoyed this and if you have any questions or comments, be sure to let me know!