Ina Garten's Brilliant Tip To Freeze Cupcakes For Later

Celebrity chef Ina Garten has a few rules for entertaining — one of which is to prep foods in advance. So when the "Barefoot Contessa" needs to freeze some cupcakes ahead of a party, she has one trick to protect the texture of the treats. Before freezing, Garten suggests first letting the cupcakes cool off in the fridge.

This added step can be especially beneficial for cupcakes topped with buttercream. The butter in the recipe will be soft at room temperature, but will solidify in the fridge and it will maintain its shape better. Additionally, if you're baking a batch of cupcakes specifically to freeze, they should always cool down prior to freezing. Putting warm foods — like freshly baked cupcakes — in the freezer can cause the radiating heat to defrost and potentially ruin nearby foods.

After the cupcakes have cooled, Garten suggests covering them with plastic wrap before freezing. The pre-chilling from the fridge will help prevent the frosting from sticking to the wrapping. They can then be defrosted and eaten within three months. That plastic wrap is especially important for preserving the flavors of the cupcakes.

How to properly protect frozen cupcakes

Cupcakes should always be airtight once they're frozen. To achieve this, follow Ina Garten's recommendation to wrap them in plastic wrap, or use a reusable plastic container. If there are any pungent foods in the freezer, a secure barrier will prevent the cupcakes from absorbing any unwanted smells. On that same note, they'll keep the flavor and scent of the cupcakes contained, so the treats remain as sweet as they were when they were first frozen.

If you're short on storage space, you can also hold off on frosting the cupcakes. After the pastries have baked and cooled down in the fridge, wrap them up and stack them on top of one another to freeze. Then, once defrosted, top them off with a fresh layer of frosting. But if you want to pack away cupcakes that have already been decorated, Garten's trick is essential for solidifying the topping so it maintains its shape. However, the type of frosting used may dictate how they should be thawed out. 

Frosting type determines thawing temperature

When you're ready to enjoy your dessert, the cupcakes can be thawed out at room temperature. Take out as many as you plan to eat, unwrap them, and place them on the counter for about two hours. Just make sure the cupcakes only contain ingredients that can be stored at room temperature.

If your dessert has ingredients that shouldn't sit at warmer temps — like Ina Garten's own irresistible chocolate buttercream, which is made using egg yolks — the cupcakes can also defrost in the fridge. This will slow down defrosting to take around eight hours, but it will preserve the integrity of the frosting and prevent any bacterial growth.

Freezing and thawing may cause the cupcakes to dry out just a little bit. To plan ahead, you can alter the recipe to account for this change. For some added moisture in a boxed cake mix, you can use melted ice cream in place of standard wet ingredients. You can also add buttermilk or sour cream to the mix before baking, or soak the cupcakes in a simple syrup once they're out of the oven. The added moisture can ensure that your cupcakes don't come out too dry once they've thawed.