Make-Ahead Baking

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Consider this your complete guide to make-ahead baking! Here I include all my freezing & thawing tips, tricks, and how-to’s, plus my favorite baked goods to freeze.

cranberry orange bread

Today I’m sharing everything I know about make-ahead baking: freezing baked goods, thawing them, and serving them with a huge smile.

(Because you didn’t freshly bake them! Ha!)

Why Make Ahead?

Because there is ALWAYS a welcomed opportunity for homemade cookies, cakes, quick breads, muffins, and more. In fact, I can name about 5 instances in the past month where I needed a last minute treat and didn’t have time to rush around and make something. My freezer was stocked because I took time to bake some items the month before, so I served previously frozen no bake cookies and cranberry orange bread (pictured above).

There’s always an instance where you need a baked good:

  • New neighbors move in?
  • Friends just have a baby?
  • Kids need an after school snack?
  • Homemade teacher gift?
  • Hosting a last minute girls night?

By freezing baked goods ahead of time, you will always be prepared with homemade treats. Simply thaw and serve. Serving previously frozen treats? None will be the wiser.

Have a couple hours one weekend? Make cake batter chocolate chip cookies and biscuits, then cool and freeze them.

How to Wrap, Freeze, & Thaw Most Baked Goods

… to preserve freshness!

No matter what you’re making, the make-ahead baking process is pretty much the same. Wrap items in plastic wrap or Press & Seal, place in an airtight container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw inside the wrapping so the condensation forms on the wrapping, not the baked good. You can thaw in the refrigerator for a slower thaw or thaw at room temperature. It usually doesn’t matter.

For any recipes with icing, frosting, or glaze, it’s best to freeze plain and add the icing/frosting/glaze fresh right before serving.

How to Freeze Cakes

I receive a lot of specific questions about freezing cakes, so I made a complete How to Freeze Cakes guide.

wrapped cake for freezer

How to Freeze Quick Bread

Freezing quick breads, such as banana bread or cinnamon swirl quick bread, is a lot like freezing cake.

  1. Step 1: Bake and completely cool quick bread.
  2. Step 2: Once the bread cools completely, wrap it in Press & Seal or plastic wrap. From one baker to another– Press & Seal is the best product for wrapping baked goods. I find regular plastic wrap too thin, clingy, and frustrating. It definitely works, but Press & Seal is easier to use and I’ve honestly found that it keeps my food fresher. (Not working with this brand, just really love it.)
  3. Step 3: Write the type of bread and use-by date on a large piece of aluminum foil. For best taste and texture, don’t freeze quick bread for longer than 3 months. You could stretch it to 4 or 5 months, but the sooner you serve it, the fresher it tastes.
  4. Step 4: Wrap the bread in the aluminum foil and place in the freezer. You could place the wrapped bread in a freezer container or freezer-friendly zipped top bag, but I often just freeze it after wrapping in aluminum foil.
  5. Step 5: Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, transfer the frozen bread to the refrigerator one day before serving. Sometimes I forget and just let the bread thaw at room temperature for several hours, but it’s better to thaw at a slower rate in the refrigerator. Make sure you thaw bread while it’s still in the wrapping. Don’t unwrap before thawing.

Baker’s Tip: Two layers of wrap is key! The first layer keeps the bread fresh and the aluminum foil ensures no condensation will seep in. Double layer = maximum freshness and no freezer burn. Moisture is the enemy, so don’t be afraid to add another layer of Press & Seal or aluminum foil.

How to Freeze Muffins, Cupcakes, & Scones

Like cakes and quick breads, muffins, cupcakes, and scones freeze beautifully. Bake them, cool them, wrap individually in plastic wrap or Press & Seal, then place in a large zipped-top bag or freezer container. No need to wrap twice– just 1 layer of wrap for these small items is fine. You can freeze these with icings, frostings, or glazes on top, but they thaw (and taste) much better when you add the icing/frosting/glaze right before serving. (It’s best to make the icing fresh.)

I especially love freezing healthy muffins because it’s so convenient to just grab one when I’m running out the door. I also love having them on hand for quick, convenient, and easy snacks for my toddler.

Favorites to Freeze:

Chocolate chip scones

How to Freeze Cookies & Cookie Dough

Freezing cookies means that you essentially have prepared cookies at your fingertips any given day. And freezing cookie dough means that you have fresh-baked cookies permanently in stock. I freeze cookies and cookie dough all the time, so I actually prepared a whole separate page for this. See How to Freeze Cookie Dough for all my tips, tricks, and how-to’s. This page also includes how to freeze and thaw baked cookies, too.

I freeze these healthy breakfast cookies on a monthly basis. Bake them, then let them cool completely. You can freeze them in a freezer container or zipped-top bag or wrap individually and freeze if you’re taking them to work.

Best Cookie Doughs to Freeze

  • Any cookie dough with a lot of butter or fat.
  • Drop cookies are best. For example: chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, etc.
  • Shortbread also freezes beautifully.
  • Icebox cookie dough is great. (I’m referring to slice and bake cookies.) Just tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap, then into freezer bags. Freeze for up to 3 months, then let it thaw in the refrigerator for an hour or two before slicing.
  • Delicate doughs don’t hold up well in the freezer– avoid freezing French macaron, pizzelle, or madeleine cookie doughs.
  • Tip: For cookies rolled into cinnamon or sugar, like snickerdoodles or peanut butter blossoms, freeze the cookie dough balls without the topping. When you are ready to bake, remove the balls from the freezer, let sit for 30 minutes, pre-heat the oven, then roll into topping. No need to bake for an extra minute or two since the cookies have defrosted a little.

Snickerdoodle cookies

How to Freeze Other Recipes

Need more help with make-ahead baking? Most of my recipes include specific freezing instructions. My favorites to freeze are pizza dough, baked oatmeal, pie crust, bagels, and black bean burgers. For the burgers and bagels, I bake, cool, wrap individually in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Bonus: 8 Freezer Meals

Since we can’t only survive on baking (wait, we can’t?), I have a list of freezer meals that I put together a couple years ago when my daughter was born. In addition to a list of freezer meal recipes, I include specific directions for freezing and thawing too.

chicken chili in glass container for freezer meal

More Baking Tips

28 Comments

  1. Love this post, Sally!!! I’m so grateful that you provide us with SO MUCH MORE than just recipes….you do everything you can to make us better bakers and be better in the kitchen. Thank you!

    P.S. And, as I commented on this post, I love your handwriting 😉

    1. I’m so happy that you find this helpful, Gemma! Thank you so much for leaving such a kind comment!

  2. Hi, I’m new to this website. Is there a list of bake ahead recipes I can find!? So excited to get started with you!

    1. Hi Beth! Practically ALL of my baking recipes are make-ahead and include make ahead instructions. Here are all my recipes you can browse. https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/recipes/

  3. Fantastic!
    Thanks for these make ahead guidelines. I love the tips for freezing items to have on hand, I’ve never tried that before. That should really help with holiday stress.
    Thanks again

    1. Jennifer Siegel says:

      Hi Sally
      How long can you leave cookie dough in the refrigerator?
      With the holidays coming up, I like to make the cookie dough 2-3 days in advance. These specific doughs are meant to be refrigerated before baking. Do I have to freeze them or can they stay 3 days before baking? THANK YOU. LOVE TNIS BLOG

      1. Honestly, up to 5 days for mostly all cookie doughs. If it’s a special or super delicate cookie like meringue cookies or lace cookies (that have more of a batter than a dough), the recipe would state those instructions. For generally all cookie doughs, 1-5 days is fine.

  4. Sally, thank you for all that you do. Because of you my baking has improved tremendously! I have learned so much from you and have tried bakes I never thought I could accomplish. I have a question about freezing pies but it’s more of a question as to the pie plate. I typically bake pies in either a glass or ceramic pie dish (I love the Emile Henry pie plates). Is it safe to freeze a glass or ceramic pie dish? If not, what do you recommend I bake the pie in if I plan on freezing it? Thank you!

    1. Hi Allison! Thank YOU so much for the sweet comment. Freezing pies in glass or ceramic dishes is totally fine, but it’s easier to freeze in those disposable aluminum pie dishes. That’s what I usually do!

  5. Couldn’t have been posted at a better time!! Thank you Sally!

    1. You are so welcome! Glad this was helpful Anne 🙂

  6. I always read or learn something new from your posts. Today, I learned about press and seal. I have this on hand, but I use plastic wrap for freezing my baked goods…..now I know from your experience, the press and seal is better! Thank you so much. I bake and freeze my baked goods all the time. Thank you for the wonderful tips. Sometimes I conduct my own experiments, like once I froze some tres leches cake including a dollup of whipped cream so my daughter could have some. All search results said…no….not a freezeable item because of all the liquid dairy….but I froze a couple of individual pieces for a couple of weeks and actually tasted and looked just fine. I also puree the chipotle peppers and freeze in about 2 tbsp sizes to use later. I got tired of throwing way the rest of the can.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy these types of posts, Karen! And great tip about the peppers!

  7. Hi Sally. Thanks for all the effort you pit into your post and teaching us everything you can to help us in the kitchen. Really appreciated and it will be super helpful this time of year too.
    My only concern is all the plastic that will go into individually wrapping everything and then double wrapping. I’m trying to minimize my plastic consumption and am wondering what could be substituted for it? Maybe I can try a reusable ziplock back and then in a big Tupperware… I’ll try that I guess.
    Thanks again.

    1. I completely understand, Niloofar! You can definitely try the bag in a container. There are also re-usable beeswax wrappers that can be used in place of plastic if you wish to try something like that!

  8. Hi Sally! Thanks for this guide. Quick question, I’m planning to make your pecan pie for thanksgiving and was hoping to do it a bit early. You mention that pie freezes well in the recipe, do you have any suggestions on how to get the pie out all the way in one piece to freeze? I’m afraid of taking it out of the glass dish to wrap and freeze. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lindsay! The easiest way to do this would be the freeze the pie inside the dish. Pecan pie is especially sticky and I fear you’ll have time completely removing the cooled pie– in one piece– from the dish. You can bake it in a disposable aluminum pan too!

  9. Hi Sally,
    Your the Time Management Baking Angel…Thank you for all your pre-baking wisdom.
    ♡♡♡

  10. This post is so awesome Sally❣️ Quick question (I may have misread this part), do you wrap each cookie individually? I usually double or triple your cookie recipes so I am curious! Soooooooooo many of your recipes are soooooooooooo delish! Thank you so much for perfecting recipes so that we don’t need to❣️ Merry Christmas to you and yours!
    Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy! I don’t wrap cookies individually. There’s no need since they aren’t as delicate as, say, cakes or cupcakes.

  11. I’ve successfully frozen macarons before, all baked, filled and assembled. They actually taste pretty good straight from the freezer but they also thaw pretty nicely too.

  12. Hello — Would it work to use a vacuum sealer as well for quick bread? or too powerful/abusive to that fresh loaf?

  13. Barbara J. Myrick says:

    can you explain what you mean by converting a cake recipe to a cupcake recipe? I’d love to know the science behind it so I can make better cupcakes

    1. Hi Barbara! I can’t find in this post where I mention that, my apologies! But in general, you can use cake batter to make cupcakes. Simply fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out clean. The bake time will vary depending on the recipe.

  14. Can you freeze quick breads in the aluminum pan they are baked in?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Sure can!

  15. Hi Sally. I’m a new baker. Love your chocolate buttercream frosting! I bake a lot of sponge cakes, how long can I put them in the fridge? Can I put them in a cling wrap then air tight container and store in the fridge rather than freezer?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joan, You can keep most cakes covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, although they taste the freshest when either stored at room temperature for one day or frozen after baked and cooled.

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