Never leave a baked good behind.

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Take one look at my pantry, refrigerator, and countertop right now and you’d think I was prepping to host a bake sale out of my own kitchen. Christmas is right around the corner and I like stress-baking, OK? The only issue: There is approximately zero reason I should be drowning in spice cake, sugar cookies, and apple crisp. I’m neither attending nor hosting a single holiday party this year (it’s a pandemic, after all).

Make no mistake—if you thought that was going to keep me from baking a bouche de noel and a small mountain of blueberry muffins, you’re wrong. It’s half the fun of the holiday season. And when prepped and packaged properly, many desserts freeze incredibly well. (There are few things as satisfying as defrosting and devouring a slice of chocolate cake on Valentine’s Day that was baked in December, BTW.) And when dinner parties and events are back in action, baking and freezing desserts ahead will save you hours of time in the kitchen.

How-to-freeze-desserts: berry tart
Credit: Getty Images

Remember that you can freeze a single slice of cake or pie; even a couple of cookies or balls of dough are worthy contenders. *Everything* is worth salvaging.

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Refrigerated Cookie Dough Ready for the Oven
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Cookie Dough

For drop cookies, form into balls and freeze them in a freezer-safe zip top bag or similar. For slice and bake cookies, simply freeze the logs tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. If it’s a roll out, you can freeze the dough. All can be stored in the freezer up to three months or the fridge three to four days. Don’t forget to clearly write the date, type of cookie dough, and baking instructions on the outside of the packaging. When you’re ready to bake, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to defrost the dough in the fridge (as letting unbaked ingredients like eggs and butter sit out at room temperature is a food safety hazard).

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Baked Cookies

After baking, allow your cookies to cool completely. Line them up in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet to freeze them. Once they’re fully frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer-safe plastic bag (remember to squeeze out the air) or airtight container and keep them for up to three months. However, if your cookies are decorated, you may need to wrap them up individually or separate them with parchment paper. To defrost cookies, gently warm them up in the oven or let them thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.

Coconut Pound Cake
Credit: Kelsey Hansen

Cakes and Cupcakes

Cool your cake(s) to room temperature, then tightly wrap in a single layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze on a baking sheet or in a cake pan for up to four months (frosted cakes will last about two months). When you’re ready to use, transfer the cake to the refrigerator. After two hours, remove the cake from the wrapping and continue to defrost.

Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie
Credit: Johnny Miller

Pie

Baked fruit pies, custard pies (like pumpkin), and pecan pie all freeze well. After cooling, wrap the pie tightly in a layer of plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil and store in the freezer for up to four months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour; if you want to serve it warm, heat gently in a 350°F oven.

No-Knead Sandwich Bread
Credit: Victor Protasio

Bread

If you don’t manage to finish your loaf of bread within the first three days, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and drop it into a freezer-safe zip top bag. Store in the freezer for up to three months. To defrost, pop the loaf in the oven (or toaster, for a single slice) to reheat it before serving. Avoid refrigerating your bread as your fridge’s environment will dry it out.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Credit: Chris Court

Cheesecake

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to four months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Coconut Raspberry Cupcakes
Credit: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Buttercream Frosting

Place buttercream in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months. When you’re ready to use it, remove it from the refrigerator or freezer and allow it to come back up to room temperature. Then scoop the buttercream into your mixer and whip it again to get it back to the right consistency.

what is royal icing and more info about royal icing (cookies with royal icing)
Credit: Getty Images

Royal Icing

When storing royal icing made with meringue powder, store it in an airtight container and keep it at room temperature for up to two weeks. Before using, beat well at low speed with a stand mixer or hand mixer. Hardened royal icing decorations can be stored in a covered, non-airtight container (like a cake box) for years.