If you’re a bargain-hunter like me, chances are that at one time or another you’ve been tempted by discount birthday cake. It’s happened to me so many times: bumbling along the reduced section of the supermarket, I see a cake so huge that it could feed at least ten people – and because it’s approaching its sell-by date, it costs less than a couple of quid.
So what do you do – assuming it’s not actually your birthday, and you don’t have a reason to buy a big cake?
There’s the give-it-to-your-friends-or-colleagues option (great for fostering relations, but does involve sharing – possibly with people you’re not too keen on). There’s the buy-it-and-eat-it-yourself option (but with less than 24 hours until it supposedly expires, you may live to regret it). There’s also the never-mind-I-probably-don’t-need-it option, which is just plain depressing.
Now, when it comes to other foodstuffs, my go-to solution is to buy it and then bung it in the freezer, bringing it out when the time is right.
But when it comes to those icing-covered birthday cakes, nine times out of ten the box will say something like this: NOT SUITABLE FOR HOME FREEZING.
So many times I’ve passed up the opportunity of super-discounted cake, simply because of those five little words. So last week, when I caught sight of a reduced Marks and Spencer Father’s Day chocolate cake (big enough for 10-12 people), my inital reaction was to sigh and put it back on the shelf. Not Suitable for Home Freezing, the box said.
Predictably, as usually happens, my Bargain Brain whirred into action. But the cake’s only two pounds, it argued. That’s less than 20p per slice! And it looks SO GOOD.
I probably would have stood there for quite some time, silently arguing with an inanimate cardboard box before I gave it up and walked away. This time, however, the Man came to my rescue. ‘That looks nice,’ he said. ‘Let’s buy it.’
So we did. Only instead of racing to eat it all within the next few days, I decided to try an experiment: after having a couple of slices with our dinner, I would chop up the rest and freeze it.
You heard me, Ogglers. I was going to break the rules.
What’s the worst that can happen? I wondered. After all, I’d put a lot of things in the freezer over the years (cakes, cookies, grapes) and every single one had emerged unscathed. No tummy bugs, no discolouration, nothing.
I thought perhaps the icing would crack as it thawed, or some chemical reaction would occur, making it taste slightly strange. But these were both risks I was willing to take. After all, if it worked, the payout would be ENORMOUS. No more would I have to turn down a great cakey bargain. Never again would I have to admit defeat.
That night, we had a piece each for our pudding (verdict: chocolatey but fairly average – probably would have been better with buttercream), and I popped the rest into airtight boxes.
Into the freezer they went, their destiny unknown…
In the meantime I emailed Marks and Spencer, asking why they were so freezer-averse with such things (perhaps I also should’ve asked who actually buys a special cake for Father’s Day, but I suppose that’s by the by).
The reply – from a very nice lady called Emma – came back to me nice and promptly: ‘we don’t recommend products are frozen for either safety reasons or quality reasons. With cakes, it is likely that freezing and defrosting will noticeably affect the quality so we mark them as unsuitable for home freezing.’
All fair enough.
But a few days later, when I thawed out some pieces to take for a Sunday lunch offering… they were FINE.
Wary of how the icing would cope with the microwave, I’d left them to defrost on the kitchen counter for a few hours and as far as I could tell, they were exactly the same as when they had gone in. Colour, taste, texture and overall quality were unchanged – not one of my friends could tell they’d been frozen for days (or that they’d unwittingly taken part in my experiment. Sorry guys. I did nibble a bit beforehand though, just to make sure that you wouldn’t drop dead…).
Of course this news is extremely exciting – even now my stomach is gurgling with delight.
It does make me wonder though: how many cakes have been turned away, consigned to the bin bag of history, all because of those five extraneous words?
Naturally, I don’t want to make anyone sick with my discovery, so exercise caution if following suit: freeze on the day of purchase, use airtight boxes, make sure the cake’s defrosted thoroughly before you eat it, and don’t keep it in the freezer for too long (or else it will be blighted with ice crystals, most likely). Don’t leave the cake out for days before you munch it either – if you freeze it in pre-cut portions, you’ll be able to thaw them as and when you need them.
That’s enough of the boring details methinks – most of it’s common sense anyway. The fact is that now you too can rejoice in the knowledge that ten-person cakes can be yours!
It’s a fact worth celebrating, don’t you think?
Somebody fetch the candles. I’ll meet you by the freezer.