One of my best strategies for hassle-free holiday baking is to make a few of my favorite desserts up to a month in advance and stow them in the freezer. You might not think it's possible to freeze something as elegant as a lemon tart, or a mocha soufflé, or a flourless marble cake, but you’ll be amazed—there’s no sacrifice in taste or appearance when you freeze these desserts. And the great thing is, they’re always just a thaw away—the easy solution to ending your holiday meal in style.
Follow a few rules for successful storing and thawing
Always, always cool the dessert completely before attempting to wrap it and freeze it. Wrapping a warm tart or cake will promote condensation and quickly lead to a soggy dessert and freezer burn. While the dessert is cooling to room temperature, I dig out a level niche in my freezer. The space doesn’t have to be directly on the shelf, just a level area big enough to hold the rack or plate the dessert is on (I’m apt to use my boxes of frozen peas or artichoke hearts as levelers).
Then I set the cooled dessert—rack or plate and all—into the freezer and let it firm up; 20 to 30 minutes usually does the trick. This step makes handling and wrapping the dessert much easier. It will be firm but not frozen (so you can still get it off the plate), and plastic wrap won’t stick and tear away the top.
Wrap it, then double-wrap it. Wrap the dessert in two layers of plastic wrap and slide it into a heavy duty zip-top bag. Zip the bag almost closed, leaving about one inch open. Gently push out as much air as possible. Insert a straw into the opening, zip the bag closed around the straw, and suck the air out of the bag through the straw. The bag will shrink in toward the dessert. Quickly pull out the straw and zip up the bag. You might also try the new zip-top bags with double walls, designed especially to prevent freezer burn.
Thaw the desserts in the refrigerator or on the counter, depending on how much time you have. Given proper notice, I like to unwrap the cake or tart, set it on a serving plate, cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and let it thaw in the refrigerator. For a speedier result, I’ll proceed as above but I’ll leave the dessert on the counter to warm up. And when I’m in a real bind, I even serve the lemon tart when it’s still quite cold. It’s surprisingly tasty and refreshing this way. The marble cake can also be served chilled, although I think the flavors are richer at room temperature. The mocha soufflés need little to no thawing. Just set them out on the counter while the oven is heating up and they’re ready to bake.