Fresh Compressed Yeast

Also called “cake” yeast, this form of yeast is a living culture, taken straight from the fermentation vat — actually spun out via a centrifuge. Water is removed, then the live yeast is mixed with a little cottonseed oil, a few emulsifiers, then pressed to shape. It’s available in most larger supermarkets and is usually found on an upper shelf near the cream cheese (in the States).

The nice thing about fresh yeast is that it’s active when you buy it. It doesn’t need to “wake up” in order to be used, and a lot of people find that reassuring. Add it to a dough and you get a very fast and lively rise with it.

The down side is that it only lasts in the fridge for about a week or so before it starts to lose its potency. Being a living culture it’s also extremely sensitive to temperature, salt and sugar. If you drop it in the mixing bowl on top of a pile of granulated sugar or a few teaspoons of salt, it will quickly start to die (and you can tell that by the changing color…it goes from tan or grey to a dark, well…tan or grey). Also it dries out fast in the fridge once you peel off the wrapper.

It’s important to remember when using fresh yeast that it’s only half as potent as active dry and a third as potent as instant by weight. So, if you want to convert a recipe from, say, active dry to fresh yeast, you’ll need to use twice as much. Going from fresh to active dry you use half as much. Seewadimean?

23 thoughts on “Fresh Compressed Yeast”

    1. Oh I do love the Pacific Northwest. I spent the better part of a year on the San Juan Islands down in Puget Sound. As to why you can’t get fresh yeast there I have no idea. But truly I don’t favor it. Instant yeast, as you can no doubt tell, is my thing.

      – Joe

  1. I can say I had never seen that type until I moved to Sweden, and once inquired about yeast, was presented with it. I don’t feel like I’ve had good results so now that I understand the language I have since found the dry stuff again. yay!

  2. I’ve looked at fresh compressed yeast in the store but the sort shelf life is a deterrent. Can you freeze it once it’s opened to make it last longer or will that kill the yeast? I make our bread, six loaves at a time, but even when making six loaves I’m not sure I’d use up a whole package.

    Does fresh compressed taste better?

    1. Hey Laura!

      You can freeze it, but you lose more of the yeast than you would if you froze instant or active dry. It’s better to use it fresh.

      – Joe

  3. I have only recently started using Fresh yeast and would never go back. I freeze yeast in 20g balls wrapped in plastic wrap and each ball is usually perfect for most recipe. Thanks again for your great post, I love your great blog and it is an excellent resource, especially for my blog which focuses on doughs from breads and pastries to pastas and cookies. Many Thanks once again

    1. Thank you, Gourmet! Fresh yeast works especially well in bread, I can see why you like it. Vey nice blog you have there!

      – Joe

  4. Hi Joe, I have been reading your blog for a while and have done the saffron buns a few times. They are beautiful and tasty. I would like to add a comment on this topic: yeast. I am Portuguese, my grand-parents always baked their own loafs of corn bread (as they grew the corn) in this big fire ovens. I have learned with my mom to do it. What they do with yeast, as it was always available was that after the dough had risen they would save a part of this dough, cut it in small pieces, flour them and let them dry, until they can be hard as a rock. Next time they need to bake bread they would soak this dry pieces in lukewarm water, add a bit of flour and once this mixture was alive they would make the bread. I have been doing this now at home and always works well. I find it a good alternative. Thank you very much for your posts, the history behind, the easy explanations. I enjoy it every much.

    1. Thank you, Adelina! That’s a fascinating technique for “old dough” as we call it. I’m going to try that!

      – Joe

    2. I’ve heard of a similar technique being used for brewer’s yeast – traditionally, brewers in Norway would soak a piece of wood with lots of holes in it in the cask of fermenting ale, pull it out, and dry it. For the next batch of beer, they’d toss the “yeast log” into the malt mixture to inoculate it with yeast.

  5. Mom only ever used cake yeast and always kept it in the freezer until a day or two before use. I had trouble finding it in the store when I was out on my own so I switched to the dry instant stuff and it does OK.

    Thanks for yet another informative & interesting series Joe!

  6. Can anyone tell me where I can get fresh yeast to buy in Houston.I lived in Sweden and Finland for 25 yrs., and enjoyed using fresh yeast.

    1. Hi Vicki!

      You can find it in most supermarkets in the refrigerated section. It’s usually in small, 1-ounce packages. Look near the cream cheese!

      – Joe

    2. Hi Vicki, I’m late to this discussion but I just bought fresh yeast at Central Market today but it was from the bakery. The baker sold me a 4 oz. piece for $1.00….Central Market is located on Westheimer Street in Houston as an FYI.

      Happy baking!

      1. Hi my name is Bianca I have a question can you give me more details about the store you mentioned in Houston Central Market I live in that area but I don’t know where exactly that place is and I’m looking for the fresh yeast

        Thank you

  7. Hi! So glad to have just found your site. I have a question about an old recipe for homemade rolls–it was my grandmother’s, and no one in my family has had these wonderful rolls since she passed away in the late 1970s, so I would love to try to recreate them. The recipe calls for “1 yeast cake, short package.” Do you have any idea how many ounces would have been in a typical “short package”? The recipe calls for 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 pound shortening, and 5-6 cups flour, and 1 egg–other things as well, but I thought those ingredient proportions might offer a clue about the amount of yeast my grandmother would have used. Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Ann!

      You can generally find small half-ounce packages of fresh yeast in the supermarket…usually on a top shelf by the cream cheese. That’s what she’s talking about. Have fun with the rolls and let me know if I can help with anything else!


      – Joe

        1. You’re welcome! If you can’t find fresh cake yeast you can always use dry instant instead. Use a quarter of an ounce since it’s half as potent.


          – Joe

  8. My grandmother’s bread recipe is awesome – she uses 14 c of flour and said to use 3 cakes of yeast — I found an old cookbook that relates the time period and it says 1/2 oz is 1 cake so I’m thinking she used 1.5 ounces of yeast – she would raise the bread 3 times in total. Now they have 2 oz blocks of fresh yeast so assuming the same, would 1.5 ounces be enough? Red Star web site sounds as though for that amount of flour I should use 1 and 1/3 of a 2oz cake yeast. It seems Red Star is using more yeast than the recipe??

    1. Hey Chris!

      1.5 ounces should work just fine. The nice thing about yeast is that it grows, so other than a little more time, there should be very little difference in how the recipe performs. Have fun with it!


      – Joe

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