If we had to choose between homemade and store-bought cake, we’d choose homemade every time. Even if you’re not a pro baker, there’s just something special about baking your own cake.
You savour every crumb, and it always tastes amazing (even if it’s not), because YOU made it!
If you don’t have room to demolish the whole thing in one sitting, you’ll want to make it go further. How long does cake last, and what are the best conditions for improving its lifespan? Do the ingredients to bake with affect how long it lasts?
In this article, we’ll be exploring all of these questions, and more, so you can learn how to make the most of your cake. Whatever you’ve been baking, stick around to discover how you can keep your leftovers fresher for longer.
Do I Need To Refrigerate My Cake?
In most cases, you won’t even need to refrigerate your cake. Many cakes can be stored safely at room temperature for several days without spoiling.
However, if your kitchen gets extremely hot, you’re unlikely to finish it within three days or if it includes a fresh, perishable topping (such as fruit or whipped cream), it should be refrigerated.
If you need to refrigerate your cake, make sure you store them in an airtight container or cover them in plastic wrap to stop them from drying out.
Most frosted cakes taste better when served at room temperature. If you need to refrigerate yours, allow it to warm on the counter before serving for the best flavor.
How Long Does Cake Last In The Fridge?
Cake can last anywhere between 2-7 days in the fridge, depending on the ingredients used. Let’s take a look at the most common kinds of cake, and how to store them:
Plain (Unfrosted) Cake
If your cake is unfrosted, you may not even need to refrigerate it. Unfrosted cake can keep for around three days, when covered, at room temperature.
However, if you want your cake to last longer, you can refrigerate it. An unfrosted cake stored in the refrigerator can last as long as seven days in the refrigerator.
Just remember to cover it well – ideally, in an airtight container. If your cake isn’t stored in a container (or at least wrapped in plastic), it will dry out much faster, leaving you with a hard, stale cake.
Cream Cheese Filled Or Frosted Cake
A cream cheese frosted or filled cake is perishable, and cannot be stored at room temperature. You’ll need to store your cream cheesecake in the refrigerator, where it should keep for around 5-6 days.
Buttercream Frosted Cake
Buttercream is one of the most popular cake frostings ever. Not all buttercream cakes need to be stored in the refrigerator, but if covered and refrigerated, they can last anywhere between 5-7 days.
If your cake has been covered in American buttercream and has no other perishable ingredients (such as fruit or cream), you can store it at room temperature for around three days without it spoiling.
At the three-day mark, you should cover your cake and move it to the refrigerator, where you can make it last for a few more days. This will keep your cake fresher for longer.
Most layer cakes are meant to be eaten at room temperature, and refrigerating them can impact their quality. As long as your American buttercream cake has no other perishable ingredients, it’s safe to store at room temperature.
What About Fruit-Filled Or Topped Cakes?
Fruity cakes are a popular option. If your cake has any kind of fruit filling or topping, it’s perishable, and cannot be stored at room temperature. You’ll need to refrigerate your fruit cake, and you should be able to keep it for at least 4 days
Quick Tip: If you’re storing your cake at room temperature, keep it on a plate and cover it with an overturned bowl. This will stop it from being exposed to any nasties in the air, and keep it fresher for longer.
What Factors Affect The Life Of A Cake?
While some cakes last up to a week, others should be thrown in a matter of days.
There are many factors that affect the shelf life of a cake, but it usually comes down to ingredients and storage conditions. Here are a few of the most important factors you should be aware of:
The Temperature Of Your Kitchen
Your kitchen temperature can have a significant effect on the freshness of your cake. If you have a particularly warm kitchen, you can expect your cake to spoil quicker.
Warm temperatures provide the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold, so ideally, a cake stored in a warm kitchen should be eaten within two days max. If you want to keep it fresher for longer, store it in the fridge.
Your Cake Fillings
Cake fillings also play a big role in shelf life. Any kind of dairy or fruit filling will decrease the life of your cake, and they’ll all need to be refrigerated to prevent spoiling.
Any cake with a fresh fruit filling will deteriorate particularly fast. Fruit can become sour or runny even before the cake starts to go stale unless you’re using a cooked fruit filling, which contains more sugar and can last for longer.
A frosted cake will have more moisture than an unfrosted one. Frosting contains many preservatives that will help retain moisture and create a barrier against the air.
If you have an unfrosted cake, prolonged exposure to the air will cause it to dry out fast, giving you a stale, unappetizing cake.
Although some frosted cakes can be stored at room temperature, others will need to be kept in the fridge. Check for perishable ingredients to determine how to store your cake.
Signs Your Cake Has Gone Bad
Not sure whether or not your cake has gone bad? There are a few notable signs to look for, including:
- An ‘off smell’
- Dry texture
- Mushy ingredients
If your cake is showing any signs of spoilage, toss it immediately. Spoiled cakes can contain harmful bacteria that can increase your risk of food poisoning, especially if they’re frosted or contain perishable ingredients, like fruit or cream.
The Best Tips For Cake Storage And Preserving Freshness
Want to keep your cake as fresh as possible? Here are a few essential tips you won’t want to miss:
- Examine the recipe: Before you do anything, take note of the recipe. What ingredients are you using, and what storage method is best? Consult our guide above to determine whether you should store it in the fridge, or at room temperature.
- Add extra frosting: Assuming your cake has already been cut, simply add some extra frosting to the cut edges to help it last longer. Frosting contains many natural preservatives that can increase the life of your cake, and stop it from drying out. If you’re going to do this, just remember to coat the entire exposed area with frosting for the best results.
- Freeze: We’ll take a closer look at this later, but remember, you can always freeze your cake if you want to preserve it for longer. Just remember to store it correctly for the freshest taste and texture.
- Preserve the frosting: If you’re planning to wrap your frosting in plastic wrap, it’s best to place it in the refrigerator first (for between 15-20 minutes) to let it harden before wrapping. This will stop the frosting from attaching itself to your plastic wrapping.
- Wrap it correctly: However you intend to store your cake, just ensure you wrap it correctly. Wrapping your cake and then storing it in an airtight container will give it better protection.
How Long Do Different Kinds Of Cake Last?
Although we’ve already covered some of the most common cakes above, let’s take a look at some other common cakes, and how long you can expect them to last:
A traditional sponge cake can last for 5 days at room temperature. Refrigeration is not recommended. In the freezer, your sponge cake can last for up to 6 months.
Like sponge cake, pound cake is good for 5 days at room temperature, and refrigeration isn’t recommended. If frozen, it’ll keep for around 6 months.
Layered cakes are often perishable, and should not be stored at room temperature. We’d recommend refrigerating your layer cake, which should last for around 5 days.
In the freezer, it’ll be good for between 4-6 months. We’d recommend adding at least two layers of foil to your cake to give it extra protection before freezing it.
Sheet cakes are around 2-3 inches tall and are baked in a sheet pan. They’re usually rectangular and unfrosted. Like layered cakes, sheet cakes often have perishable ingredients and should not be stored at room temperature.
You should keep your sheet cake in the refrigerator, where it will be food for 2-3 days. If frozen, it’ll last for between 4-6 months.
If you’ve made a bundt cake, you can store it at room temperature for around 5 days before it starts spoiling. If you want to preserve its life, you can keep a frosted bundt cake in the refrigerator for between 4-5 days.
Like other cakes, it will keep well in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Angel Food Cake
Angel food cake can be stored at room temperature for around 5 days, however, refrigeration is not recommended. If you want to freeze it, it’ll keep for between 4-6 months.
Most Unfrosted Cakes
In general, most unfrosted cakes can be stored at room temperature for around 5 days and will keep for 6 months or move in the freezer. Refrigeration is not recommended, as it can dry out your cake and affect its quality.
It’s usually best to store frosted cakes in the refrigerator, rather than at room temperature. In the refrigerator, frosted cakes will keep for around 5 days, and can last 4-6 months in the freezer.
How Should You Store Ganache?
If you’re dealing with ganache, you’ll need to follow similar guidance to buttercream and fondant cakes. Your ganache cake can last up to a week in the fridge, and if you freeze it, it’ll last for several months.
However, if you’ve made your ganache with water and not cream, you won’t be able to freeze it. If your ganache is made with water, it will expand when it’s frozen, which will generate a build-up of air pockets that can affect the taste, texture, and overall quality of your cake.
How To Freeze Cake
Good news, cake lovers – most cakes can be frozen, and many cakes will hold their flavor and texture well, even when thawed! If you’re thinking of freezing your cake to increase its shelf life, here’s exactly what you’ll need to do:
- Leave your cake to cool completely before freezing (How long will this take? See our guide here).
- Once cooled, wrap your cake in an airtight wrap (such as Press & Seal or plastic/ saran wrap).
- Grab a label and a pen, write down the type of cake you’re freezing, and the date you’re freezing it on, and attach it to the bag.
- Wrap the cake in another layer of aluminium foil or place it in an airtight container (optional).
- Now, you can put your cake in the freezer. You may be able to freeze it for up to 6 months, depending on the cake you’re using.
Note: the same steps also apply for freezing individual slices. Allow your slice to cool for at least 30 minutes before freezing, and store it in an airtight container.
What Cakes Are Best For Freezing?
Just about any cake can be frozen and will keep well once it’s been cooled. Some of the best cakes to freeze include:
- Bundt cake
- Chocolate cake
- Pumpkin cake
- Carrot cake
- Banana cake
These cakes often retain their flavor and texture well once thawed, so it’s hard to go wrong!
However, there are some cakes that won’t handle freezing well, including:
- Angel cake
- Vertical cake
Essentially, any cake with multiple (and delicate) layers risks not thawing well. They will also taste far better if you eat them fresh, but this doesn’t mean you CAN’T freeze them. They just won’t taste as good as they did when they were fresh.
Freezing Individual Cake Layers
You can also freeze individual cake layers. You can bake your layers in advance (as much as a month or two!).
After the cake layers have cooled, individually wrap them in at least two layers of plastic wrap, and follow up with a coating of tin foil. You could also place each layer in a zip-lock bag if you have the room.
When you’re ready to use your individual layers, remove them from the freezer around an hour before decorating. If your cake is still partially frozen when you start decorating, it can make it harder to get an even layer of frosting.
So, leave them to thaw, and decorate when they’re still chilled.
Is It Safe To Freeze Cake?
Yes, it’s safe to freeze your cake, but as we’ve said, not all cakes freeze well. There are a few concerns when freezing cake; the biggest one being freezer burn.
Freezer burn can happen if your food hasn’t been wrapped properly before being frozen. If your cake is exposed to air, it can dehydrate and oxidize which can cause it to discolor, and become extremely dry and flavorless when thawed.
This is why you need to be extra attentive when freezing cake as opposed to refrigerating it. Wrap it in a few layers of wrap, and place it in an airtight container if you can to prevent freezer burn.
How To Thaw A Cake
Although freezing can be tricky, the thawing process is simple.
When you’re ready to thaw your cake, simply take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator. Leave it in the refrigerator for a day before serving.
Most cakes will take around 8 hours to thaw completely in the refrigerator, but this may vary depending on the type of cake you’re thawing, and its ingredients.
Note: Thaw your cake while it’s still in the wrapping to avoid the excess moisture giving you a soggy cake!
How Long Does Wedding Cake Last For?
When it comes to wedding cakes, there’s a tradition as old as time – eating the top layer of your cake on your first anniversary. This tradition is thought to bring the happy couple love and happiness for years to come, but considering most cakes don’t freeze well after six months, is it possible?
The short answer is yes – that’s why so many people do it safely! However, the key is in the storage.
- Wrap your cake in plastic wrap, a layer of foil, and place it in an airtight container to give it more protection, and stop it from losing its shape.
- Place it in the freezer until you’re ready to remove it
- When you’re ready to defrost your cake, move it from the freezer to the refrigerator a few days before. This will give it time to defrost slowly and allow both the cake and the icing to soften together.
- When your cake is defrosted, unwrap it and allow it to warm to room temperature. That’s it – you’re ready to enjoy your cake!
If you freeze a cake for longer than 6 months, it won’t necessarily be inedible – it’ll just lose its quality. So, when you thaw your wedding cake it’ll be safe to eat, but it probably won’t taste as good as it did on the big day.
Storing Leftover Birthday Cake
If you’re lucky enough to have some leftover cake from your big day, you can store it and save it for later!
Your cake will already be cut, so be sure to preserve the moisture in the exposed edges. These tend to dry out much quicker – especially when they’re stored in the refrigerator.
Cover your individual slices with a layer of plastic wrap, or add some extra frosting to the exposed layers to preserve their moisture.
Your sliced or cut birthday cake can be stored in the fridge for around 5 days, and it may be able to be kept at room temperature, depending on what type of cake it is.
Don’t forget – if you’re not going to eat it within a few days, you can always freeze it!
How Long Do Different Cake Flavors Last?
Here are a few more popular cake flavors, and how long you can expect them to last when stored at room temperature, in the freezer, and in the refrigerator.
Carrot cake is perishable, and shouldn’t be kept at room temperature. In the refrigerator, your carrot cake will last for 5 days, and it can last for 3-6 months in the freezer.
Red Velvet Cake
Red velvet cake is decorated with cream cheese icing and is more susceptible to spoiling. Red velvet cake shouldn’t be stored at room temperature, so refrigerate your leftovers and eat them within 3-5 days. If you need to freeze red velvet cake, it’ll last up to 6 months.
Coconut cake is often decorated with cream cheese, german buttercream or swiss buttercream, which are perishable and will spoil fast. Avoid storing your coconut cake at room temperature. Refrigerating your coconut cake will make it last for up to five days, and in the freezer, it’ll last for 3-4 months.
If your chocolate cake is unfrosted, good news! You should be able to store it at room temperature for up to a week. If it’s frosted, avoid storing it at room temperature, and put it straight in the refrigerator. Frosted chocolate cake will last for around five days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer.
Fruit cake is a different story. Fruit cake should only be stored at room temperature (and it’ll be safe to eat for around 5 days) – if stored in the refrigerator, it’s likely to dry out extremely quickly.
However, you can still freeze your leftover fruit cake, and it’ll last you anywhere between 4-6 months.
Naked cake will either have no frosting at all or a thin crumb layer. If your naked cake has no frosting, it will be more likely to dry out. If your naked cake is unfrosted, store it in an airtight container to preserve moisture.
Naked cake will last for two to three days at room temperature, and it can be frozen for six months or longer.
Can You Revive A Dry Cake?
No one wants a stale cake.
If you’ve left your cake to cool overnight, only to return to a dry unpalatable mess, don’t lose hope. Note: these tips will NOT work for old stale cakes (such as those that have been frozen and thawed). Only fresh cakes.
- syrup: If your cake is a little *too* dry, you can give it a coating of syrup to moisten it up. A syrup will add more moisture (and flavor) to a dry cake, just be sure to use one that compliments your ingredients.
- Milk Soak: If you’re dealing with a sweet cake, a milk soak can be an appropriate way to inject more moisture. To create your milk soak, simply add a small amount of vanilla or almond extract to your milk. Mix it together, and brush the mixture over the top of your cake to give it a new lease of life.
How To Reheat Your Cake
Although leftover cake is pretty damn good at room temperature, you can also treat yourself to some reheated cake: and yes, in most cases, it’s completely safe to reheat cake! Let’s take a look at how to reheat your cake below:
Reheat It In The Oven
This is probably the most traditional way to reheat your cake, and it comes out great every time!
- Fill an oven-safe dish with water
- Preheat your oven to around 325 degrees Fahrenheit and let the water heat up until it’s steaming
- Place your cake in the tray
- Leave it to sit in the steam bath for around five minutes
After five minutes, remove your cake from the oven and it should be beautifully moist, and just as delicious as it was when it was freshly baked! You can use this technique on cake that’s been left out for a few days at room temperature and has gone stale – it works wonders!
Steam It On The Stove
Want to do something a little different? You can also steam your cake on the stove to reheat it! Steaming your cake is a great way to inject moisture (and heat), and it’ll only take you a few minutes. Here’s how to do it:
- Put a steamer into a large pot on the stove
- Fill the pot with water until it’s just below the base of the steamer
- Simmer the water gently, and place your cake in the pot
- Now, turn off the heat and leave your cake to sit in the pot (with the lid on) for around 10 minutes.
That’s it! Remove your cake after 10 minutes, and it should be beautifully soft and ready to eat. Just allow it to cool a little before serving (or frosting!).
Use Your Microwave
It’s one of the quickest and most reliable methods out there – simply heat it up in the microwave! If you’re short on time, this is the most reliable way to reheat your cake. No mess, no fuss – it’ll be ready in just a few minutes. Here’s how to do it:
- Take two paper towels and gently moisten them
- Put one paper towel on a microwave-safe plate, then lay your cake on top of it, and put the final paper towel on top of the slice
- Now, microwave your cake in 20-second bursts until you’re happy with
Note: the damp paper towels will help trap moisture in the cake, and avoid it going stale once thawed.
When you reheat your cake, the key is to do it slowly and carefully. Exposing your cake to high heat instantly and intensely will dry it out. Gradually increase the temperature to give you the best results.
Preparation Is Key
Remember: when you’re reheating your cake, preparation is key. If it hasn’t been stored correctly, you’re not going to get good results – no matter how well you reheat it.
Store your cake in an airtight wrap or container. If it’s too stale, reheating it will not inject any extra moisture, and you’ll just end up with an even drier cake.
Can You Reheat Frozen Cake?
Yes, you can reheat frozen cake, but you’ll need to leave it to thaw first. Move your frozen cake to the refrigerator and leave it to thaw. Once thawed, reheat your cake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s all there is to it – have your cake and eat it!
Although most cakes can be thawed and reheated, not all will turn out well. Some cakes, such as pound and fruit cakes, are best eaten instantly for the best experience. Freezing and thawing can affect their taste and texture, and they tend not to reheat well.
The Bottom Line
Most cakes will last for between 5-7 days in the refrigerator, or at room temperature, depending on the cake. If your cake contains perishable frostings or fillings, it should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.
There are many ways to enjoy your leftover cake, but no leftovers should ever need to be thrown. Even if they’ve gone stale overnight, you can still revive them with a quick steam!
Remember: whether you’re refrigerating or freezing your cake, wrap it in plastic or store it in an airtight container to prevent spoiling, and lock in that all-important moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unless your cake has perishable ingredients, it will not need to be refrigerated. Cakes without perishable ingredients can be stored at room temperature for up to 7 days, depending on the cake.
If your cake features whipped cream, fruit fillings, cream cheese, mascarpone, or another perishable product, you should store it in the refrigerator.
Most cakes can be stored for between five-seven days before spoiling, depending on the ingredients. After this time, the cake is likely to dry out, and some ingredients (such as fresh fruit) can become sour or mushy.
If your cake has been decorated with a buttercream frosting, you can store it at room temperature for around three days.
You can also store it in the refrigerator to increase its shelf life, but you should let it warm to room temperature before eating it to enjoy its texture and flavor.
You should only reheat your food once. Ensure your cake is piping hot before serving.
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