If you have leftover cake, the last thing you want to do is throw away all that deliciousness. Leftovers from a party or cake baked in advance will stay fresh before it is used. But like all food, cake won’t last forever. It will eventually go bad or become unsafe to eat.
The shelf life of cake depends on its preparation method and how it is stored. Typically, a cake can last up to four days without going bad or stale. When stored in the fridge, it can last up to 5 or 7 days. Frozen cake lasts longer but is best consumed after 2 to 3 months in the freezer.
Pro Tip: Cakes are best kept in a cool, dry place in a cake container like this one, and stored in the refrigerator.
The rest of this article will cover in detail how long different types of cake last and ways to properly store them. If you also want to learn how to identify bad or spoiled cake and what happens when you eat old cake, read on.
How Long Before Cake Goes Bad?
If you’ve ever tasted freshly baked cake, you’ll know that cake is best eaten within 24 hours of making it. The moisture content reduces with time, and its texture becomes drier. The only exception is fruitcake, which can last up to a year in the freezer and for several months in the fridge. This is because it contains a high amount of alcohol and dried fruit.
Cakes that contain wet ingredients or icings like cream, custard fillings, fresh fruit, or fruit compotes should be eaten as soon as possible. The icing on this type of cake will make it spoil faster, so it must be refrigerated or frozen to preserve it for longer.
When stored in the fridge, cakes with buttercream frosting or ganache topping can last up to a week. Freshly baked chocolate cake can also stay up to one week in the refrigerator without going bad.
Store-bought cakes that contain preservatives last a bit longer than homemade cakes. Usually, these kinds of cakes last about 5 to 7 days and will go stale rather than spoiling or rotting.
How to Tell if Cake Has Gone Bad?
Your senses are the most reliable instruments to use when checking for signs of food spoilage. When it comes to cake, you can easily tell from its appearance, texture, or smell if it’s still safe to eat. Here’s how to identify bad or spoiled cake.
Check Its Appearance
The best way to know if a cake is still good is to perform a visual check. If you find mold on the cake, it is an obvious sign of spoilage. While you may want to scrape off the parts with mold, the USDA says moldy food can have invincible bacteria growing within it. In some cases, toxins can spread to every other part of the food.
If the cake has frosting, any dramatic change in its creaminess can indicate spoilage. If you can’t tell from the outside of the cake, cut into it and inspect it thoroughly.
Also, check the texture of the cake. If it is hard and dry, it indicates a loss of moisture, and you should probably toss it. Another sign of spoilage is when your cake feels mushy or slimy to the touch.
If your cake appears okay and you’re not sure if it’s good, take a quick sniff. If it has a funky or sour smell, it’s better not to take the risk of eating it. It probably won’t taste good either.
Throw It Out
While eating leftover cake won’t harm you, you must be extra careful even if nothing appears to be amiss. If you’re not sure whether a piece of cake is safe to eat, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and assume that it is bad.
What Happens if You Eat Old Cake?
Nobody likes to waste good food, and old or expired cake is not left out. So, what happens if you eat old or expired cake?
Store-bought cakes typically have an expiration date, a sell-by date, or a use-by date. The sell-by date is a guideline used by the store to avoid selling stale goods. On the other hand, the expiry date or use-by date indicates that the cake must be eaten by that time.
If you store your cake correctly and go past its expiry date for a day or two, there is no danger in eating it. However, if you inspect the cake, and it has, in fact, gone bad, eating it can expose you to harmful bacteria that put you in danger of food-borne illness.
Again, it’s always best to judge with your senses. Check for obvious signs of spoilage in its appearance, odor, and texture. If you notice anything that’s off, discard it.
How to Store Different Types of Cake
Cakes can be kept in a cool, dry place in a cake container, like this one found on Amazon, but are best stored in the refrigerator.
Cake stored in the refrigerator can last up to 6 days, depending on its type. If you need to preserve it long term, store it in the freezer. Cake can last up to a year in the freezer, though it may have lost its texture and quality after four months.
Depending on how your cake and the icing is prepared, it may need a different storage requirement. Here are methods you can use to store some types of cakes and icing.
Buttercream and Fondant
When cake is frosted with buttercream and fondant, it can last up to 4 or 5 days at room temperature. When stored this way, an overturned bowl or a cake stand can be used to protect it from dust.
Store the cake in the refrigerator if the weather is hot. If you want to freeze it, wrap it in a foil or plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container, like this one on Amazon, before storing it in the freezer.
Cream Cheese and Whipped Cream Icing
Cakes with cream cheese and whipped cream frosting are very unstable and quickly go rancid in warm weather. These types of cake should be stored in the fridge if you won’t be eating them immediately. Also, freezing them may not be the best option as the texture of the frosting can change when stored under such cold conditions.
Ganache topping is stored the same way as buttercream and fondant decorated cakes. However, ganache toppings made with water cannot be stored in the freezer because it will expand and produce pockets of air. This can cause changes in the appearance, taste, and smell of your cake and make it go stale faster.
Naked or Unfrosted Cake
Cakes that are not covered with icing or frosting must be wrapped tightly in a plastic wrap or a plastic zip-top bag. Storing unfrosted cake this way can keep it fresh for up to 4 to 6 days at room temperature. Also, an unfrosted cake can last for more than a month when stored in the freezer.
Cake can last up to four days if it is stored properly. Keeping cake in the fridge can extend its shelf life to 5 or 7 days. If you plan to store cake long term, keep in the freezer at 0°F (-18°C). It can last up to a year in the freezer, but for quality sake, it should be consumed after 3 to 4 months.
You can tell if a cake has gone bad through its appearance, texture, and smell. If you notice anything that’s off, throw the cake away.
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By the way, here are a few of my favorite canning tools:
- Favorite Pectin: You definitely want to buy in bulk. Here is a link to my recommended brand.
- Jars and Lids: Here is a pack 6 oz jars that are perfect for jam, jelly-making, or general canning.
- Jelly making pot: A good pot needs to be non-reactive, low sides, and conduct heat well. You can’t use just any pot. Here is a really good one that I recommend. Or, if on a budget try this one.
For more, don’t miss 10 Ways To Prolong The Shelf Life Of Cookies.
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