Cake is a classic dessert that’s perfect for celebrating birthdays, weddings, holidays, and other special occasions. It’s light, sweet, and delicious. But what happens when you have leftover cake after a party or event? How long does cake last unrefrigerated? Can you leave it out on the counter, or does it need to go straight into the fridge?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cake storage and how long cake lasts outside the refrigerator. Read on for tips to keep your cake as fresh as possible!
Overview of Unrefrigerated Cake Storage
The shelf life of cake depends on several factors:
- Type of cake and icing
- Storage temperature
- Exposure to air and humidity
In general, unfrosted cakes will last 2-4 days stored in a cool, dry place. Frosted cakes have a shorter shelf life of 1-3 days. Storing the cake in an airtight container helps prolong freshness.
Cakes with dairy-based icings like buttercream or whipped cream are highly perishable and last just 1-2 days unrefrigerated. Non-dairy icings allow the cake to survive longer.
Storing cake at room temperature between 68°F and 72°F gives optimal shelf life. Warmer temperatures accelerate spoilage.
Now let’s look closer at how long different cake varieties last outside the fridge.
Shelf Life of Common Cake Types
The ingredients, texture, and icing used for cakes can vary widely. Here’s how long you can expect specific cakes to stay fresh unrefrigerated:
- Pound cakes: 4 days
- Sponge cakes: 4 days
- Angel food cakes: 4 days
- Flourless cakes: 3 days
- Cupcakes: 3 days
Without icing or fillings, cakes have a longer shelf life. Dense pound cakes and airy angel food cakes maintain freshness for up to 4 days.
- Birthday cakes: 1-2 days
- Wedding cakes: 1-2 days
- Carrot cakes: 2 days
- Red velvet cakes: 2 days
Buttercream is a classic cake icing, but it reduces shelf life significantly. Enjoy buttercreamed cakes within 2 days maximum for best quality.
- Fondant-iced cakes: 2-3 days
- Sculpted fondant cakes: 2-3 days
The gelatin in fondant acts as a preservative, allowing fondant-iced cakes to stay fresh a bit longer than buttercreamed versions.
- Boston cream pies: 1-2 days
- Tres leches cakes: 1-2 days
- Twinkies: 3-5 days
Cream fillings like pastry cream or whipped cream hasten spoilage. Eat cream-filled cakes ASAP. Store-bought snack cakes last longer thanks to preservatives.
- Plain cheesecakes: 3-4 days
- Fruit-topped cheesecakes: 2-3 days
Dense, tangy cheesecakes have an impressive unrefrigerated shelf life. Keep them wrapped well so the crusts don’t get soggy.
- Chocolate buttercream cakes: 1-2 days
- Molten lava cakes: 1-2 days
- Flourless chocolate cakes: 3 days
The high fat and low moisture content allows chocolate cakes to stay fresh a bit longer than white or yellow cakes.
Proper Cake Storage
Storing leftover cake correctly is key to maximizing freshness. Here are some cake storage tips:
Let cakes cool completely before wrapping for storage.
Use foil, plastic wrap, or airtight containers to prevent drying.
Wrap cakes well to retain moisture and prevent freezer burn.
Place cakes in the coolest spot in your pantry or cupboard.
Keep away from direct sunlight, which can accelerate starch crystallization.
Refrigeration can extend shelf life 1-2 days but dries cakes out.
Freeze cakes up to 4 months for long-term storage. Thaw overnight before serving.
With proper air-tight storage in a cool spot, most cakes maintain quality for 2-4 days without refrigeration. Freeze any leftovers you won’t eat within that timeframe.
Signs Your Unrefrigerated Cake Has Gone Bad
How can you tell if cake that’s sat out on the counter has spoiled and is unsafe to eat? Here are the signs of cake that’s gone bad:
Dry, crumbly texture
Stale, soggy crust
Sour or off smell
Crystallized sugar topping
If your cake shows any of these warning signs, it’s best to throw it out. The golden rule is, when in doubt, toss it out!
Frequently Asked Questions
Got questions about how long cake lasts outside the fridge? Here are answers to some common queries:
How long can cake sit out with fondant?
Fondant-iced cakes can safely sit out 2-3 days since the fondant seals in moisture. Refrigerate any longer than that.
Can you leave out carrot cake?
Keep carrot cake refrigerated after 2 days maximum, since the moisture in carrots causes faster spoilage.
How long can cupcakes stay unrefrigerated?
Unfrosted, unfilled cupcakes can stay fresh 2-3 days on the counter. Frosted ones last just 1-2 days.
Can cheesecake be left out overnight?
It’s generally fine to leave plain cheesecake out up to 8 hours overnight. Any longer may compromise quality.
How long do Twinkies last unrefrigerated?
Thanks to all the preservatives, store-bought Twinkies can stay fresh 3-5 days unrefrigerated.
The Bottom Line
Leftover cake stays freshest when stored properly at cool room temperature. Most standard cakes keep 1-3 days on the counter. Limit exposure to heat, light, and air to maximize shelf life.
Keep an eye out for any signs of spoilage like mold or a dried-out texture. When in doubt, play it safe and refrigerate or freeze your cake. With proper storage, you can enjoy tasty cake even days after baking or buying it!