Cupcakes going stale isn’t exactly a problem in my house. If I’m lucky, there might be one or two to enjoy with my dinner the following day but usually, my family devours most of them as soon as they come out of the oven.
Perhaps a better question than ‘how long do cupcakes last’ is ‘how long do cupcakes stay fresh’ then.
Regardless of whether you are baking in advance for your child’s birthday party or whipping up a batch for your friend’s wedding, when you are baking for the masses, getting a head start on making your tasty treats is crucial. Whatever the reason, if you are planning on making cupcakes in advance, then it’s important to know just how long they will stay soft and fresh.
Want the short answer? Here’s my no-BS response to this question:
Generally, cupcakes stay at their best in an airtight container for up to 3 days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for 3-6 months.
This, of course, depends on a few different factors, like the cupcake recipe you are following and the frosting you have used. Here’s everything you need to know about making cupcakes and staying fresh.
How long do cupcakes last?
So, just how long are cupcakes good for? This will really depend on if they are left out at room temperature, popped into the fridge, or stored away in the freezer. You will want to think about if your cupcakes are frosted or unfrosted.
I think it’s important to remember that we are talking about how long the cupcakes are at their best. By no means will a cupcake go “bad” in a couple of days; it just won’t be at its most fresh. Ideally, you want to eat your cupcakes when they are still soft and moist, not when they taste like a dry rock.
In the cupboard
Let’s discuss leaving a “frosted” cupcake in the cupboard. If you are planning on just using the frosting ingredients of butter and icing sugar, then leaving frosted cupcakes out at room temperature is perfectly fine. Be warned though, this is like leaving your butter out of the fridge it can become soft and start to run, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. For the same reason, you also don’t want to leave them in direct sunlight either.
If the frosting is made up of cream cheese or cream, this is a whole different story, and you would definitely need to keep your cupcakes in the refrigerator. Cream cheese and cream need to be chilled and will spoil if left out of the fridge.
In the refrigerator
Do plain cupcakes need to be refrigerated? Keeping your cupcakes in the refrigerator will, of course, inevitably extend their shelf life. However, you don’t need to refrigerate cupcakes, unless the frosting ingredients are required to be chilled, that is.
Frosted cupcakes can last up to a week in the refrigerator and unfrosted ones can also last for a week in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. It’s always best to keep your cupcakes in airtight containers to prevent them from taking on other fridge flavors. There’s nothing worse than a lovely vanilla cupcake tasting last night’s lasagne.
In the freezer
You can definitely freeze your cupcakes, the biggest problem here will be the frosting. I would recommend you freeze them unfrosted so that you don’t damage the frosting while they are rattling around in your freezer. We all know how chaotic our freezers are.
Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes will store for the same out of time, which is roughly 3-6 months. After this, the cake still is edible, although the texture has a tendency to go a bit funny.
Regardless of how you choose to store the important thing about freezing cupcakes is that both the frosted and unfrosted cupcakes are secured tightly in an airtight container otherwise, they could suffer freezer burn. Proper wrapping also ensures no additional moisture or bacteria will interfere with your cupcakes.
Here’s a helpful video if you are unsure how to store cupcakes in the freezer.
How long does buttercream cupcakes last?
Frosted cupcakes will last a good 3/4 days at room temperature, and that is if the frosting is a classic buttercream. The frosting actually helps keep your cupcakes fresher for longer, as it acts as a protective barrier to lock moisture into the cake.
The best way to store cupcakes, frosted or not, is in an airtight container. This way, the cupcakes will stay fresh for 4 days. Again, be sure to keep them in a cool spot so that the buttercream doesn’t melt.
How long do store-bought cupcakes last?
I think its obvious store-bought cupcakes will stay fresher for longer than homemade cupcakes. This is because of the preservatives the commercial bakers will incorporate into their baked goods, and they more than like to pre-package individual cupcakes to keep them soft and moist.
How best to store your store-bought cupcakes?
You can either keep them at room temperature, in the fridge or freeze them. You will be surprised how long they will last out of the refrigerator before they go stale, and these could easily last 5 days out of the fridge thanks to those extra preservatives.
Wherever you decide to store them, make sure they are in an airtight container. Any type of cake will dry out in the fridge or freezer, and if they are frosted, you also do not want the icing to take on any fridge flavors.
Do cupcakes need to be refrigerated?
So if you want a straight yes or no answer, I would say no, on the condition that the cupcakes are frosted with buttercream and not another type of icing and that they are consumed within 4 days. An easy task for most families, I should think.
If, however, you have baked off a large batch, then storing them in the fridge will just help keep them fresher for a little bit longer.
Do store-bought cupcakes need to be refrigerated?
To help me answer this question and maybe for you too, I always note where the cupcakes are kept in the grocery store. If they are kept in the fridge section, then you should store them in the fridge. If they are kept out in the bakery section at room temperature together with the bread, then this would suggest they are perfectly fine to be stored at room temperature. Of course, they still have a shelf like, so make sure to consume them within 4 days to enjoy the cupcakes at their best.
What is the best way to store cupcakes?
Regardless if they are frosted or not, the best way to store cupcakes is in an airtight container. Not only will this help to keep the sponge cake moist and not dry out, but this will also prevent them from taking on any food smells in your fridge, or freezer for that matter.
Storing cupcakes in the freezer, you may also run the risk of freezer burn, especially if you plan on keeping your cupcakes for a couple of months. It is essential to keep them in an airtight container, and I would also suggest wrapping the container in plastic wrap to prevent the lid from coming off.
So to conclude and recap – It is best to keep your cupcakes in the refrigerator; just remember to bring them to room temperature before serving them. Your friends will not be impressed with a cold cupcake, and to be honest, neither would I. There is nothing worse than firm buttercream icing.
It’s essential to keep them in an airtight container, no matter where they are stored.
If you have bought the cupcakes, no judgment; always note where the cupcakes are kept in the grocery store and follow suit.
It is best to freeze your cupcakes without frosting and ice them when needed. You can also freeze buttercream icing quite confidently; just take it out the day before to soften, so you can easily pipe it.
After all this advice, I really do wonder how many cupcakes survive the first seating and if we even need a discussion on how long they would last. But hey, now you have it!