How do you know if Wilton icing is expired?

Quick answers

Here are some quick ways to tell if Wilton icing has gone bad:

  • Check the expiration or best by date on the packaging – icing will last about 6 months unopened.
  • Look for changes in texture – expired icing may be runny, lumpy, or separated.
  • Smell the icing – it should have a sweet, vanilla scent when fresh.
  • Taste the icing – discard if it tastes odd or sour.
  • Look for mold – this is a definite sign it has gone bad.

How to read the expiration date

The best way to know if Wilton icing is expired is to check the expiration or best by date printed on the packaging. Wilton ready-to-use canned icing and tub icing typically lasts for 6-12 months when properly stored unopened.

The expiration date will be printed as a month and year, such as “Best by 08/2023” or “Expires 10/2023.” This tells you the last date that the icing will be at peak quality. After this date, the icing may start to deteriorate in quality and flavor.

Remember that the expiration date is for unopened packages. Once opened, icing should be used within a few months for best quality.

Tips for storing icing:

  • Store unopened cans or tubs in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Keep icing between 60-70°F for optimal shelf life.
  • Do not freeze icing, as this can cause texture and flavor changes.
  • Keep icing containers tightly sealed when not in use.

How to tell if opened icing is expired

Once opened, icing will start to degrade more rapidly. Signs that opened icing may be past its prime include:

  • Changes in texture – Icing that is expired can become runny or separated, with liquid pooling at the top. Fresh icing should be smooth and creamy.
  • Lumpy texture – Lumps or gritty bits in the icing are also a sign it is old.
  • Mold growth – Check icing closely for signs of mold, which appear as fuzzy or discolored spots.
  • Sour smell or taste – Icing will start to smell and taste sour as it spoils.
  • Change in color – Expired icing may look more yellow or brown compared to the bright white of fresh icing.

How long does opened icing last?

Opened icing will stay fresh for:

  • Canned icing: 2 to 3 months
  • Tub icing: 4 to 6 months

Make sure to re-seal the icing container tightly and store in the refrigerator once opened. Keep the scoop clean to prevent introducing bacteria.

Can you use expired icing?

You can technically still use icing past its expiration date, but the quality and safety may be compromised. Here’s what may happen if you use expired icing:

  • Poor flavor – Expired icing often tastes bad, with a sour, bitter, or chemical taste.
  • Texture changes – Runny, separated, or lumpy icing can affect the decorating quality.
  • Mold risk – Old icing may contain mold spores that can transfer to your baked goods.
  • Foodborne illness – Bacteria like staphylococcus may grow in old icing, causing nausea or vomiting if consumed.

If the icing shows any signs of mold, spoilage, or just smells or tastes “off,” it is best to discard it. Using expired icing can ruin a baked good and make people sick.

When to throw out expired icing:

Discard icing if it has:

  • Visible mold
  • Sour smell
  • Separated, watery texture
  • Changed color
  • Passed expiration more than 2 months ago

Trust your senses – if the icing seems at all questionable, it’s better to be safe and throw it out.

How to store icing properly

Storing icing correctly is key to getting the most life out of it and preventing premature spoilage. Here are some icing storage tips:

  • Seal containers tightly – This prevents moisture loss and entry of microbes.
  • Refrigerate after opening – Cold temperatures keep icing fresh longer.
  • Use clean utensils – Don’t re-dip dirty spreader or knifes into icing to avoid contamination.
  • Keep cool and dry – Store in the pantry away from heat, moisture and sunlight until opened.
  • Avoid freezing – Freezing can damage icing texture.
  • Watch for signs of spoilage – Discard at first sight of mold or off smells.

Refrigerator life of common icings:

Icing Type Refrigerator Life After Opening
Canned icing 2 to 3 months
Tub icing 4 to 6 months
Royal icing 2 to 3 weeks
Buttercream icing 5 to 7 days
Ganache or chocolate icing 2 weeks

What to do if you don’t have enough icing

Running out of icing mid-cake decorating is a nightmare. Here are some options if your icing supply is limited:

  • Whip up a quick buttercream – Butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla make a simple buttercream you can tint as needed.
  • Thin existing icing – Stir in milk or cream a little at a time to thin icing out.
  • Use simple decorating techniques – Flood icing, writing, borders, and minimal accents use less icing.
  • Substitute jam or fruit curd – These spreads can fill in between cake layers.
  • Cut the coated area – Only ice the top and sides of the cake, leaving the bottom uncoated.
  • Roll fondant thin – A little fondant goes a long way when rolled out very thin.

In a pinch, focus icing only where it will show or make a simple buttercream. Under-icing is better than no icing at all!

Icing substitutes

If you’re completely out of regular icing, there are several household items that can work in a pinch:

Whipped topping

Whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping can mimic buttercream’s light, fluffy texture. Simply spread or pipe it onto the cake. The downside is that it melts and slides off cakes quickly.


Plain yogurt is thick enough to coat cake layers. Mix in a little honey or fruit preserves for flavor. The tangy flavor of yogurt gives a nice contrast to sweet cake.

Chocolate hazelnut spread

Nutella or similar chocolate spreads make a smooth, chocolatey icing. Heat it slightly to make it easier to drizzle and spread.

Peanut butter

For a kid-friendly cake, peanut butter makes a tasty icing substitute. Microwave it briefly so it’s easy to pour and spread.

Marshmallow creme

Fluffy, sweet marshmallow creme right out of the jar can substitute for vanilla or chocolate buttercream icing.

Jam or fruit curd

Any flavor jam, marmalade, or fruit curd provides moisture and flavor between cake layers and the edges. Adjust consistency by warming slightly.

Storing and freezing extra icing

Have leftover icing? Here are tips for storing and freezing extra buttercream, royal icing or other icings:

  • Short term storage: Keep icing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
  • Long term storage: Freeze icing for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
  • Avoid condensation: Let icing cool completely before sealing in an airtight container for storage.
  • Portion into useable amounts: Divide icing into smaller containers instead of one large one for easier thawing and use.
  • Prevent drying out: Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the icing surface before sealing the container.

Properly stored icing keeps its fresh taste and texture when thawed. It can save you time when whipping up your next baking project.

Signs of moldy icing

Moldy icing has some very distinct signs. Check your icing carefully for:

  • Spots of fuzz – Mold colonies start out as tiny fuzzy spots that increase in size over time.
  • White filaments – The growth may appear like fine, intertwined white threads.
  • Blue, black, or green dots – These are common mold colors, though others are possible too.
  • Slimy texture – Contaminated icing may develop a slippery, gelatinous feel.
  • Chalky areas – Patches that look powdery or crusty can indicate mold.

If you detect any fuzzy spots, colorful dots, suspicious white areas, or notice an odd texture in your icing, play it safe and discard the entire batch.

Can you scoop out moldy icing?

No, do not try to salvage part of a moldy icing batch. The mold roots can spread invisibly, so even areas that look clean may actually contain mold spores. Discard all of the icing to be safe.

How moisture affects icing shelf life

Moisture is the enemy of icing when it comes to longevity. Here’s how moisture impacts shelf life:

  • Causes bacterial growth – Wetness allows bacteria like salmonella and E. coli to grow and contaminate icing.
  • Triggers mold – Mold thrives in damp icing and can spread rapidly.
  • Makes icing runny – Water separates icing and makes it thin, runny and difficult to work with.
  • Dissolves sugar – Moisture can dissolve icing sugar and destroy structure.
  • Weakens structure – Humidity makes buttercream and royal icing soften and lose stability.

Preventing moisture from getting into icing keeps it fresher longer. Always use clean, dry utensils and seal containers well.


Checking expiration dates, being aware of signs of spoilage, and proper storage are the keys to making sure Wilton icing stays fresh and usable. Discard icing at the first signs of mold growth, texture changes, or sour smell. With proper handling, you can keep icing up to 3 months refrigerated or frozen. Use safe icing practices to decorate cakes that look great and taste delicious.

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