Is it better to put a cake in the fridge or leave it out?

Quick Answer

The best place to store cake depends on the type of cake and how long you want it to stay fresh. Frosted or cream-filled cakes are best refrigerated. Unfrosted cakes with little to no dairy can be left at room temperature tightly wrapped for a couple days. Refrigeration extends the shelf life of all cakes by slowing down staleness. But refrigeration can also dry out unfrosted cakes. The ideal storage method balances freshness and moisture.

Should You Refrigerate Cake?

Refrigeration is the best way to extend the shelf life and preserve the quality of frosted and dairy-rich cakes like cheesecake, ice cream cake, and frosted layer cakes. These cakes have ingredients like frosting, cream cheese, custard, and fresh fruit that need refrigeration to inhibit bacterial growth and spoilage. Refrigeration preserves the taste, texture, and appearance of these cakes for 3 to 7 days.

Cakes with little to no dairy like unfrosted pound cakes, sponge cakes, and angel food cakes do not require refrigeration. In fact, the cold, dry environment of the fridge can accelerate staling in these cakes. Refrigeration dries out the starches in cakes, causing them to firm up faster. However, lightly wrapping and storing these cakes at room temperature extends freshness for a couple days.

Here is a table summarizing cake refrigeration guidelines:

Cake Type Refrigerate?
Frosted cakes Yes
Cream-filled cakes Yes
Cheesecake Yes
Custard cakes Yes
Ice cream cake Yes
Fresh fruit cakes Yes
Unfrosted pound cake No
Sponge cake No
Angel food cake No

How Long Does Cake Last in the Fridge?

The shelf life of refrigerated cake depends on the type of cake and ingredients. Here are some general guidelines for how long cake lasts refrigerated:

– Frosted cake: 5-7 days
– Unfrosted cake: 1-2 weeks
– Cheesecake: 1 week
– Chiffon/sponge cake: 1 week
– Fruit cake: 2-3 weeks
– Pound cake: 2 weeks

Properly storing cake is important for preserving freshness and moisture in the fridge:

– Allow cakes to cool completely before refrigerating
– Wrap cakes tightly in plastic wrap or foil
– Store cakes on a shelf, not in the door where the temperature fluctuates
– Leftover cut cakes have a shorter fridge life of 3-4 days

The quality of ingredients also impacts refrigerator cake shelf life. Cakes made with natural ingredients like butter, eggs, and fruit tend to have a shorter life than cakes made with preservatives. Follow your senses – if a refrigerated cake starts smelling off or developing mold, it’s best to throw it out.

Does Refrigeration Dry Out Cake?

Refrigeration can dry out some cakes over time, especially lighter, unfrosted cakes. The cold, dry environment of the refrigerator draws moisture out of cakes more quickly.

Cakes with less fat and oil such as angel food and sponge cakes tend to dry out faster in the fridge. Pound cakes and fruitcakes with more fat and moisture retaining ingredients can better stand up to refrigeration without drying out.

Frosting and glazes help prevent drying by creating a moisture barrier on the cake surface. Wrapping cakes well before refrigerating also prevents moisture loss.

If an unfrosted cake does start to dry out in the fridge, you can revive it by adding a few teaspoons of milk on top and letting it soak in. Enjoy refrigerated cakes within 5-7 days for the best quality and texture.

How to Store Cake at Room Temperature

Cakes that don’t require refrigeration should be stored at room temperature in a cool, dry spot away from heat and sun. Here are some tips for room temperature cake storage:

– Allow cakes to cool completely before wrapping for room temperature storage. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil, making sure the wrap is touching the surface of the cake.

– For cakes with cut surfaces like sheet cakes or half cakes, wrap cut sides in foil before wrapping the whole cake. This prevents drying.

– Store cakes in airtight containers or under cake domes. This retains moisture better than leaving them out uncovered.

– Fruit cakes, pound cakes, and drier cakes will last 2-3 days at room temperature. More delicate cakes like sponge cake are best eaten within 1-2 days.

– During hot, humid weather store cakes for less time, 1 to 2 days maximum. The heat can accelerate mold growth.

– Watch for signs of staleness like drying, cracking, or mold growth. Discard room temperature cakes past their prime.

Can You Freeze Cake?

Freezing is another option for preserving cake and extending its shelf life past a week. Almost all types of frosted and unfrosted cakes can be successfully frozen for 2-3 months.

Here are some tips for freezing cake:

– Double wrap cakes in plastic wrap and foil before freezing. This prevents freezer burn.

– Place cakes in airtight containers or bags when freezing.

– Allow cakes to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. Don’t thaw at room temperature.

– Avoid freezing cakes with fresh fruit fillings and frostings. The fruit can become mushy.

– Cakes with whipped cream or meringue frostings don’t freeze well. The structure collapses.

– Most frozen cakes have good overall quality when thawed but may suffer some textural changes.

– For best results, eat thawed cakes within 3-5 days. Don’t refreeze after thawing.

Signs Your Cake Has Gone Bad

No matter how you store a cake, it will eventually dry out and go bad. Here are signs your refrigerated or room temperature cake has spoilt:

– Mold growth. This appears as fuzzy spots or patches and means the cake should be discarded.

– Strong sour smell. A sour, yeasty, or alcohol-like smell means the cake is past its prime.

– Dry, cracked surface. Significant drying on the surface is a sign the cake is very stale.

– Weeping. Clear syrup leaking from the cake is a sign of spoilage.

– Crumbly texture. The cake falls apart and lacks the proper moist texture.

– Sunken surface. The top of the cake sinking in and collapsing can indicate staleness.

– Changed color. Bright frostings or fillings can become dull. Unfrosted cakes can darken.

Trust your senses – if the cake smells, looks or tastes off, it’s best not to eat it. When in doubt, throw it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you keep cake in the box or take it out?

For room temperature storage, it’s best to take baked cakes out of their original packaging or box. The tight cardboard can hold moisture against the surface and make cakes soggy. Place room temperature stored cakes on a cake stand or plate covered with plastic wrap or a cloche.

Can you get sick from eating old cake?

Eating spoiled cake could make you sick, especially if mold or bacteria has grown. Sickness usually comes in the form of gastrointestinal upset like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Very old cake can also harbor harmful bacteria like Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus which can cause food poisoning symptoms. If cake has an off smell, flavor or appearance, err on the side of caution and don’t eat it.

Does rice help keep cake fresh?

Adding a few grains of dry rice to a stored cake is a traditional tip used to try to extend freshness. The idea is that the rice grains will help absorb excess moisture from the cake. However, there is no scientific evidence that rice actually keeps cake fresher. Your best bet is to properly store cake by wrapping it tightly and not refrigerating cake varieties that don’t need it.

Should you freeze cake before or after frosting?

It’s best to frost cakes before freezing. This protects the cake layers from drying out or absorbing freezer flavors. Simply thaw the frosted cake overnight in the fridge before decorating with any fresh fruit or temperature sensitive toppings.

Can you freeze whipped cream frosted cake?

Whipped cream tends to lose its volume and whip after freezing and thawing. It’s best to avoid freezing cakes frosted with whipped cream. Use a substitute like buttercream if you want to freeze a frosted cake.

What is the best way to thaw frozen cake?

Thaw frozen cakes slowly in the refrigerator. This prevents condensation from forming while also inhibiting bacterial growth that occurs if you leave it out to thaw on the counter overnight. Thaw overnight, 10-12 hours and the cake should be ready to serve.


Proper cake storage extends the shelf life while maintaining taste and texture. Refrigeration provides the best preservation for cream, custard and frosted cakes. Unfrosted varieties do better stored at room temperature. Freezing gives an even longer shelf life but can negatively affect texture. Follow best practices for covering, wrapping and refrigerating cakes. With the right storage method, you can enjoy cake for up to a week after baking.

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