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How Long Do Cupcakes Last? Should You Refrigerate Them?

Today we’ll cover the shelf life and storage of unfrosted and frosted cupcakes.

Bought a bunch of cupcakes and not sure how long you can store them? How long do cupcakes last?

Or you just took a fresh batch out of the oven, and you’re wondering if you should refrigerate cupcakes.

Sounds like you? If so, this article is for you.

Read on to learn how long cupcakes are good for, whether they need to be refrigerated, and how to store them so they stay fresh.

There are hundreds of cupcake recipes, each with slightly different storage instructions. What I cover below works for almost all recipes, but read the fine print to cover all the bases.

Table of Contents

How Long Do Cupcakes Last?

Frosted or filled cupcakes typically last for 3 to 4 days until they lose quality or become unsafe to eat. Plain unfilled and unfrosted cupcakes can last for up to a week but will retain quality for only 3 to 4 days.

While each cupcake recipe has its own storage recommendations, both homemade and bakery-bought cupcakes typically last for three to maybe four days. So if you’re not quite sure how long the cupcakes you have on hand should stay good for, going with the 3 to 4 days period seems reasonable.

Now, if the given period isn’t long enough for you, or you’ve bought or baked a metric ton of cupcakes, consider freezing. Unfrosted and unfilled cupcakes freeze fine, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for most filled or frosted cupcakes.

If you’re baking two or three batches of cupcakes, frost or fill only as many as you need the next couple of days and freeze the rest. You can finish them after defrosting.

Next, let’s talk about how frostings and fillings affect the shelf life of cupcakes.

Frostings and Fillings

Frosted and filled cupcakes can last only as long as their frosting and filling last.

That means if you’ve decided to top your cupcakes with unstabilized whipped cream, your cupcakes will keep quality for only a day or so. That’s because unstabilized whipped cream lasts for only a day or so before it becomes soft and runny.

(The same is true for other baked goods that are frosted or filled. That means frosted brownies last as long as their frosting, too.)

Because of that, you should always read the storage notes or ask the clerk about storage suggestions if you suspect you won’t finish the cupcakes the same day. The frosting might appear nice and firm, but if it softens or melts after two days in storage, your cupcakes will look like a mess on day three.

Last, if you’re baking homemade cupcakes and know that the frosting holds for a limited period, consider frosting only as many as you’ll need within a day or two. Then, once you finish them up, you can whip another portion of the frosting from scratch and frost another bunch of cupcakes.

Or, if your frosting happens to freeze well, you can whip as much as you need, but freeze most of it and use it as you go.

Do Cupcakes Need to be Refrigerated?

You don’t need to store cupcakes in the fridge unless the filling or frosting requires refrigeration. A plain cupcake will last for 3 to 4 days at room temperature if sealed in an airtight container or resealable bag.

Practically speaking, you need to refrigerate most frosted cupcakes, as popular frostings either require refrigeration (e.g., cream cheese frosting does) or don’t retain quality at room temperature for longer than about a day (as is the case for buttercream).

For iced cupcakes, it depends entirely on the ingredients of the icing.

If it’s something as simple as melted chocolate or powdered sugar mixed with water, the cupcakes will be okay at room temperature. But if the icing contains dairy or eggs, it’s better to refrigerate it, so it stays safe.

If you fill your cupcakes with fresh fruit, jam, whipped cream, or something fancier (say, lemon curd), it’s best to refrigerate them. That’s because both whipped cream and jam require refrigeration.

All in all, unfrosted and unfilled cupcakes should sit on the counter for best quality. But if yours are either frosted or filled, and you’re not 100% sure the frosting or filling is stable at room temperature, you should refrigerate them.

(Similar rules apply when storing muffins.)

How to Keep Cupcakes Fresh

Here’s what you should remember when storing cupcakes.

Let Them Cool

Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin (if that’s what you’re using) once they’re fully baked, and place them on the counter until they cool to about room temperature.

This way, all the excess moisture inside has enough time to evaporate, and your cupcakes won’t start to sweat once you seal them.

Besides, most fillings, frostings, and toppings require the cupcakes to be cool anyway.

Package or Wrap Them

Once your cupcakes are nice and cool, put them in storage as soon as possible. The longer they sit uncovered, the drier they will be.

When it comes to how exactly you should package them, there are a couple of options:

  • Cling wrap or aluminum foil. Both allow you to wrap cupcakes tightly so that they retain moisture well. The main downside, besides the fact neither is particularly reusable, is that cling wrap can stick to the surface of the cupcake and rip it off when you’re unwrapping it. Be careful not to wrap them too tightly.
  • Freezer bags. Resealable freezer bags work well for storing plain cupcakes. Remember to squeeze out the air before sealing the bag.
  • Airtight containers. Containers allow air near the cupcakes, so the baked goods dry faster than if wrapped. But if your cupcakes are already frosted or iced, this is the only storage option that won’t ruin the decoration. Care carriers, domes, and anything else of the like work too.

Freeze While Fresh

If you know you’ll freeze some of the cupcakes, take care of that as soon as possible. This way, you’re going to lock in the flavor.

If you leave the cupcakes in storage for a couple of days and only freeze them at the last moment, they’ll probably be a bit dry and stale. And freezing and defrosting is not going to fix that.

Serve at Room Temperature

Pretty much all cupcakes, no matter if frosted, glazed, or filled, taste best at room temperature. So if you store yours in the fridge, take them out 30 to 60 minutes before serving so that they warm up a bit.

Cupcakes Shelf Life and Storage Summary

Thanks for reading this primer on cupcakes. Here are the takeaways:

  • Cupcakes typically last for 3 to 4 days, both on the counter and refrigerated, depending on what’s the optimal place for them. If that’s not enough, you can freeze plain unfill and unfrosted cupcakes, and add the necessary add-ons after thawing.
  • Unfilled and unfrosted cupcakes don’t require refrigeration. Once you fill or frost them, you should store them the same way you’d store the filling or frosting. In most cases, that means refrigeration is in order.
  • Once your cupcakes are baked, let them cool and package as soon as they’re nice and cold. You can wrap them using plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or place them in freezer bags or resealable containers.